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Coffee with a Journalist: David Jeans, Forbes

Coffee With A Journalist - David Jeans, Forbes

On this episode of Coffee with a Journalist, host, Beck Bamberger is joined by David Jeans of Forbes. Originally from Australia, David is a tech reporter at Forbes in New York City covering enterprise tech and tech companies. Listen in on our conversation as David delves into his takes on trend spotting from pitches, what makes a pitch stand out, and the struggles of being a journalist in today’s media landscape. 

Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:

His Work Inbox

Beck:

Well, you’re currently at Forbes, as we just heard about, writing on all things enterprise. So we’ll get a little bit into that. But the first thing I like to ask people is, what’s in your inbox? How crazy is it with pitches?

David:

After last week and the election, my inbox activity actually dropped off like 75%, which was, it was kind of remarkable-

Beck:

Amazing.

David:

… to see there was… I wasn’t getting pitches for the latest technology indoors wasn’t coming through. Whereas then the Monday, it looked like everyone had finished holding their breath, and there was just an onslaught of emails from every agency in the country.

Beck:

Got it. Is that normal for you? Are you getting hundreds of pitches? How many hundreds a day would you say, on a normal time?

David:

Probably around a hundred.

Beck:

Okay, okay. That’s not as bad.

David:

Yeah. It’s not terrible. I don’t reply to most of them, so maybe people sort of get the gist.

Beck:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David:

Maybe that works to my advantage. But I always reply to a good pitch.

Beck:

Okay. So then that must tell me that you are opening every email. Is that true?

David:

I do, yeah. I’m kind of like one of those crazy people. The thought of having 20,000 unread emails in my inbox is frightening.

Beck:

I couldn’t do that either.

David:

It’s like having a dirty bedroom or not cleaning the kitchen.

Beck:

Yeah, so then that also tells me, you must get down to like inbox zero every couple of days or so?

David:

Yeah, that’s exactly what happens.

Beck:

Oh, okay. So you’re on the other side. But you kind of have two of the other sides that are hardcore, which is inbox zero and reads every pitch.

David:

Yeah.

Beck:

I think you are in your own category actually, that I’ve ever heard of both of those. Because there’s definitely the inbox zero people, but then there’s not usually, at least from what I’ve been hearing of doing this for so long, you don’t usually hear, “And I read every pitch.” I’m kind of impressed right now.

David:

Well, it’s not totally accurate to say you read every pitch. It’s more like read the first sentence of every pitch.

Beck:

Okay, that’s still fair, but you open the email.

David:

Yeah. Yeah.

His Thoughts on Pitches

Beck:

Dang. Wow. Okay. Well, what does constitute, in your mind, a good pitch?

David:

A lot of the pitches that’ll come through, especially if I know the PR person and we’ve got a bit of a liaison or an understanding of one another, I’ll give it a bit of extra weight. It might even be a product announcement or something about a client that they’re representing. And they’ll sort of say, “Look, we know you probably won’t cover this, but just so you know, this is what’s happening.” I always quite appreciate that. Because sometimes if I look across my inbox over a week and I get three emails from different companies and they’re all launching similar products or announcing similar news, it might prompt me to think, “Well hey, there’s a trend here,” or there’s something going on that speaks to a broader issue that could warrant a potential story. That’s often what I’ll say. But I’ll often have my eye caught if it starts off with an exclusive pitch, and where you have the exclusive jump on a funding round or a CEO leaving. In one case, I had a company give me the exclusive that they were shutting down.

Beck:

You don’t get that pitch often.

David:

No, so when I do get that pitch, yeah, I’m certainly interested.

Beck:

Yeah, awesome. Okay. So exclusive, you like something distinct. Also, it sounds like you use this as a way to thread the needle in terms of themes, emerging things that you can maybe constitute a whole story around, which I’ve heard other people do as well, to just kind of have a pulse on what’s happening in maybe a specific industry.

David:

Yeah, of course. Yeah, one example recently, I did a story on a study about artificial intelligence, and then I had said that the majority of companies that invest in AI don’t reap the returns that they hope for.

Beck:

Oh, this is your article saying only 10% of companies report significant financial returns. Wow, that’s kind of crappy.

David:

Yeah, why that struck a chord was because I had been seeing so many pitches come through with companies telling me that they had new AI or they had developed new AI or they’d invested in new AI, with all this sort of hype and bluster around the word AI. I was like, “What’s going on here?” And then when this study, I learned about this study, it put a lot of things in perspective. So that was good ingredients for a story.

Beck:

Now with that, did the pitch come to you as the company who completed the study? And this gets into our next topic, which is the making of a great story, how do stories like that one unfold for you? From a pitch? From a time you’re sitting in the shower and you’re like, “Oh, you know what, let me think about AI”? How do they come up?

David:

Yeah. Well, in that specific example, I’ve been pretty interested in better understanding how artificial intelligence, what its role is, but also how it’s being sold and presented and what its actual capabilities are compared to what is the dream of what is going on. So I’ve been asking a lot of academics and venture capitalists and founders and people in the industry about what the parameters were around their AI, and how they had sold it and how the marketing message around their AI had changed over time. Through speaking with dozens of people, because I was still sort of formulating a story that I was hoping to work on, through speaking to a lot of people, some consultants that said, “Hey, actually we are actually working on a study about this and we’re going to release it in coming weeks. So we’d like to talk to you about it.” So that’s how that came up. That was just me asking around a certain topic.

How He Crafts Stories

Beck:

Okay, kind of then finding what you need to find. Do you have, would you say, any percentage of actual articles that get done from an initial pitch? Maybe is it like 10%?

David:

In terms of how many pitches do I get that I would actually write a story about?

Beck:

Yeah, or of all the stories you’ve done, let’s say in the last 12 months, you’re like, “You know what, only two of them actually came from an email pitch. The rest I dug up, I called somebody, my colleague told me.”

David:

Yeah, I would like to think that it’s probably like five percent.

Beck:

Five percent, okay. Few.

David:

Maybe I would like to think that, but maybe in some cases it’s probably a little bit higher. But yeah, I do like to think that some of the best stories don’t come from pitches. But sometimes pitches help to let you know what is happening in the industry, so then you can approach it with a journalistic angle rather than a company-focused angle. The other thing though that’s different, as well, obviously for bigger companies, when they come to us with pitches about product launches or deals and stuff that they have done, we would obviously give a lot more weight to those pitches, just because they apply and can be understood by a much wider audience.

Beck:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you’re talking your Microsofts and Amazons of the world, the Ubers, Google.

David:

Yeah, exactly.

________

Whether it’s a memorable subject line or an exclusive scoop, catching a journalist’s attention with your pitch is a constant growing effort. Whether you are a seasoned PR professional looking for new tips and tricks or a new PR professional just entering the industry, our blog, Your Complete Guide to Pitching the Media, has something for you. Check it out today to step up your PR game.

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Mathew Cruz

Mathew started at OnePitch in January of 2020 as a Marketing Apprentice. He currently serves as the SEO & Content Marketing Specialist handling content creation from social media to the OnePitch blog. Mathew studied Integrated Marketing Communications at San Diego State University. In his free time, he loves creating art, visiting museums, and traveling.

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