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Top Tips for Pitching to The Times & Patrick Hosking

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Event summary: Top tips for pitching to Patrick Hosking

In Spring, we held a webinar event with Patrick Hosking, Financial Editor at The Times to discuss topics such as corporate governance, the investment industry and his interaction with the communications world. 

You can register to watch the full webinar here, or read on for the meeting notes.

Changes in business journalism

  • Time pressures have become much more demanding and there are fewer of us for what has become a much bigger story. Our readers are infinitely more interested in economy and business than they previously were.
  • We were uniquely focused on the cult of shareholder value whereas now there are many other competing issues, from climate change to gender diversity. Businesses need to think about many more stakeholders than they did 10/20 years ago.
  • We used to work to one 7 pm deadline, whereas now there are numerous deadlines from 8.30 am onwards.

Observations on corporate communications

  • Corporate comms has got fantastically better – especially for industries that have gone through the mill. Before the crash bank PR was comically awful. Now it is very good.
  • Feel massively outnumbered as journalists and many business journalists need to be generalists now. Need to have a working knowledge of 500 institutions – FTSE 350 & regulators, quangos etc – but as a columnist, you might only speak to them only every other year.
  • The good PR will be able to give a succinct brief, take the journalist through the bits of context that will help them understand. Patrick doesn’t have the time to do his own research but an off the record background brief is hugely helpful.
  • Try to speak human – complexity and jargon are not helpful.

Writing columns

  • Elemental difference to writing the daily column – news of the day & immediate – and weekly columns which are less news-driven.
  • Needs his weekly idea by Sunday so it can be trailed before the column appears. Finding something fresh to say is the challenge. Likes to telescope backwards and forwards between micro and macro themes.

How to pitch to the UK business desks

At Roxhill, we speak to top editors and journalists every day to feed you the best information to level up your pitches. Make note of the business pitching hours for each of the key business desks, and more. Find out:

  • Their key areas of interest
  • When to include surveys or research in pitches
  • Top tips on how to secure coverage

Presented in a handy eBook to give you the insight you need to get that all-important feature. Click the button below to download it for free:

DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK

Tips on pitching

  • Don’t say I’ve got a story for you. We decide what’s the story.
  • Say who you are – amazing how many people say they are not.
  • Do put it on an email – use the header to say something that would grab my attention.
  • Do pitch Sunday for Monday on a Friday. Make sure the spokesperson is available on the Sunday.
  • Be as explicit as possible – say how you are changing things/why what you are doing is important etc.

Executive pay

  • Pandemic has changed things and investors have said they will scrutinise pay closely this year. Anybody who has taken taxpayers money will come under close inspection.
  • However, fund managers have been doing very well which makes it hard for them to pontificate on the issue.
  • Chief executives are not good at making a defence of their pay when asked.
  • Company reports are so complicated that the single figure for salary in accounts is the easiest to turn to when writing a report.
  • Journalists will also be a close look at the average salary multiple of CEOs to other employees.

Diversity

  • Board representation is improving on gender and ethnic basis but is lagging on the positions of power.
  • It concentrates minds if investors threaten to vote against companies that drag their heels on these issues.

ESG

  • The key issue is the auditing of environmental statements and Patrick expects a backlash.
  • Concern that it is too much of the marketing focus of funds.

Investment industry

  • Despite Woodford, Patrick is not convinced that Woodford has derailed active fund management.
  • Woodford should be a watershed moment for the governance of funds. Showed there were no checks and balances.
  • No future for defined benefit funds but the big issue is how some funds dwarf the companies that spawned them. They are often in deficit and have been hit by diminishing bond yields.
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