Today’s guest on Coffee with a Journalist is Jeff Benson, senior editor for Decrypt. Jeff covers a wide range of crypto news including NFTs, cryptocurrencies, crypto trading companies, and more. He’s also worked with organizations such as UNICEF and spent time in Uganda as a consultant.
During the episode, Jeff shares more about pitching thought leaders on the site, how to approach him with exclusives, his favorite stories to write, and so much more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
[00:03:07] BB: Nice. Nice. Okay, now, Jeff. Now we have that primer. Your inbox, how is it? And is it out of control?
[00:03:15] JB: It’s always a mess. The inbox is the thing that I never want to check. I’ve got Twitter. I’ve got Discord. I’ve got Telegram. I’ve got multiple email addresses. So yeah, the inbox sometimes doesn’t get pruned as much as I would like.
[00:03:33] BB: How do you keep then pitches, particularly straight? Are you opening every pitch? Filing them? Forwarding them? Because you’re also an editor? So you’re not necessarily writing all the pieces, of course.
[00:03:43] JB: I do quite a bit of writing. Well, I will tell you that I do not open every email that I receive. If it’s a cold email coming from a project that I’m not very familiar with, I may just kind of quickly archive it after seeing the subject line.
[00:04:00] BB: Subject line is the barrier to open.
[00:04:04] JB: Well, I mean, the subject line is barrier and also just who is sending it. There are umpteen thousand projects in the cryptocurrency space right now. And it’s very hard to keep track of them. And most of the pitches I get are from small startups looking for some airtime.
His Thoughts on Pitches
[00:04:20] BB: And so with that, when they’re small startups, because sometimes we ask this of more the tech publications we have, like the TechCrunches or maybe Fast Company. Is it the founders reaching out? Or is it publicists? I would imagine it’s the founders. But tell me.
[00:04:36] JB: A lot of times it’s publicist, or maybe it’s the founder or alias.
[00:04:42] BB: Oh, I see. Okay.
[00:04:43] JB: There’s quite a bit of money in the space. And so I think most people are using PR firms. But yeah, it’s typically a publicist. A lot of the times the pitches that I receive are publicists wanting to put me in touch with someone or to talk about a particular issue, which is nice in theory, but usually it’s not someone with name recognition in the space. It’s someone looking to build name recognition.
“Because usually what we’re doing is we’re sharing pitches among the editors anyway and saying, “Hey, is this something that we should consider assigning?” Usually, we’re looking for confirmation from another editor before we go ahead and assign you a writer.”
[00:05:10] BB: So they’re trying to present you a thought leader, but there’s no thoughts yet.
[00:05:13] JB: Yeah, there are thoughts but –
[00:05:16] BB: They’re thoughts but they don’t mean anything.
[00:05:18] JB: Yeah.
How He Writes Stories
[00:05:19] BB: God, this comes up quite often in other PR circles that I’m part of in communities of, God, what do you do when this your first startup, you’ve been doing it 18 months, you may be dropped out of college or you didn’t go to college, whatever it is, you just raise a little chunk of change. You really don’t have a leg to stand on yet in terms of exits or something like that. We usually don’t get into like thought leadership pitches particularly. But what’s a good thought leadership pitch to you?
“I’m also always looking for big numbers. If someone’s doing a big fundraise that’s interesting, I want to get in on that. So I’m always looking for pitches that have to do with specific cryptocurrencies or improving a situation with a specific cryptocurrency.”
[00:05:48] JB: That’s a great question. So I’ll give an example of a recent piece that we did, where a startup raised about $2 million in seed funding, which is not a big number. But they had a specific problem that they were looking to solve. And in the tech space, a lot of our readers are interested in, “Hey, I got this problem with this particular aspect of the technology. I haven’t really seen a good solution for that.”
So when we have something to present that says, “Hey, here’s somebody who’s working on that particular problem. They’re just getting started.” That’s interesting for people. If you can present, “Here’s the problem. Here’s how this person aims to solve it.” That’s really great for us.
“Decrypt is Web 3 media. So essentially, it exists to explain the cryptocurrency and blockchain technology space to people that may not know a lot about it, and for people that do know a lot about it.”
[00:06:31] BB: Okay, gotcha. So come with a solution of the problem solve. Gotcha. What do you do, Jeff – When we have editors on, we like to talk about this in terms of vetting and maybe sending along pitches. Do you vet them out to your team of the 30-ish people? I know they’re not all writers. But do you afford them along? Because sometimes people wonder, “Do I pitch an editor? Or should I just only pitch writers, reporters directly?”
[00:06:56] JB: I find a lot of people, they throw the spaghetti up against the wall and they email every Decrypt address that they can find.
As senior editor, Jeff’s role not only involves receiving and responding to pitches but also reviewing and distributing them to a team of writers. He prefers pitches with large sums and big names in the Web 3 space.
For more great 1:1 conversations with journalists from top-tier outlets, subscribe to the Coffee with a Journalist podcast newsletter to get the latest episode drops and exclusive video content. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for other updates on our newest PR tips, tools, and best practices.