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Our 2020/21 charity of the year is The UCL Lori Houlihan Glioblastoma Research Fund. Glioblastoma is a type of aggressive brain cancer that over 3,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with every year. In most cases, the underlying cause is unknown. Lori is a dear friend, colleague and mentor of Michael’s as well as a former Brand & Reputation client in her role as Vice-Provost (Advancement) at UCL. We will be delighted to donate more than 5% of our annual pre-tax profits to this vital research fund in March 2021.

Our 2019/20 charity was the North of England Children’s Cancer Research (NECCR) fund whose work inspired us when we did some brand & governance consultancy for them in 2019.


We are working as close to normally as possible. In fact, aside from travelling to visit you in your office, our work is continuing without interruption across brand, marketing, comms, recruitment, CSR and more.

We continue to work remotely and with agility to review strategies, policies and MarComms content; benchmarking this against competitor best practice through desk research and competitor analysis, and undertaking (internal and external) stakeholder consultation interviews across the globe by telephone or teleconference – as well as the strategy, reporting and content work that we undertake from our desks, as usual. We are conducting client planning and update meetings/presentations (even workshops) by telephone or platforms including Zoom, Skype, RingCentral and Microsoft Teams.

Once you’ve all adjusted to remote working, got through the urgent stuff and found some headspace, just reconnect with us and let me know how we can help add some extra strategic & project bandwidth during these challenging times…


With local lockdown measures tethering us to our webcams and laptops, September has been a month of incessant planning and delivery by video-conference, telephone and email. Client work has included the conclusion of our work to establish a market for a new postgraduate programme in the UK for the US’ leading executive education private institution, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and continuation of phase 3 of a major fundraising narrative and consultations project with the University of Oxford.

We have also partnered once again with Communications Management, this time to design and deliver a global survey of c.300 marketing & communications leaders in universities across the globe to asses the impact of COVID-19 on their operations and institutions. We will be producing a report and presenting our findings to the sector later in the year.


In the space of four hectic weeks – sandwiched between bank holiday weekends – we’ve worked across the Education sector (and over three continents) from an international school to a European research institute, a specialist independent HE college to a private US university – plus our continuing work with Oxford, the preeminent comprehensive university in the world. Five VERY different institutions with distinctive missions and varying focus on teaching, research, industry engagement, fundraising and citizenship, but so much in common too in terms of transferable best practice and innovative thinking.

CEO Michael also scooped another industry accolade this month after he was announced as the PRCA (Public Relations & Communications Association) ‘Professional of the Year’ at their annual DARE awards. This award is added to the ‘Laureate’ and ‘Crystal Apple’ awards from CASE, Fellowship from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), and the ‘Outstanding Independent Practitioner’ Gold award from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) all within the last 12 months!

JULY 2020

Projects with education institutions in the UK, Europe, USA and the Gulf continue through the summer. Our ongoing project with the University of Oxford continues to delight with a flurry of brilliant conversations with the alumni community and a range of the University’s friends and stakeholders which are helping to shape a renewed (and ambitious) fundraising vision and narrative.

JUNE 2020

Lockdown rumbles on but June was another month of international meetings, new clients, new project wins and another prestigious award nomination… Second phases of project work have been won to support the University of Oxford and the University of Plymouth this summer, alongside the start of a new international postgraduate marketing project with Fairleigh Dickinson University in the US. It was also announced this month that Michael has been shortlisted as ‘Professional of the Year’ at the PRCA Awards 2020 – winners announced in September.

MAY 2020

Work continued at a pace in May, a month of sunshine and seismic shifts in our clients’ sectors, communities and economies. The first phase of our work to capture the incredible story of the University of Oxford was completed after an intensive programme of conversations with some of Oxford’s brilliant minds (including those involved in the rapid development of a new vaccine against COVID-19), whilst a live webinar on developing effective internal communications strategy was delivered by Michael to an international audience of senior officers from companies including the NHS, Anglo American, Barclays Bank, Emirates Power, National Oilwell Varco, and The University of Hong Kong.

Stakeholder consultation interviews via ever-essential video-conferencing continued with e-meetings with higher education leaders in India, Canada and Europe.

APRIL 2020

Another incredibly busy month, particularly with new business discussions (announcements coming soon) and client stakeholder consultation programmes for the likes of the University of Oxford and The North East LEP – and more recently for Solent University (with Communications Management) – as key interviewees found their diaries to be more flexible than usual as they work from home. We have conducted invaluable, in-depth conversations relating to our clients’ strategies, partnerships, brands and market performance with stakeholders across education, media and government sectors in Asia, the US, Europe and throughout the UK.

Thanks heavens for video conferencing or we’d have had a monster telephone bill this month!

MARCH 2020

What turned into the most unexpected and troubling month in recent memory with isolation and lockdowns, was also among our busiest on record as we celebrated 3 years in business and began year 4 with a flurry of new projects.

Returning from meetings at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and with partners Lipman Hearne in the heart of Chicago at the start of the month, March picked-up pace as our clients found headspace while working from home to commission new projects including an exciting new brand consultation for the University of Oxford and a student recruitment brand review with the University of Plymouth. There was also further strategy narrative development with The North East LEP and ongoing advisory and leadership support for CASE both in Europe and worldwide. There were several new business wins too…


February was a month of short flights (farewell FlyBe) but new horizons with trips to the South Coast for more reputation management coaching with the University of Plymouth and then an exciting new policy engagement and brand narrative project with Bournemouth University.

Strategy work also continued with the University of Hull, The North East LEP and Bangor University, with specialist partnership support drafted in from valued associates Penny Eccles Marketing and Picklejar Communications to support the latter.

Thank goodness for the extra day this month!


A new year, a new decade and the pace of growth intensifies. Ongoing work with clients including UCL, University of Nottingham, Bangor University, University of Hull and The North East LEP meant more travel, more stakeholder consultation interviews and more reports & presentations to demanding audiences of executives and advisory board members this month. Work has ranged from civic engagement to student engagement; UK recruitment to internationalisation; and developing an innovation framework. Michael’s series of ‘in conversation’ video interviews (here) on the power of brand & storytelling with national consultants FJ Philanthropy attracted positive feedback across social media channels.

Our international network continues to grow too with partnerships in Chicago and Johannesburg with a focus on education and non-profit sectors.DECEMBER 2019

The end of the year saw a flurry of travel to London, Glasgow, Sheffield and to North Wales where a new project with the stunning Bangor University got underway. Michael is leading a review of UK undergraduate student recruitment to develop a new brand and maximise market opportunities.

On the 6th of December, Michael received GOLD in the ‘Outstanding Independent Practitioner’ award at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) PRide Awards and attended the awards dinner with his wife (and Brand & Reputation director) Samantha – and his Mam & Dad!NOVEMBER 2019

A rare project in our home region of North East England began this month with a programme of consultations and review (commissioned by Astute) to develop a new and ambitious narrative and communications framework to support ‘Innovation’ in the regional economy as part of The Northern Powerhouse on behalf of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP).

Michael travelled to Washington DC this month too for a landmark meeting of the CASE Board and a series of planning meetings at George Washington University (GWU).OCTOBER 2019

As the Indian summer receded, October’s workload intensified with on-campus student consultations at The University of Nottingham for the third phase of our pioneering Student Engagement review project, further East on campus at The University of Hull to begin to develop a vision for global engagement, and, a little closer to home, to support some pro-bono brand development work for a landmark creative arts venue in County Durham.

Michael also received a second prestigious award from CASE, this time the much-coveted Crystal Apple – an international accolade which recognises outstanding teaching based on achieving stellar (90%+) delegate scores from speaking at 10 x different conferences or events across the world. Michael has delivered sessions across a diverse range of professional disciplines including leadership, brand, internal communications, media engagement, public affairs, student recruitment and alumni relations – in the UK, Europe, US and Singapore.


September brought a big push to complete an intensive programme of stakeholder consultations which would begin to inform a new ‘UCL London’ framework that curates, coordinates, celebrates and communicates the impact of this incredible global university and its 65,000 students & staff and 100,000 alumni dispersed across the capital city. This was delivered alongside a second brand architecture project for The Scouts.

Michael was also honoured to be one of just a handful or education marketers to be presented with a CASE Laureate Award in recognition of his volunteer leadership work across Europe and as an active member of CASE’s global board.AUGUST 2019

A crazy month with stakeholder consultation programmes, brand narrative development and review reports galore.

We’re also excited to start a new project with The University of Hull looking at ways to enhance their global engagement strategy and international recruitment and to present a session entitled “How to Be World-Class for Student Engagement” at the CASE European Annual Conference (CEAC) education marcomms event at the ICC in Birmingham.JULY 2019

A packed month of stakeholder consultations, student engagement review, MarComms capacity mapping, internationalisation review, media training and brand narrative development – and all in searing heat. Delighted to work with The University of Plymouth, engage new specialist education providers in the UK, and to start a new civic engagement project with UCL, sandwiched between client meetings in Oxford, Westminster, Hull, Exeter and Edinburgh.We were also delighted to be announced on the shortlist for the Chartered Institute of Public RelationsOutstanding Independent Practice in its 2019 Pride North East awards. The winners will be announced at an industry dinner in December.

JUNE 2019

Our relationship with UCL, which retained its position in the World Top 10 universities the month, continues with a sixth University-wide review and positioning project in line with its ambitious 2034 strategic plan. Elsewhere in the Higher Education sector, Brand & Reputation – alongside Communications Management – has been announced as exclusive partners with IHE (Independent HE) the mission group which supports over 40 myriad independent institutions, specialist colleges and private providers in an ever-diverse higher ed marketplace.

There has also been an exciting new brand advisory piece with an independent pharmaceutical firm with international ambitions…

MAY 2019

‘Be prepared’ was the motto for May after securing an exciting brand positioning project for a unique new heritage and museum offer for the UK branch of The Scouts.

Developing a new narrative to engage supporters for the first official UK museum of Scouting which would curate a collection of stories and c.250,000 objects is a fascinating challenge this summer and one that is “knot” to be taken lightly… See for yourself hereAPRIL 2019

A keynote presentation and a series of meetings in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates before Easter has led to some exciting new consultancy work in 2019 to develop market positioning strategies and brand messaging for MENA Higher Education and Innovation. A new marketing strategy project is also now underway with the University of Glasgow.

And we’re now in our third year in business. Thanks to all our clients, partners and supporters. We’re expanding horizons and capacity and loving making a difference for all our clients…

MARCH 2019

A busy month with global perspectives…

An inspiring set of meetings and a clifftop garden dinner at the University of San Diego, California was a memorable highlight from a month of conversations with clients’ stakeholders in Shanghai, Dubai, Boston, Madrid and London exploring brand positioning, finding your voice and building affinity.

A conclusion of the really fulfilling governance and brand project with the North of England Children’s Cancer Research charity and visits to the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow to discuss new challenges ensured another full diary.


As another UCL project is concluded to great acclaim, a new UCL project emerges working with the Advancement team at this world-class university in the world’s greatest city. More time working from our London base and meetings with some of the most eminent and influential research academics on earth.

In terms of partnerships, an exciting new link-up with award-winning Chicago-based creative agency Lipman Hearne, which specialises in working with not-for-profit organisations across the US, Canada and around the world, is set to further enhance our international profile and client base in 2019.


A great start to the year with another consultation and narrative development project with UCL (this time around a new mental health strategy), the start of a programme of senior staff consultations at the University of Nottingham as part of the next phase of our ‘StudentsFirst’ work in partnership with Communications Management, and preparing a final report on the brand and governance consultations for NECCR.

New business planning has also lead to some exciting conversations with the NHS, University of Manchester and Costa coffee at the start of what promised to be an exciting year. Meanwhile, Michael’s advisory work with the House of Lords continues this month too, alongside non-exec support for charities CASE and Tees Valley Arts.


As we reach the end of a fantastic year, December has been yet another month of working with just the most inspirational clients.

Capturing the brand story of UCL and its incredible research and education impact across the Health field has been a brilliant project to deliver ahead of the festive break. Look out for the story emerging early next year…

And closer to home, in more ways than one, a programme of stakeholder consultations & brand development with The North of England Children’s Cancer Research charity and its partners: Newcastle NHS and Newcastle University – has been a timely reminder of the incredible work of clinicians, researchers and fundraisers – and the incomprehensible bravery of children with cancer and their families – as we all look ahead to a joyous Christmas with our own families.NOVEMBER 2018

N is for November – and for Nottingham – with the start of a major student engagement project for The University of Nottingham and a business assurance and review programme of Nottingham Trent University‘s marketing and communications operations – both delivered in partnership with Communications Management.

At the start of the month Michael worked as part of a Halpin team to complete an exciting messaging and ‘case for support’ project for an ambitious fundraising campaign for Cancer Research UK, The Christie NHS Trust, and The University of Manchester. 

Client meetings and trustee commitments this month include travel to Brussels, Washington DC, London, Bristol and Swansea.


We were delighted to complete an intensive project of stakeholder interviews, brand review and campaign messaging development with a new NHS client and its charity and university partners in this, the NHS’ 70th anniversary year. Inspiring work by clinicians and care professionals which is having a profound impact on patient outcomes…


Well that was a BUSY summer!

The arrival of the unprecedented spell of warm weather brought with it a flurry of diverse short projects for new clients including The University of Manchester, Aluminati and The Courtauld Institute of Art – and as a partner associate for consultancy projects with Nottingham Trent and London South Bank universities (with Communications Management) and Swansea University and The University for the Creative Arts (UCA) (with Halpin).

From designing and leading a MarComms management workshop to a comprehensive brand audit and competitor review to developing a new campaign narrative and case for support for a multi-million pound capital development vision, the Brand & Reputation service has been in high-demand and has clocked up the miles with work in Manchester, Newmarket, London, Surrey, Nottingham, Swansea, Edinburgh and New York.

Marianne Webb, Head of Marketing and Communications (Humanities) at the University of Manchester offered some great feedback:

The workshop day you delivered was exactly what we needed. The challenges and the way you made us think about things helped to break this down into manageable workloads for the team so they could see more clearly what they need to do. It really worked in terms of continuing that journey towards a different way of working. We now have clear actions and people have committed to them.”AUGUST 2018

Brand & Reputation was proud to be the inaugural sponsor of the ‘Emerging Marketing & Communications Professional Award’ at the 2018 CASE Europe Awards.

The winner, announced at CASE’s Annual European Conference (#CEAC18) attended by over 1,000 delegates at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre is Liam Ross, Digital Engagement Officer at Loughborough University, UK

Read Liam’s thoughts on building brand on social media here

JUNE 2018

The diversification away from education continues with a fascinating employer brand project with Deutsche Bank and a bit of a googly with some personal brand review and development work with former England cricketer Ryan Sidebottom. (Update: look out for Ryan appearing on ITV’s Dancing on Ice 2019!)MAY 2018

As seen on TV…Brand & Reputation CEO Michael featured on ITV regional news ahead of his appearance as part of an expert panel at a leadership lecture and Q&A event at the University of Sunderland to explore the development of a cultural brand for the city on the back of its bid to be the UK City of Culture for 2021.


Two big projects were completed this Spring with positive feedback forthcoming from both clients. Nothing makes us happier than satisfied clients!

Michael held a complex, global, interim leadership role in the CASE London office and was a total joy to work with.  He has a rare combination of deep gravitas, high emotional intelligence and great strategic insight with the intellectual agility to rapidly diagnose the problem and then practical leadership skills to develop and deliver cost-effective solutions.  He energises teams with great clarity, humanity, warmth and humour.”  Tricia King, Vice-President (Global Engagement), CASE

Brand & Reputation brought a clarity to a complex stakeholder challenge, drawing on Michael’s considerable, diverse experience to achieve a perfect balance of keeping the project moving but understanding the competing priorities of UCL to become an effective extra member of my leadership team.Collette Lux, Executive Director (Communications and Marketing), UCL