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    Coffee with a Journalist: Kenrick Cai, Forbes

    Today on the podcast we’re joined by Kenrick Cai. Kenrick is a senior reporter for technology at Forbes covering venture capital and startups. Click below to follow Kenrick Cai on Twitter and LinkedIn.

    During the episode, Kenrick talks about reviewing pitch subject lines, the importance of having clarity in pitches, the types of stories that pique his interest, and more.

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

    CWJ View Transcription CTA


    Her Inbox & Pitches

    [00:03:58] BB: Quite a lot. Then, yeah, a robust contributor network. Kenrick, how is your inbox with all the pitches you probably receive?

    [00:04:07] KC: My inbox is, just I would actually say, like doing a lot better these days, and I think part of that is –

    [00:04:12] BB: What? How?

    [00:04:15] KC: I think I have like recently in the last, say, two or three months starting to take a more proactive approach with my inbox. Now, I'm actually like kind of making use of like the different features of like our email client. We're on like Microsoft Outlook. It has different things. I think the number one like unlock for me is like I have important main inbox that like most emails default to as I'm like starting to see like the same like spam emails from like the same irrelevant email addresses of people that are constantly sending me irrelevant pitches. I move them over to my other tab.

    So the quality of things that may get into my main inbox folder has become, I think, a lot higher than before, and I'm spending a lot less time like sifting through pitches that just are things that I would never cover because they're automatically defaulting to that other inbox now because sometimes something good will end up in there but –

    [00:05:24] BB: Do you check it, though, if it just doubled to make sure?

    [00:05:27] KC: Yeah. So basically, like how I think about it now is with the stuff that is going in my main inbox, I'll open all of them, read all of them, and then decide whether I might cover it or not. With the stuff in the other tab, I'm not opening all of those. I am just looking at the subject line to like see if it's relevant or not. Then every once in a while, if there's something that seems like it's in that folder, but it could actually be something for me, I'll click on it. I think this is just like helped me in terms of email management, which I have been really, really, really bad at for like the first couple months.




    His Thoughts on Subject Lines & the Perfect Pitch

    [00:06:18] BB: Good for you. What’s a great subject line to you?

    [00:06:22] KC: I think a great subject line is just something that is like clear from the get go, like what is the story here. It could be like super boring. Like I'm looking at my inbox right now, and I have one that’s like, “Meeting with – To see,” company name. But like I think that's good because that just like tells me straight up like what is the purpose of this email. Like I said, with the stuff that goes with my main like important inbox, I will still click on it and just like read through the text. But I think if it's not like quickly clear from the subject line and like the body text like what is this pitch, then I don't know. It just makes everything a lot more cumbersome. So I think clarity is the number one thing I would say there.

    "I think it's all relatively the same for me, as long as like it's clear like what the pitch is when I'm reading through those first couple lines, those first couple bullets.”

    [00:07:12] BB: Number one. Number one. Do you have a subject line, by the way, that you recently have loved that you can share? It's okay, if not.

    [00:07:19] KC: Nothing like super in particular stands out. For my train of thought when I look at these emails is like – I think maybe this is like different but like from some – I just – The subject line is like not really the main thing for me. It doesn't matter too much, as long as it's not like obnoxious, every word in caps, like irrelevant from like might be – I don't know. Something that's just has nothing to do with venture capital. Then I'll take notice of that, in the sense of like delete it. But besides that, I think it's all the same to me. The key thing is like is it clear what you're pitching to me, if it's a pitch.

    [00:08:08] BB: Okay, clarity. Do you have a preference on how long, by the way, the pitch should be? You like like three lines max or bullet points or anything like that?

    “The key thing is like is it clear what you're pitching to me, if it's a pitch.”

    [00:08:18] KC: Yeah. As long as it's not like a giant essay or the length of an article or something like that. I think it's all relatively the same for me, as long as like it's clear like what the pitch is when I'm reading through those first couple lines, those first couple bullets. I guess the other thing that kind of stands out is if you are putting like a lot of stuff into the email. Is this stuff relevant for me? It could potentially be like really helpful for me, in terms of, say, I'm covering a funding round. If you're putting like the basic details in there, that goes a long way in terms of like me not having to like spend time during like the live interview, asking those basic questions.

    [00:09:07] BB: Yes. You can just be clarifying.

    [00:09:09] KC: Yeah. So if the supplemental stuff in the email is like relevant to like the type of stuff that I cover, that's great. But if it's like just like five paragraphs that go into like super, super technical stuff about like some startups, like latest product, it’s just like a lot deeper than like the type of stuff that I actually cover, then that's probably not as ideal.




    His Favorite Stories to Write

    [00:10:23] BB: What, for you, is like the most fun story you get to do, that you're dying to do?

    [00:10:31] KC: Yeah. That’s a great question. I think that's a great example that when you called out, like I said, with the different segments of Forbes, we still have our magazine. I think doing stories for the magazine is like a kind of rare opportunity, but like the type of opportunity that lets us go a level deeper in telling not just like something someone is announcing but like how this company got here through like all their trials and tribulations. I think like being able to go that level deeper is like what excites me and is kind of like what sparks my reporting juices.

    I think there's a real merit to covering funding rounds and new funds and new partners and announcements like that, and I understand that. But I think the most rewarding stories are the ones that go one or two or three or many levels deeper than that and kind of get on the ground of what's actually happening, rather than being a specific like packaged up announcement for a specific milestone.

    [00:11:43] BB: So getting deeper.

    “But the segment that I'm on is on the editorial side, doing journalism on staff for Forbes. The type of work we do there, I guess to go back to question, generally, more Forbes has a real, I think, mission of highlighting the most interesting stories of entrepreneurial folks, stories like that that have a bit more of a human angle also.”

    [00:11:44] KC: Getting deeper. Yeah. I will say, though, that there's two ways to do that, and I've like seen that in terms of like what I'm pitched. I think like when we're doing a deeper story like that, the vast majority, the majority of the time, it doesn't come from like a specific email pitch about like from a PR person that's like, “Do you want to do like a feature story about this?” I think it generally comes more, in my experience, from me actually reporting on the ground and getting a sense of what might be an interesting story through pattern recognition and just like talking to – Grabbing coffee with a CEO and hearing what like their – What's top of mind for them on a day-to-day basis. Or meeting up with a VC and formulating those ideas over time.

    I think, even with The Accidental Billionaire story that you were taught, that one is very much kind of speaks to that I think. It wasn't going to be like a story in the magazine for an eight-page feature from the get go. But I did an interview with Ali Ghodsi, CEO of Databricks, and it was initially just going to be some short like 600-word story, I think. I had a great conversation with him. He really kind of took me under the hood on a lot of things with the company and the whole journey, and he just stood out to me as like a very vibrant character. I realized there's a whole untold story with this company that has like reached the $28 billion valuation. Well, it deserves to be unpacked. So, yeah, it kind of snowballed and evolved from there into this full-fledged story.

    But I think that's what I'm looking for is like when I'm meeting with someone, like getting a sense of like who are you and like what are you willing to like talk to the press about.





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