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Reaching the UK's Business Elite

05Apr Posted by Alex Cook


  • Richard Fletcher, Business Editor, The Times
  • Michael Davies, Director, Roxhill Media

Breakfast pastry of the day:

  • Custard cream filled filopastry

The discussion

Richard started out by giving an overview of The Times newspaper – its move to an online paywall subscription model, how it’s leading market share for quality British newspapers and where it is heading next.

Michael Davies then prompted him to discuss the inner workings of the newspaper, including the print and online posting schedule and which reporters currently cover which beats. There was also discussion of best practice for PRs looking to ‘pitch’ stories to the media and examples of not-so good practice.

A key element of the wide-ranging discussion was to look at specific issues which are dominating column inches, including data privacy, gender pay gap reporting and of course, Brexit [see quotations below]. A brief question and answer session, giving the assembled 'flacks' the chance to gain insight from Richard, rounded off the event.

Key quotes

On the paywall subscription model:

  • ‘Advertising is not going to support quality journalism. People thought it would never work, but we are the bestselling quality newspaper in the UK with a leading market share – our best since 1998.’
  • ‘When you are looking through your direct debits and wondering whether sky Sports is worth it (Yes.), you get to the bottom and you see The Times and you think well yeah, I’ve read 3 or 4 quality pieces just this week.‘

On gender pay gap reporting:

  • ‘We maybe haven’t got it quite right: we haven’t been terrible but we haven’t been brilliant’
  • ‘It’s great data but we’ve struggled to explain it to the readers’
  • ‘Next year’s reports could actually be more interesting as we look at rates of improvement (or otherwise) with more sophisticated reporting from the media’
  • ‘We haven’t published ours [The Times’] yet but we still have more work to do. We want to make The Times more accessible to female subscribers because there is a skew at the moment.’

On pitching to journalists:

  • ‘I get 600 pitches per day. 90% of them verge on spam. But I do read every one.’
  • ‘The three big things we look for are: access, a good fit for the newspaper and exclusivity, where possible.’
  • ‘When a PR clearly hasn’t researched the paper or my section, that is a little frustrating.’
  • ‘If I start putting your mail into junk, that is going to spread round the office on our end.’

On sourcing stories:

  • ‘Twitter is quite good for when you’re curled up on the sofa at 10pm!’
Alex Cook
Alex Cook

Alex joined Sermelo in March 2017, having previously worked at the Chatham House. Chatham House engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debate and confidential discussion on the most significant developments in international affairs. While working there, he gained valuable relationship building skills and developed a nuanced understanding of the needs of corporate clients in guarding against political risk, which feeds directly into his current work in public affairs with Sermelo. Alex graduated from King’s College London with a BA in Classics in 2014. Alex enjoys football (watching and playing), volleyball, reading, theatre and politics.

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