Forefront Communications

Reporters on the Record – Renato Capelj, Benzinga

Alexandra Benavides

Alexandra Benavides

In this edition of our Reporters on the Record series, we spoke with Renato Capelj, Managing Director at Benzinga. In our conversation with Renato, we learn about his path to a journalism career, how PR practitioners can best craft engaging pitches and more.

How did you get into journalism?

I was a high school sophomore in the early 2010s, and I heard about this thing called Bitcoin. I believe Coinbase had just launched. In any case, I had no money. So, in my spare time, I passively observed the crypto markets, learning more about the space along with  stocks and bonds). Eventually, I watched a video showing some 20-year-old trading for a living, and I thought: “If he can do this, I can do this.”

Accordingly, I started taking my market studies seriously, reading everything from books on technical and fundamental analysis to options and futures. You name it, I read it.

I pursued business economics at a school close to my home in Michigan. I worked as a test driver a few days a week, lived with my parents, kept costs down, studied and dreamed about a better tomorrow. Eventually, I graduated. My vision was to work as a trader at a bank, and I filled out hundreds of applications.

Depressed with nothing working, I took things into my own hands and began cold-emailing CEOs at banks, trading firms and financial technology companies. One of them was Jason Raznick, the founder of Benzinga. I told him my story, and he directed me to President Luke Jacobi, who said he had a position open for a writer. I took it, no questions asked. If there was a way that I could engage with traders, remotely or not, I was in. And that’s what I did. After joining, I focused on interviewing fintech executives and the occasional trader, which made a difference and guided me on what I needed to focus on to be more successful in my trading career.

As a fun aside, Jacobi proposed I start a hedge fund when I first joined Benzinga. So, I am trying to do that now! Will I decide to change my mind one day or pivot? Maybe.

Why do you find passion in journalism?

To me, journalism was a means to an end. Going into it, I was a good writer in school, but only because I tried. I was paying a lot to be in school and wanted my money’s worth. In any case, over the years, I developed a fascination with telling stories. It’s incredible to talk to someone and make them sound like a rock star or convey something in serious detail or emotion enough to move a reader to act or be impressed. 

How did you end up in your current position at Benzinga?

I am a Managing Director and was previously Head of Financial Technology Strategy. Through my interviews, I have built a massive network in financial technology and markets. I now sit in this unique position where I can nurture this network through interviews and monetize it through Benzinga’s events business and data sales. Though I spend more time working on pursuits outside of Benzinga, I still do the occasional interview and, more so today, help plan events like the Fintech Deal Day & Awards and Future of Digital Assets conference.

What is your advice for those looking to get started in journalism/financial journalism?

You know, there was a time I felt embarrassed to say that I was a journalist. I wanted to be something else, and I wasn’t. So, in my mind, everything below that was inferior. However, after spending five years as one, I understand journalists hold so much power. You have the power to uplift people and build brands. You are privy to conversations and unique stories that others are not. An article is usually 40-50% of an interview. Think about everything you’re discussing that no one will ever hear about. That’s superiority!

My advice is to be open-minded. For those unsure about what they want in life or what career path to pursue, give journalism a shot. It’s like getting paid to go back to school. Use it to learn, gain perspective, build a brand and uplift yourself. Talk to many people outside your area of interest and expertise. I’ve talked to government leaders, social media influencers, fighters, lawyers, entrepreneurs, etc. The last five years have felt like a masterclass on life, business and beyond.

Journalism will only be one part of my life. It’s an excellent tool for something more, and I’m glad I stumbled upon it at such an early age. The lessons I’ve learned over the last five years will help me avoid many mistakes in life and business. I’m ready for the next chapter, but will continue writing wherever I go.

From your perspective, how can public relations (PR) practitioners best craft engaging pitches?

Great question. (1) Try meeting me at my level. (2) Understand my areas of interest and expertise. (3) Be candid about your intentions. (4) Keep it short. 

When I get your email, I usually know what you want before I even open it. I’d love to help, but I often don’t have time. So, try to develop a bit of a deeper relationship with me. Try giving me something that’s more aligned with what I am interested in. If we can create a relationship, and I can learn from the person I am interviewing, it’s a win-win. You’ll get more content, and I’ll get more lessons. Be an asset to me!

What are some things that PR practitioners should avoid doing in their pitches to journalists?

Long emails, poor branding and an unclear call to action.

Make my job easier. I get 200 emails a day. Put what you want me to do for you in the subject line. Have the call to action in easy view. Also, please make sure the pitch is aligned with my coverage area. If I am in markets, I’m probably not interested in online dating apps or washing machines. I say that because this is what I get daily. 

I’d appreciate it if you could make friends with me. Please don’t make me feel like your tool. I won’t bite. We may be able to do something extraordinary together.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Travel! Here for a short time. I’m trying to see more before I have to go.

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