LGcomms Academy - Speaker Biographies
Caroline Adlem leads Essex County Council’s commercial programme, identifying and developing new and existing business opportunities. Caroline additionally delivers commercial consultancy and training for other local authorities and public sector organisations and has also led on the commercial element of numerous corporate peer reviews. Prior to her work in the commercial and traded area, Caroline held a variety of local government communications roles across internal/external, managing brand, marketing, publications, design and events teams. Caroline previously worked for an international advertising agency and for a global automotive company at their European HQ in Cologne.
Alex Aiken is the Executive Director for Government Communications. He was appointed in December 2012 and has been responsible for creating the Government Communications Service and developing cross-government campaigns.
Between 2000 and 2012 he was Director of Communications and Strategy for Westminster City Council, leading the policy, member services and communications teams. He served as part of the group that oversaw the implementation of the Tri-Borough Shared Services programme and established the Westco communications consultancy which works for public and private sector clients around the UK.
He has been National Secretary of LGcomms and Vice Chairman of the Public Relations Consultants Association council. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).
Luay Alfaham is a communications specialist for the Home Office, where he has managed Government strategic internal and external campaigns over the last six years. His current role is heading up internal communications for Immigration Enforcement – delivering communications to support 6,000 staff across the U
With a wider public sector career spanning 18 years, Luay has also worked with Ministers, held roles in professional development and project and programme management.
Andy Allsopp is Head of Profession for Communications and Marketing at Essex County Council.
A multi award-winning communications professional, Andy was a print journalist before beginning his communications career with the NHS in London, followed by a spell as national media relations manager with Age Concern England.
He joined Suffolk County Council in 2001, the beginning of an 18-year career in local government. Over the last five years in Essex, he has championed the county council’s successful approach to traded marketing communications and brand management, as well as recently leading a shift to a bold, consultancy-led and devolved approach to marcomms
Darren Belnikoff heads up the insight and evaluation function within the comms and marketing directorate at the Department for International Trade (DIT). His role covers both major event evaluation and campaign impact and he is responsible for a number of published reports each year covering these topics. Prior to DIT, Darren worked for both the Home Office and HM Treasury, alongside a couple of the big research agencies in the private sector. Outside of work, Darren is a serving magistrate and co-runs a small international development charity, alongside supporting one of the better teams in English football (*cough* Leyton Orient).
Conrad Bird CBE
Conrad Bird CBE is Director of Campaigns & Marketing for the Department for International Trade and was formerly Director of the GREAT Britain campaign, based at 10 Downing Street. While at No10, his role was extended to include responsibility for delivering major cross-government campaigns, as well as ensuring Government spending on communications was efficient and cost-effective.
Previously Conrad worked at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as Head of Public Diplomacy and Strategic Campaigns. He was responsible for a wide range of policies and campaigns, including soft power, the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and campaigns in the Middle East, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Conrad joined the Government in 2002, initially working with the Central Office of Information on issues that included teenage drugs, consumer rights and international export. He moved to the Cabinet Office to work with the first Permanent Secretary of Government Communication as Director of Strategic Communications. Here he launched ‘Engage’, a new approach to Government Communication, and was responsible for campaigns to counter terrorism and animal rights extremism.
Before joining the Civil Service, Conrad spent 18 years in advertising, working with a number of agencies on national and international business. During this time, he also set up an award-winning communication consultancy which he successfully ran for eight years.
Jonny Birkin is a press officer at Derbyshire Constabulary, who now specialises in the production of content for the force.
This includes enhancing major investigations with video content, boosting the force’s online offering, and producing proactive documentaries to give viewers a look behind the scenes of modern policing.
He has also led several campaigns, including a Christmas drink-drive awareness video that won a number of national awards.
David Blackadder-Weinstein is the head of external affairs at Midlands Connect, the sub-national transport body for the Midlands region.
He’s a passionate advocate of Aristotle’s Art of Persuasion, the “Think, Feel, Do” approach to communication and influencing people’s economic behaviour through “nudging”.
David started his career as a financial journalist and news producer at Bloomberg Television before moving into marketing and communications at a risk and regulatory change consultancy in the City of London. He joined HS2 Ltd as a senior content strategist in January 2016 before moving to Midlands Connect in April 2018.
David has an Executive MBA from Cass Business School, a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism from City University of London, and a BSc in politics and social policy from the University of Bristol.
Juliet is Senior Communications Business Partner for Bristol and Cardiff, HMRC. She’s helping to transform the way HMRC works by building regional communities, supporting new ways of working and bringing teams together in new modern regional centres in Bristol and Cardiff.
Before joining HMRC, she was the Content and Communications Manager for Send Data to DfE at the Department for Education, transforming the way schools and local authorities share data with the department. She has also worked as a Content Designer and Content Editor at the Department of Health and the Office for National Statistics, helping to make government information easy to understand and accessible to everyone.
Emma Brady is Press & PR Officer at Birmingham City Council where she oversees a varied portfolio, from social inclusion, community safety and equalities to city events (including the city’s world-famous German Christmas Market) and looking after Birmingham’s First Citizen, the Lord Mayor.
Before taking up this role, Emma was a journalist on the Birmingham Post for a decade, specialising in health, before jumping the fence to work in public sector comms, with roles in the NHS, Department of Health and Public Health England.
Selvin Brown joined the Health and Safety Executive’s Executive Team as Director of Engagement and Policy in November 2015. Prior to this he was the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Deputy Head of Communications, where he established and led DWP’s strategic engagement, behaviour change, insight and evaluation functions, and ran first DWP’s disability campaigns (creating Disability Confident), and later Pensions Communications.
Since joining the Cabinet Office in 1991, Selvin has held a range of high-profile roles covering policy, strategy and communications. He has been Civil Service Deputy Race Champion since January 2018. He also has experience at Board level in the voluntary sector and is currently a Non-Executive Director of the Civil Service Charity.
He was Programme Director for the Government Communications Service (GCS) Improvement programme from 2013 – 2015, where he led the transformation of government communication service and introduced the operating model (the Modern Communications Operating Model). Selvin was named ‘Civil Servant of the Year’ in 2009 in the GG2 leadership awards. He was awarded an MBE for public and voluntary service in 2009. Selvin lives in south London with his partner Daniela and son Samuel.
Alastair joined the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as deputy director of communications in April, where he oversees strategic comms, internal comms and campaigns, including Northern Powerhouse.
He arrived from Counter Terrorism Policing at New Scotland Yard where for four years he was head of communications. This spell included leading the UK policing comms response to the 2017 terror attacks and last year’s nerve agent attack in Wiltshire, and developing the ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) and Run-Hide-Tell campaigns, which increased public participation in countering the threat.
Like his namesake, Alastair worked at Downing Street, as head of ethnic and specialist media engagement in the Prime Minister’s press office and led the BAME/Faith comms agenda for the Coalition Government.
Prior to his stint at No10, Alastair was a senior press officer at the Metropolitan Police Service comms team at New Scotland Yard having joined the Met as an admin assistant in 1989.
Darren Caveney is the creator of comms2point0 and owner of Creative Communicators Ltd. His 23 years in communications includes ten years as a head of communications in local government and two years as a director of communications in the NHS.
He runs bespoke communications and PR training for in-house teams, as well as delivering strategy support, communications reviews and supercharged social media training. He has delivered in-house training and consultancy for over 100 organisations and has spoken at over 150 events in the UK, Europe and the Middle East.
He is an associate with the Local Government Association and a mentor to several UK communicators. He also runs the unique UnAwards, is a co-organiser of Comms Unplugged and co-hosts the Talking Comms Podcast.
Andreas has been Director of Communications at London Borough of Tower Hamlets for the past three years.
In that time he helped to rebuild the council as part of its Corporate Leadership Team, including its now award winning Communications Service.
His local government career has included Westminster (Westco) and Sutton Council where he was Head of Communications.
Andreas worked for the Mayor of London for seven years mainly on the 2012 Olympic Games where he was Head of Media for the London Legacy Development Corporation and managed communications for the land assembly of the site and then the development and opening of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Before moving into communications, Andreas was a local and national journalist.
Helen Clark has worked in Operational Communications for Her Majesty’s Passport Office for fifteen years. Following HMPO joining the Home Office in 2015 she has continued to deliver internal communications. Working as a communication specialist alongside HMPO stakeholders, Helen ensures all communications meet and align both the Home Office and HMPO priorities in a consistent, timely and tailored way.
In addition, Helen works across government to help deliver specific Home Office internal campaigns, the latest being ‘Our Home Office’ which was launched in May 2019.
A career in marketing communications of over twenty years, Karen Coleman has worked in delivering strategic communication and engagement strategies for CEOs, politicians, executive boards, government departments and business executives. An award-winning communication professional, Karen is marketing, media and public relations trained.
Previous roles include working for Rank Leisure, the International Welfare of the Red Cross, Regeneration, and Kirklees Council. Karen is now proud to be the Communication and Engagement Lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.
Fran Collingham began her career as a journalist before becoming a local government communications professional, spending 13 years at Coventry City Council where she was its assistant director for communications. She now works as a communications consultant, LGA Associate (providing councils with communications support and advice) and as a writer and editor for Shared Press - writing, editing and curating books about and for the public sector.
Lucy Denton is Head of Communications at the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), an agency of the Ministry of Justice. Prior to this, she worked in communication at the Houses of Parliament, Department of Health and Social Care and led strategic communications at the Government Digital Service.
Richard Earley, Public Policy Manager, UK, Facebook
Richard is a member of Facebook’s UK Policy team, working with the Government, Parliament, and civil servants on areas where Facebook can support the Government to build community and to empower citizens and businesses in the UK. Before joining Facebook, Richard spent eight years as a civil servant working in various central government departments, including the Cabinet Office, DExEU, and DFID.
Passionate about the power of communications, Stephanie Elliott has built compelling campaigns rooted in insight for a range of clients from the public to private sector.
Stephanie began her career in international education, marketing UK education courses to an international audience, where she built her expertise in digital marketing and content production. From there she moved to the third sector, engaging the wider public in the relevance of science.
She joined the civil service in 2013, overseeing staff communications for the prison and probation service, immersing herself in the fascinating world of rehabilitation. She joined the prison officer recruitment programme and worked on the tightly-knit embedded communications team that delivered the 2,500 recruitment target on time and ahead of budget.
She now heads up the new strategic planning function in Design102, embedding best practice in campaign planning at the heart of government campaigns.
Leanne is a strategic communicator, with experience working in public sector, emergency services and operational workforces.
She is a mental health and wellbeing advocate for communicators – more by circumstance than by choice. Leanne was diagnosed with PTSD after working as part of the teams that managed the Manchester Arena Terror Attack in 2017. It took her almost a year to be able to talk about her diagnosis, for fear it would negatively affect her reputation and professional standing, but now there’s no stopping her as she speaks out about not just her experience, but also as a voice to many others who have shared their stories with her. She now facilitates workshops focused around personal resilience, wellbeing and preparedness, as well as working with leadership teams to explain the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Simon Enright enjoys using the skills learned in nearly two decades at the BBC to help influence audiences and inspire change to improve health care in England.
He is passionate about the NHS and keen to ensure it is accurately represented in the media, to parliament, and with key partners. He is also determined that NHS staff get the recognition they deserve for their commitment to providing diligent care, on the basis of need and not ability to pay.
Simon leads a team providing all-round communication support for NHS England and NHS Improvement - press, public affairs, publishing, parliamentary briefing, marketing, brand management, events including the annual Innovation Expo conference, bulletins, campaigns, strategic communication and Freedom of Information.
Ella Fallows, Politics & Government Outreach Manager, Northern Europe, Facebook
Ella sits on Facebook’s Politics & Government Outreach team, working with politicians, government and local government across Northern Europe to help them get the most out of the platform and connect with citizens effectively. Prior to Facebook, Ella worked as a political consultant and headed up a political intelligence team. In 2010 she started the Women in Public Affairs Network, which she still co-chairs.
Mark Fletcher-Brown is a director of Reputation Counsel, a communication consultancy. In the course of his 25 years career in comms he has worked with over 100 public and private sector clients providing leadership, strategic advice, creative input, and training and development. He is currently developing online courses which can be found at here. These build on his work as a comms practitioner, journalist, columnist and academic.
“We don’t spend enough time understanding our successes and hardly any poring over our failures. Both are essential if we are to strengthen our profession and our practice”, he says.
Jane Fordham started her own consultancy in April 2018 following a 15-year career at global PR communications agency Golin. After joining this trail-blazing agency back in 2003, Jane led corporate communications programmes for brands such as Orange, Tetra Pak and Oracle. She then moved into a new role in 2010 after starting her family, a leadership position heading up the agency’s talent (HR) and marketing. During that time the agency grew significantly in scale and profile, developing a reputation as a pioneer of progressive talent programmes specifically in the areas of flexible working, gender and social equality and inclusion. Jane was so motivated and inspired by the work she oversaw around gender equality in particular that having observed the wider societal activism around gender equality, she took the plunge and started up as a consultant in this space.
Jane now offers a wide gamut of consulting, training and development services across most aspects of people management including culture, talent acquisition and development, wellbeing and of course, diversity and inclusion. She has worked with brands including the PRCA, the Civil Aviation Authority, Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Ipsos Mori, Centrica, Hanbury Strategy, Westminster City Council, Jack Morton (global events agency) and Arm (UK technology giant).
Nick Fromont is web and creative service officer (social media lead) at Doncaster Council. After previous experience as a broadcast journalist, a press officer for an MP and a radio presenter, Nick found his calling when he became social media lead at Doncaster Council.
In the time that Nick has been in the role, he has helped the authority more than double its monthly organic reach and engagement on Facebook; provided plenty of creative content along the way as well as achieving real outcomes for key campaigns.
Catherine Greig is the founding director of make:good, an architecture and design studio specialising. In community engagement and participation.
Working almost exclusively in the public sector; over the past 10 years Catherine has led on projects to gather community insight on how people would like to see change happening both in the built environment but also in services that we all use.
She believes that building positive interpersonal relationships and creating an honest, sensitive and responsive environment is imperative to successful engagement. This means leading make:good to utilise both online and offline tools for gathering feedback, ensuring a broad reach of participants and clearly analysing feedback before it is presented back to the community. She is passionate that people can see where they have had influence over decision making so that the projects foster an increased sense of agency.
New Business – Market Reach
Sophie has worked at MarketReach for five years. Before this Sophie worked at some of the top London agencies and has a broad experience in direct response from both acquisition through to retention.
Sophie has a wide range of client exposure from retail to financial services on big brands like Sainsbury’s, American Express and IKEA. She has a broad set of skills from running big integrated accounts through to more data-driven marketing. This makes Sophie a true all-rounder with knowledge across most sectors and most channels.
Sophie joined MarketReach in 2016 to spearhead new business initiatives such as programmatic mail. She also sits on the DMA Print Council and was instrumental in the launch of the new Joint Industry Committee for Mail which launched in January 2018.
Steph Griffin is the Head of Internal Communications and Organisational Development at Bristol City Council. With 18 years’ experience in local government, she has led marketing, design, learning and development, communications and customer relations teams.
Steph leads the team supporting Bristol’s transformation journey – working with the council’s leadership to redesign its approach to internal communications and employee engagement, in-house leadership development programmes and supporting colleagues through values-led cultural change.
Her work on the senior leadership recruitment and development programme won the Public Services People Managers Association (PPMA) 2019 award for ‘Best HR/OD transformation programme’.
Russell is Director of Communications, Office of Rail and Road, and Head of Profession for Internal Communications, GCS.
Russell Grossman has been a communications practitioner for over 30 years, and a senior civil servant with the UK Government since 2006.
He is director of communications at the UK Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the government department responsible for regulating Britain’s railways and major roads, and head of profession for internal communications for the UK Government Communication Service (GCS). He is a board director of the voluntary “Engage for Success” movement for the advancement of employee engagement; sponsor director for the GCS Fast Stream; and currently assurance director for the GCS improvement programme, GCS2020.
Russell’s previous positions include group director of communications at the UK Government Department for Business; head of change and internal communications at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC); head of internal communications at the BBC; and director of communications at Royal Mail in London.
Russell has been a visiting Fellow at CASS Business School in the City of London, and is a past International Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
He is a Fellow of the UK Chartered Institute of Marketing, a Fellow of the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
Peter is Deputy Director of Digital and Campaigns at Number 10 and the Cabinet Office.
He leads a talented team at the heart of government, setting best practice across digital marketing/communications, content creation, product development and data science, whilst rapidly responding to the spread of disinformation.
As an award winning expert in social purpose campaigning, he also leads the Prime Minister’s priorities campaigns team.
Previously, he held senior communications roles at leading international media organisations - most notably BBC, Channel 4, BuzzFeed and LADbible Group.
In 2018, he led communications for the Cannes Lions award winning Trash Isles campaign, which used the power of social and digital media to drive mass public action around environmental issues.
Judith Higgin is Head of Communications at St Mungo’s, a homelessness charity which provides housing and support for more than 2,800 people each night and helps thousands more people through outreach, emergency accommodation, health, skill and work services. She heads a team responsible for the strategic and operational delivery of internal and external communications.
She began as a journalist for the Birmingham Post & Mail Group, before working in press teams at the Northern Development Company and the University of Sunderland. After nine years as Press and PR Manager at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), she joined St Mungo’s in 2009. The St Mungo’s team won Inside Housing’s Housing Heroes Award for Communications Team of the Year in 2017.
Peter Holt is the assistant chief executive at South Northants Council. A career communication professional, Peter has held senior in-house roles in NHS Trusts, policing, and for the last 15 years in permanent or interim roles (or carrying out Peer Reviews) in councils up and down the UK from Renfrewshire to Cornwall, Bristol to Oxford, Newcastle to Dorset, London to Powys and most points in between.
A member (and former chair) of the CIPR Local Public Services Committee, Peter was recently made a Fellow of the CIPR. Unusually for a senior council officer, Peter is also a former elected Leader of a London Borough Council, in what he describes as his ‘misspent youth’.
Danniella Houston graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2014. Since then, Dannie has developed her marketing, communications and PR career in the public sector. Beginning in probation services, at West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company, and then moving into the NHS, Dannie has worked in both commissioning and provider services over the last three years.
Dannie is passionate about building resilient communities through prevention and behavioural change, and believes in the powerful role that marketing and communications plays in this.
One of Dannie’s proudest moments is meeting and filming with Professor Don Berwick, former health adviser to President Barack Obama, through the NHS England new models of care vanguard programme.
Rhion Jones is the founder director of the Consultation Institute and is considered a leading authority on public engagement and consultation. He has delivered over 500 training courses and masterclasses and is a prolific writer on the subject, having written – with Elizabeth Gammell - “The Art of Consultation” in 2009 and “The Politics of Consultation” in 2018. He is the author of over 350 different topic papers and over 100 full briefing papers for the Institute. Since 2003, over 16,000 person-days of training based on courses he invented have been delivered. Rhion is in demand as an entertaining keynote speaker and special adviser, particularly on the Law of Consultation, and its implications for Government and other public bodies. In 2017, he was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Association of Healthcare Communications Management.
Starting her career in the commercial sector, Cheryl has almost 30 years’ experience working in a variety of complex public service organisations. She has strong senior leadership experience designing organisational change and delivering service and efficiency improvements.
Cheryl joined the Civil Service in May 2018 as Deputy Director - Professional Standards, for the Government Communication Service (GCS) which has a membership of over 4000 communications professionals across Whitehall, ALBs and other agencies across the UK.
Her role is to enable GCS to deliver world-class government communication and drive unified excellent professional practice through effective standards, continuous improvement and capability building
Cheryl’s areas of expertise include; performance improvement, policy and strategy development, business planning, diversity and inclusion, organisational change and development and human resources.
Vanessa Lancaster is a Graduate marketing and communications assistant and has worked for Leeds City Council for 16 months after completing a Level 6 Chartered Institute of Marketing course. Career highlights include being lead marketer for Foster 4 Leeds since August 2018 and a register of interest increase of 39% on previous years’ interest. She also successfully secured the booking of Emmerdale actor James Moore to attend a disability fostering event in November 2019.
Trish Macready is currently Head of Internal Communications at the Department for International Trade (DIT) which has over 4,000 staff based in 108 countries around the world.
With over 15 years’ experience as a communications professional, Trish has specialised in internal and change communications and employee engagement. She has worked for a variety of UK government departments and agencies, including HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration, Home Office and HM Revenue and Customs.
Originally from Brisbane in Australia, Trish began her career as a policy official with the Department for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in Canberra.
Trish has a degree in International Relations and Russian Studies, a Graduate Diploma in Marketing Communications and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
Paul Masterman is an independent consultant and Local Government Association associate providing strategy, communications and public affairs advice, training and interim management to local councils and other public sector bodies.
He is currently advising a range of public and private sector clients, and since 2007 has provided advice or interim communications management to, among others, Harrow, Westminster, Southwark, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Wirral, Gloucestershire, Dorset, the Royal Borough of Kingston, the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Cheshire West & Chester and Walsall councils as well as support for the Staffordshire Police & Crime Commissioner, Surrey Police, the NHS and two Cabinet Office departmental communications reviews.
He has won awards for his communications work and writes and speaks regularly on communications and recruitment issues. He tweets ideas, comments and jokes as @InterimBoy.
Catherine is a passionate social entrepreneur and communication and marketing specialist who has enjoyed a successful career of mixed disciplines, primarily in the Third and Public Sectors.
Catherine’s roles as Marketing Manager at the National Media Museum, and as CEO of literacy social enterprise, Reading Matters, are particular career highlights. She now combines lecturing and training in higher education, alongside working as a freelance consultant.
She holds an Associate Directorship with Leeds-based ‘meaningful marketing’ campaigns agency Magpie. She is also a Senior Associate with Overlap Associates, a human-centred design, change management company. Both Magpie and Overlap work across the NHS, local authorities, Public Health England, HEIs, Third Sector and commercial business.
Clare McLean leads on communications and engagement for the Essex Centre for Data Analytics - bringing together the county’s most senior leaders, data scientists, and citizens, to build effective collaboration that generates new insight to target resources, improve practices and productivity, and shape the decisions Essex is making to support its most vulnerable citizens.
Clare joined the Essex public sector 12 years ago as part of the award-winning communications and marketing team at Colchester Borough Council. She began her career as an international business journalist and went on to successfully launch a range of print media in the UAE. Clare recently returned to the Middle East and the travel industry as communications manager for Qatar Airways, strengthening the airline’s global brand position.
Clara Minichiello is a social researcher working in the DIT Communication and Marketing Insight and Evaluation team. She supports colleagues in accessing and using data, both for the purposes of building and developing campaigns, and for evaluating them. Clara has worked for DIT since 2017; outside of the office she enjoys losing at board games and cooking.
Konran Morrison is a video producer and director with over fifteen years of extensive experience working with a wide range of media formats, often in high-pressure environments. Konran has particular expertise in leading and inspiring creative teams to deliver innovative work and has worked for some of the biggest broadcasting corporations and agencies, both national and international. This includes work for ITV, BBC, MTG, Scripps, the Discovery and Disney channels.
For the past 12 months, Konran has been responsible for the creative and technical output of the video and photography team at Design102 in London, providing services across government.
Chris Naylor is Chief Executive of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. He leads delivery of the council’s aims: encourage civic pride; enable social responsibility; and grow the borough. He brings to this task a particular strategic focus on: the redesign of public services so that they tackle the pivotal root cause of a presenting social need; the application of behavioural science and insight in a public-sector setting; inclusive growth; and community engagement, capacity building and civic renewal.
He joined Barking and Dagenham from the London Borough of Barnet where he was chief operating officer. Previously he was corporate director of resources in Tower Hamlets and director of resident services at Hammersmith and Fulham.
Chris is a chartered accountant and has a degree in social and political sciences from the University of Cambridge, specialising in contemporary social theory. Chris was born and brought up in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, where he was educated at Wickersley comprehensive school.
Chris is married to Sophie and is the proud father of Joe, Dan and Betty and thrilled to be step-dad to Grace.
Claire is Director of Communications and Engagement for the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the city region’s health and social care partnership, giving her a unique remit covering multiple parts of the public sector and partners.
Since 2015 she has led the communications and engagement programme for the £6bn health and social care devolution programme in Greater Manchester, working with the 40 councils, NHS organisations, police, fire and voluntary sector in the partnership to deliver the five year strategy to transform health. In April 2017 Claire also took responsibility for communications the newly formed Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which incorporates the Mayor, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and manages communications for the leaders of the ten local authorities in respect of their regional portfolios. She also works hand in hand with the city region’s marketeers to develop the single shared ‘place’ story of the place which is communicated to local, national and international stakeholders.
This unique perspective enables her to maximise opportunities to develop and communicate the collaborative and networked approach which underpins Greater Manchester’s vision to become a great place to grow up, get on and grow old.
Kirsty O'Callaghan is Head of Strengthening Communities, working within the Public Health team at Essex County Council.
Passionate about communities and how we connect them to generate resilience, Kirsty began her career as a music journalist, moving into the humanitarian sector working in India and Kenya in partnership with the United Nations Office for project services. Kirsty returned to the UK working as an NHS Communications Professional for 10 years.
In 2010 she became the Chief Executive of a Council for Voluntary Service (CVS), operating infrastructure services, children's centres and projects for vulnerable adults, later becoming Director of Transformation for Vulnerable People at West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group. Kirsty has been in her current position at Essex County Council for the last 18 months, with a brief to develop wide-ranging public health interventions and address social isolation and loneliness across the county.
Julie Odams is Assistant Director of Communications & Customers at Derbyshire County Council. She has worked in communications in the local government and higher education sectors for over 15 years, focusing on the customer and resident experience and leading teams to keep up with changing expectations and the needs of engagement in the 21st century.
Julie has been Assistant Director of Communications & Customers at Derbyshire County Council since July 2019, leading a large team and being responsible for external and internal communications, customer service and channel shift. Prior to her current role she was Head of Communications at Staffordshire University responsible for brand presence, communications, public affairs and corporate event delivery.
Julie is a regular conference speaker having presented internationally, is a frequent contributor to a range of communications forums and sits on the LGComms Executive.
McVal Osborne is Head of Data & Insights at Social Chain. McVal's team blends social first insights with primary research taken from their online panel of 80+ million people from all around the globe to help understand what matters most to people. McVal has worked with consumer brands, B2B businesses and government organisations to provide audience insights and deeper understanding into what matters to people across social. He has worked with clients including L'Oreal, Yamaha, UK Trade & Investment, Business Finland, Pets at Home, and Holland & Barrett.
Aaron is a strategic communications specialist at the Cabinet Office and has worked on counter-disinformation campaigns since 2018. He has also been a press officer at the National Crime Agency and a sub-editor at the Daily Mail. He has a Master’s degree in Newspaper Journalism from City University.
Alejandro Quiroz Flores
Alejandro Quiroz Flores is a Reader (Associate Professor) and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Institute for Analytics and Data Science, University of Essex. He obtained his PhD in Politics at New York University and his MPhil at Oxford. He specializes in Econometrics, Machine Learning, and Political Economy.
His work has appeared at Global Environmental Change, British Journal of Political Science, Political Science Research and Methods, and International Studies Quarterly, among others. He is the author of Ministerial Survival During Political and Cabinet Change: Foreign Affairs, Diplomacy and War, by Routledge (2016).
Shak Rafiq is a communications professional with ten years’ experience within the NHS. He currently works as a communications manager at NHS Leeds CCG.
Shak provides strategic advice, guidance and support on all elements of communications and engagement including media relations, online and social media, marketing campaigns, advertising, internal communications and patient and public engagement.
Dominic Ridley-Moy is a Westco associate and behaviour change expert with more than 20 years’ experience in the public and voluntary sectors. He specialises in helping organisations to run behaviour change campaigns and applying nudge-based principles, to external and internal communications; how small changes to your communications can have a large impact on people's behaviour. His experience covers everything from nudging residents to dispose of their rubbish correctly to looking at how behavioural insights can help people manage their finances better, take more healthy life choices and shift residents online. His sits on CIPR's Local Public Services Committee and co-founded CIPR's network to represent independent PR practitioners.
Caroline Roper has over seven years’ experience in social research and previously worked at one of the top 10 market research agencies in the UK – GfK (now Ipsos MORI.) She worked in the social research team as a qualitative expert and worked with most central government departments, particularly regarding behaviour change and the development/evaluation of government programmes and campaigns.
She now heads up the research team at Westco – the trading arm of Westminster City Council – and has worked with a vast range of local government and public sector clients; particularly on understanding their audiences and providing actionable insight for communications and marketing specialists.
Laurence Russ spent over ten years in the civil service in a variety of delivery, social policy and legislation roles before specialising in communications.
His policy roles have focused on children and young people’s policy and following three years in the Department for Education’s press office he delivered a range of behaviour change marketing campaigns focused on entrenched youth social policy challenges around risky behaviours.
In 2012, Laurence joined the private sector working in a variety of UK and global roles for advertising and design agencies, developing creative strategies to solve commercial challenges. During this time, he gained experience of diverse categories including breakfast cereal, medical technology, online gifting, entertainment and charities and worked in markets including the UK, Europe and the Middle East.
Laurence returned to the Department for Education in March 2018 to establish a new strategic communications function focusing on insight, evaluation, planning and external affairs. During this time, he also developed and delivered a new behaviour change campaign, Hungry Little Minds, to encourage parents to do more activities that develop the communication skills of 0-5 year olds.
Emma Simmonds has worked for Leeds City Council marketing team for 14 years. As a marketing communication officer she has managed various campaigns including: fostering, public health, city libraries, employer branding and recruitment website. She has a particular interest in social media and digital marketing. One of the many highlights in Emma’s long career at the council is the development and launch of the Leeds Adult Learning website which brought together all accessible courses in one easy-to-use platform.
Harriet Small Okot
Harriet is a freelance communications professional working in the transport sector.
She has 12 years’ experience in communications, journalism, and public affairs at companies such as The Civil Aviation Authority, Transport for London, Sky, Merton Council, the European Union, NHS, and titles across Hearst Media.
She is the winner of the IoIC rising star award 2019, where she also sits on the FutureNet committee. In 2018 her ‘Be Epic’ campaign for Merton Council was shortlisted for an Employee Engagement award in the IC category. Harriet also curates the blog commsovercofee.com and is an ambassador for the Taylor Bennett Foundation.
David Son is the event evaluation lead for the Department of International Trade (DIT) embedded within DIT’s communication and marketing unit. David’s role includes bringing evaluation rigour to an extensive programme of large trade shows and soft power events DIT/HMG attends and hosts. David has more than ten years’ experience in both the public and charity sectors. Previously David developed insight and evaluation to inform effective communications for areas including hate crime prevention, knife crime reduction, teacher recruitment and auto enrolment for workplace pensions.
When not evaluating events, David can be found in Surrey with his wife and two daughters. In his spare time David likes to think of himself as a film buff but is easily found out when questioned on this.
Tiffany St James
Tiffany is Director of Residents’ Experience and Digital and Lambeth Council, giving her the cross-council Chief Digital Officer remit where she is designing and leading the council-wide digital transformation programme.
She has spent a decade running digital transformation in central government, from no email to open data. She was the first Director of Comms for Directgov, at the time the world’s largest web rationalization programme, was the first head of Social Media and open policy-making, pan-government, the first role of its kind worldwide and launched data.gov.uk.
Tiffany led the digital and social media team pan-government at Gold Command for the Grenfell Response Team convened by Westminster City Council. Her consultancy, Transmute, runs digital strategy and campaigns for London Boroughs, City and County Councils as digital business partner to Westco Communications and she provides excellence in digital comms training on and offline through the Westco Academy as well as lecturing in industry on Digital Marketing.
Tess Tinker joined the DfE as Deputy Director for strategic communications and campaigns in July 2017. Tess has more than 15 years of senior government communications experience, working with Ministers and delivering communications to change attitudes and behaviours in complex environments.
She has led teams in a range of demanding senior roles such as running a press desk at the Home Office, managing internal and corporate communications at Department for International Development and leading campaigns and social media at the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs.
Sara Vogt is Deputy Director, Corporate Communications at the Ministry of Justice.
Sara spent 10 years in communications in the private sector, including in PR consultancies Fishburn and Blue Rubicon, and at BBC Worldwide, before joining government in 2009. Since then, she has worked at DWP, Home Office, DECC and Cabinet Office across campaigns, stakeholder engagement and strategic communications on issues from climate change and youth unemployment to counter-terrorism.
She has also led internal communications teams at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, working with leaders to engage staff in transformation programmes and leading staff through organisational and cultural change. In 2013, she helped set up the GCS IC Excellence project to improve internal communications capability across government.
In 2018 her team won ‘best in-house internal communications team’ at the Employee Engagement Awards; and best internal campaign at the Corp Comms Awards for the MOJ Values campaign.
Professor Paul Willis
Professor Paul Willis is chair of corporate communication at The University of Huddersfield. He was previously director of the Centre for Public Relations Studies at Leeds Business School. Before joining academia, Paul was a board director in the PR consultancy sector and held a variety of other leadership roles as a communication professional. He advised organisations including BMW, BT, Proctor & Gamble, Walmart, UK Sport, the NHS and Football Association.
Paul now runs a range of professional development programmes for communication leaders, including the Master’s course for GCS Inspire, the academic module in the LGcomms Future Leaders programme, as well as bespoke training courses for communication teams. As an academic researcher, Paul’s work focusses on the particular leadership challenges confronting communication professionals. He is the co-author of Strategic Public Relations Leadership and his other published research can be found in the communication field’s leading journals and textbooks.
Ian is currently on secondment to Essex County Council as ECC’s first Communications and Marketing Fellow. His remit is to influence the development of key campaigns, strategies and policies; bridge gaps in knowledge and develop capabilities and influence the development of work leading to behaviour change.
He is on loan from Public Health England’s social marketing directorate, where as Head of Marketing for Living Well, he ran a programme of insight-driven, prevention campaigns under the One You brand - including Stoptober for tobacco cessation and Active 10 for physical activity.
He has a strong interest in behavioural economics and in creating campaigns and interventions that have a positive, and measurable, impact on people’s lives.