“When I think about crypto, one word that immediately springs to mind is innovation” – On The Record with Leila Stein, features editor at BeInCrypto

Welcome to ‘On The Record’ with YAP Global – a series where we speak to the journalists behind the stories that keep you up-to-date on the pulse of the digital asset, DeFi, blockchain and cryptocurrency industry

Fittingly for a reporter covering the tempestuously unpredictable cryptocurrency space, Leila Stein leads a life that’s fundamentally characterised by energy. Even her words are loaded with zeal for not only the burgeoning industry in which she is shaping the discourse, but also her active personal life outside of her profession. 

Leila has been the features editor at BeInCrypto since April 2021 and is refreshingly candid when divulging her endeavours in learning the intricate technicalities of the crypto industry. Despite the fact that she’s relatively new to her role, she affixes the pronoun ‘we’ when she discusses her involvement in crypto – a key indicator to her sense of belonging to the community.

Speaking from Cape Town, South Africa, Leila gushes about how she fell down the crypto rabbit hole during the pandemic, how DAOs have become something of a digital finance buzzword and her passion for nature and history.

So kicking off then, what does the word cryptocurrency mean to you?

I think one word that immediately springs to mind is innovation. I find it fascinating how we’ve taken something that was perceived as intricate and niche not all that long ago and created this incredibly exciting industry which is challenging how we view traditional financial systems. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the industry and who knows where it’ll go next!

Touching on that then – what was it that first attracted you to the cryptocurrency industry as a reporter?

During the pandemic, I was still working as a news and features writer on a freelance basis, but I started learning more about cryptocurrency given all the free time we had. My first impression was that it was a little too technical for me, but I continued reading about it and then I stumbled across an opportunity to fall down the rabbit hole at BeInCrypto.

I had no background in tech or finance, perhaps like you would expect someone in the crypto industry to have, so I saw it as an opportunity to contribute for the people like me, who aren’t as technologically or mathematically minded but would like to learn more about the space. I see my role as helping people understand it more.

What was it in journalism that you were writing about before moving into the crypto industry?

I was working for a media house that covered a wide range of stuff on the digital side. We covered local news in Cape Town and we also did travel news in South Africa and overseas. 

I also did a stint as a sort of unofficial editor for Tech Radar South Africa, which was my weird link into crypto because there was some sporadic coverage of cryptocurrencies at the time and it’s how I first started hearing about it.

Obviously crypto is an incredibly fast paced industry and it can be very difficult to keep up with all of the trends. How do you go about trying to best keep up with everything that’s going on in the space?

My technique is to try and use as much of my spare time to gather as much information as possible and Twitter is a huge help on that. I follow a lot of people in the space who are considered thought leaders and I listen to podcasts regularly.

Twitter is the biggest area to find this information; it all starts by just seeing a tweet and then it’s very easy to fall down the rabbit hole. It’s certainly challenging but really fun at the same time.

Is there anything in the crypto industry that is really exciting you at the moment and is there anything that you particularly enjoy writing about?

What’s really fascinating me at the moment is DAOs but weirdly I haven’t written about them yet! I feel like it’s become something of a buzzword in crypto and it’s not the newest of trends but there has certainly been a significant increase of their mention in the crypto discourse since I started my position at BeInCrypto earlier this year. 

But I find it so interesting that we are combining these exciting technologies with the new world order of working life post-pandemic. It’s been an interesting shift as we see people re-evaluate their working styles and habits, and that is definitely influencing the growth of DAOs.

Could you recall for me the worst pitch that you’ve ever received by a PR professional?

Pitches themselves are rarely the issue but the format in which I am pitched. The format that I’ve found most bizarre is when a PR consultant is clearly trying to introduce a client, but they do so by asking questions on a variety of different topics as if I were supposed to be thinking of these questions myself and wanting to know the answers. 

Another bad style of pitch is also just giving a broad range of speaking points. While broad speaking points can be a good thing, there is such a thing as being too broad and it also depends on the type of pitch you are sending. Some pitches I’ve received have just been a long list of every single topic a CEO or founder could speak on and it can be confusing. Concise and sharp pitches are always best!

So what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a PR professional pitching you specifically?

Take the time to truly understand the position of the person you are pitching to, their role at their organisation and the publication they write for. Sending personalised pitches does go a long way – even if they are more time consuming. It’s easy to spot a generic email that has been sent out to loads of other news publications. 

Also, ensure that the stories you are pitching are relevant to each reporter. For example, as a features editor it’s not relevant for me to be pitched news announcements, but it’s a common mistake.

So you’re a features writer at BeInCrypto. How would you say that your job role differs from a news reporter? And what is it you like about feature writing particularly?

The big difference is that features are more in depth and you have longer to write stories so you have the flexibility to get more creative. I like the fact that I have some freedom to really engage with people in the crypto space. I don’t have to be like “please send me a quote on this by 5pm” because I have more time to write stories so there’s not the same rush.

In my experience you tend to get stronger answers this way because people don’t feel the pressure to just come up with a response quickly to meet a journalist’s deadline. I think it’s great to be able to have that kind of relationship with people on the other side and to have the flexibility to dive into topics that you might not cover on the news desk is fun, too.

Is there a journalist in the space who you look up to or admire?

There are plenty of reporters I find really inspiring and it’s so positive to see this gradual increase of female writers in the crypto space. But for me my favourite reporter in crypto is Leigh Cuen. I find her to be really inspiring because she’s so prominent as a reporter and she encourages more women to enter the industry which is such a big thing to be doing.

Outside of work you’re quite sporty, aren’t you?

Yes! Living in Cape Town you are surrounded by such beautiful nature and it’s hard to resist going out and exploring when you have mountains on your doorstep. Myself, my dad and some of my friends did the 13 peaks challenge, which involves summiting the 13 peaks around the whole Table Mountain range, which we did over a period of two months on our weekends. It was so crazy but so much fun too. For the real challenge you’re meant to do all 13 peaks in 24 hours but there was no way in hell I would’ve been able to manage that! 

I’m also really into history and I studied it at university. If I wasn’t a journalist I’d probably be a historian – I love reading about it and it has definitely influenced a lot of my writing.

What does a day in the life of Leila Stein look like?

I’ll usually start the day with breakfast and a coffee – the caffeine definitely sets me up for the day! I’ll log on and firstly start by going through all the emails in my inbox because my timezone means that I pick up lots of emails from the US in my morning. 

After that I’ll mostly be editing work that has been sent for me to look at or I’ll be working on a piece that I’m writing for the site. Other than that I’ll be liaising with members of the team from across the world and even just chatting amongst ourselves and distracting each other from our work! 

Then when the day’s done I’ll usually just go back home if I’ve been working at the office and I’ll cook something before just chilling and watching a bit of TV. Although, if the weather’s nice I’ll try and get outside when I can and enjoy the beautiful nature that Cape Town has to offer.

Thanks for the chat, Leila!
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