Early confirmed speakers for 2015

Julian Hilton-Johnson

Corporate VP Corporate Relations - Europe & Chief of Staff to the President

McDonald's Corporation

Tony Cooke, Adidas Group Tony Cooke

Human Resources Director

Adidas Group

Paul Morgan Communications Director Premiership Rugby Paul Morgan

Communications Director

Premiership Rugby

Deloitte LLP Ian Burrows

Head of Internal Communications

Deloitte LLP

Kate Waters

Senior head of communications

Prince's Trust

Anna Bowen

Director of Employee Communications, UK & Core Markets

Pearson plc

Thomas Coops

Director of Communications

English National Opera

Debra Channon

Head of Internal Communications


Kirsten Walkom

Interim Director of Internal Communications

Save the Children International

Lynn Morrison Head of Business Engagement Opus Energy

Lynn Morrison

Head of Business Engagement

Opus Energy

Iain Cracknell

Director of Communications

Seadrill Management Ltd

Emily Gibbs, Associate Director of Communications and Engagement, EY Emily Gibbs, Associate Director of Communications and Engagement, EY Emily Gibbs

Associate Director of Communications and Engagement


James Dalton

Group Head of Employee Engagement & Health


Vilma Nikolaidou

Head of Organisational Development

Tate Gallery

Conor McKechnie

Head of Communications and Public Affairs

GE Healthcare Life Sciences

Heather Wagoner

Head of Internal Communications and Engagement


Rae Stewart Rae Stewart

Director of Communications

Department of Energy & Climate Change

Gemma McGrattan


Synergy Creative

Richard Thomson

Managing Director


Henry Davies Job title: Founder - Communications Consultant Company: 106 Communications Henry Davies

Founder - Communications Consultant

106 Communications

Virginia Tirado Virginia Tirado

Principal, Executive Recruiter for EU Operations, Supply Chain, Transportation and CS


Richard Wilding



Kate Hetherington

Client Service Director


Victoria Lewis-Stephens

Managing Partner

Instinctif Partners

Seamour Rathore

Senior Engagement Specialist

Instinctif Partners

More about our speakers

Julian Hilton-Johnson, Corporate VP Corporate Relations - Europe & Chief of Staff to the President, McDonald's Corporation

Julian is responsible the overarching media & external affairs, public affairs and crisis management strategies to support McDonald’s business in Europe with 8,000 restaurants, 1,400 franchisees and 430,000 employees across 40 countries. He is also responsible for management communications in the International Lead Markets Segment of the global business, which accounts for approximately 40% of total operating income.

Julian joined McDonald’s UK in 1999 and was appointed to the UK Executive Team in 2000. He has held various positions in corporate relations, human resources and legal services in Europe and the UK and has also acted as Chief of Staff to 3 successive Presidents of McDonald’s European business. While in the UK business, he was a Trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities and was Chair of the UK Pension Scheme. He moved to the European business in 2008 and joined the global Corporate Relations team in 2015.

Prior to McDonald’s, Julian held positions within Diageo and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London and Madrid. He was previously a Research Assistant at the House of Commons.

Kate Waters, Senior head of communications, Prince's Trust

Kate has more than five years experience in charity communications, following a brief stint as a magazine journalist. Her experience is mainly in PR and digital marketing, but earlier this year she also took on responsibility for internal communications at youth charity The Prince’s Trust. She will be able to share her tips on establishing an internal comms function with very little resource and zero budget, while also managing a team and maintaining responsibility for external comms. 

Lynn Morrison, Head of Business Engagement, Opus Energy

Lynn Morrison is the Head of Business Engagement for UK B2B energy supplier Opus Energy. She has broad experience in the utilities and tech sectors including previously holding a senior marketing position with Pacific Gas & Electric Company in California  and working as an marketing consultant for tech start-ups in the Netherlands.

In her current role, Lynn is responsible for overseeing all of the marketing communications, advertising and public relations for Opus Energy. In her spare time, she writes an award-winning blog and is a featured contributor to sites such as The Huffington Post, Babble and The Metro.

James Dalton, Group Head of Employee Engagement & Health, FirstGroup

FirstGroup plc is the leading public transport operator in the UK and North America . During the last year around 2.5 billion people relied on FirstGroup to get to work, to education, to visit family and friends and much more and, each day, FirstGroup’s 110,000 employees work hard to deliver vitally important services for our passengers.

James joined First in December 2004 from the Kingfisher Group where he worked for 15 years in retail operations and Human Resources.

James currently heads the Global Employee Engagement & Health functions and is responsible for delivering the Group’s Engagement & Health Strategy including the ‘Your Voice’ Employee Survey. He is one of the country’s leading experts in operational employee engagement and also in the field of engagement and neuroscience. He is part of the UK’s Engage for Success movement and has been involved in leading edge research into Employee Engagement and Diversity.

James has a grown up family and lives by the sea in South Wales with his wife and two dogs. James’ other passions are music and running, having recently completed his first half marathon.

Vilma Nikolaidou, Head of Organisational Development, Tate Gallery

Vilma Nikolaidou is Tate's first ever Head of Organisational Development, having worked in HR at Tate Gallery for many years before. Vilma started her career in retail, working first in sales and then in HR for Monsoon Accessorize. She has also worked for Arts Council England and local government in strategic resourcing and policy roles, as well as a HR Business Partner. Her interests lie in using dialogue for organisational change, the power of networks in the workplace and the importance of role models in career development. Vilma also co-chairs Tate's LGBT employee network as well as the  Tate for All-People and Culture Group, Tate's diversity and inclusion forum on workforce and organisational culture. . She has a MSc in Organisational Psychology from City University, London and is MCIPD.

Thomas Coops, Director of Communications, English National Opera

He has a 25 year track record spanning sales and marketing, investor relations and corporate communications with blue chip brands, including: Deloitte, RSA, British Airways and Santander UK/Abbey National.

He is currently Communications Director at the opera company ENO and responsible for all external communications including media, public affairs, stakeholder engagement and internal and change management communications. From 2011 to 2013 he was Partner in charge of Communications for Deloitte in the UK where he spearheaded the response to regulatory challenges in the UK and EU on the accountancy profession and drove a change to communications across the business. Previous roles have included:- Managing Director of the financial services practice of Weber Shandwick, the UK’s leading multi specialist PR agency; setting up the Global communications function at RSA Insurance Group and leading communications at BA following allegations of price fixing in 2006. From 2000 to 2006, Thomas was Communications Director for Abbey National plc and then Santander UK, the personal financial services group. He made communications more transparent and won numerous industry accolades for openness, crisis management and employee engagement during a period of unprecedented financial instability and board changes.

He has worked with City, media, government, charities and employee audiences on crisis and change management, employee engagement, business turn-arounds, brand re-launches, mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, strategic alliances and partnerships.

Thomas is a graduate of the University of Oxford and is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators and a Fellow of the RSA. 

Debra Channon, Head of Internal Communications, Tarmac

Debra is Head of Internal Communications at Tarmac, brought in as a highly experience interim to refocus and lead employee communications and engagement during the sale of the company.

Her brief has been to engage and motivate the 7,000 employees of this leading UK construction solutions provider during a time of uncertainty and speculation - while concurrently driving business performance and maintaining safety as the organisation’s number one priority.

Debra is a highly experienced senior communications leader having led internal communications in organisations including Carphone Warehouse, Centrica, Rolls-Royce, British Gas and the Post Office. She is passionate about the role that employee engagement plays in motivating and enabling people to deliver business goals, transition effectively during change and flourish as teams and individuals. 

Ian Burrows, Head of Internal Communications, Deloitte LLP

Ian is Head of Internal Communications for Deloitte, re-joining in 2015 after a nine-year gap. He leads all communications to the firm’s 15,000 employees and 1,000 partners. Ian’s previous roles included internal communications for a Big Four rival and he’s also worked in broader management and IT consulting businesses. He has extensive experience across corporate communications and marketing and believes that increasingly the lines between these disciplines are blurred. Ian lives in East London with his wife and two young children. His main interests outside work and family are motorsport and fast cars.

Conor McKechnie, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, General Electric

Conor was appointed to his current position in 2012 and has worked globally in communications and public affairs for healthcare, science and technology companies for more than 15 years.

Prior to GE, Conor led a consulting practice in Stockholm, Sweden, for one of the Nordic region’s leading communications agencies, joining GE to lead internal communications in the UK for its then consumer finance business. He has previously worked in communications in the UK, telecoms in the Netherlands, and taught at Al-Jubayl Technical University in Saudi Arabia. Conor is a director and trustee of CaSE, the UK Campaign for Science and Engineering and an ardent promotor of the public understanding of science and technology.

Anna Bowen, Director of Employee Communications, UK & Core Markets, Pearson plc

Anna is Director of Employee Communications for UK & Core markets at Pearson, a FTSE 100 and the world's leading learning company. She’s responsible for driving the strategy to inform, inspire, engage and empower employees to be brand advocates for Pearson.

During her five years with Pearson she’s held a number of roles in Corporate Affairs. Anna is most passionate about engagement, culture and change, (handy for her current position). She’s recently introduced their first UK employee TV programme, which involved a fair amount of coaching on how to walk backwards while live presenting to a camera.

Prior to Pearson, Anna’s led on change communications for public sector transformation programmes, taught English for a short spell in Poland, and (proudly) made sandwiches for M&S.

Anna’s currently London based, but still retains a hint of her Sheffield accent. She enjoys playing the harmonica, but promises not to do so in public.

Emily Gibbs, Associate Director of Communications and Engagement, EY

Emily has worked in communications and media for nine years, focusing on external, internal and digital communications and corporate reputation management. She has worked in New Zealand, London, Hong Kong and New York and is a regular speaker at national and international communications forums.

In her current role as Associate Director of Communications and Engagement at EY, Emily is responsible for devising and delivering a global internal communications and engagement strategy for EY’s Advisory business. Part of the global Brand, Marketing and Communications team, Emily plays an important role in supporting the organisation’s ambitious brand acceleration programme. 

Prior to  joining EY Emily spent five years as Global Head of Corporate and Internal Communications at the Financial Times. In this role she delivered a robust corporate communications strategy, responsible for protecting and building the FT’s brand around the world, and oversaw global internal programmes and communications. During her tenure the FT Communications team won the PR Week 2015 International In-House Team of the Year Award, which recognises in-house teams that demonstrate excellence in global strategy and innovation.

Before the FT, Emily was a journalist and presenter for Radio New Zealand.

Emily is one of 2014 The Drum 30 under 30, which celebrates women aged under 30 who have proven their talent in digital strategy roles. She won the 2013 European Young Communicator Award, which recognises outstanding projects that contribute to shaping the future of the communications industry, and was named the 2013 Institute of Internal Communications Internal Communicator of the Year.

Emily is a Board Member of the European Association of Communication Directors, sits on the Council of the Media Society, and runs regular Women in Media networking events in London. She holds a journalism degree from the New Zealand Broadcasting School, where she was awarded the Radio Network Scholarship for Excellence in Radio Journalism.

Follow Emily on Twitter @emilyjg

Tony Cooke, Human Resources Director, Adidas Group

Devoid of any formal qualifications, he opted quickly for a junior’s position in a city centre bank where the highlight of his day was making tea for all the staff and serving Ken Dodd at the till....

Tony cut his ‘Personnel’ teeth during a secondment to the Bank’s HQ and soon developed a keenness for all things people related. Eager to progress, he moved into telecommunications and joined GEC just as it was about to merge with Plessey. At a period when industrial relations were very often front page news, Tony’s introduction to Personnel in this context was eventful to say the least.   He spent time learning about employee relations, training & development, and HR. One of his many lasting memories of GEC-Plessey was when during an ‘All Employee’ meeting, one of the staff offered a view that “the Personnel Director here was to people what King Herod was to children…”

William Baird PLC, then a huge clothing manufacturer for Marks & Spencer offered Tony the chance to create his own HR function, an opportunity he needed no encouragement to take. During the next 8 years, he was able to implement best practice tools and processes from a HR perspective but also start to learn about all of the key commercial elements associated with a large organisation. In 1990 he was appointed HR Director for the Outerwear arm of William Baird and in 1995 he was promoted to Divisional HR Director providing a HR service to businesses in Holland, Ireland and Sweden. Tony recalls his time at William Baird fondly.” Back then the rag trade was notoriously traditional and a lot of the guys were very set in their ways. Keen to put a great presentation together for the troops on my first day, I asked my new assistant if we had PowerPoint and straight faced, she pointed to a plug socket at the side of her desk…..”

To catch up on lost academic time, Tony has an Advanced Post Graduate Diploma in Management Application and has attended a Director’s Development Programme at Insead.

Tony was appointed to his “dream job” in 2001 as HR Director, adidas UK. The pace of change in the organisation has been markedly rapid. Since starting his new job, he has played a key part in an integration with Holland and Belgium, the acquisition of the Reebok business and more latterly the integration of the Nordics to create adidas North Europe. A far cry from his original remit 10 years ago….”I’m one of the lucky ones who can say I actually love coming in to work. The business is in great shape, our brand is revered and people are desperate to join the adidas family. Everybody is passionate about what they do and really into hearing about how we’re doing as a business – this does engagement the world of good. Culturally, I’d say we’re  informally professional.  When I started, I had to try to learn to stop being star struck when the some of my all-time heroes came in and because we dress so casually, I had to convince my wife that I was  actually going in to work each day!”

Away from work Tony is married with 3 kids. He tries to convince himself that he can still play football and watches his beloved Liverpool FC most weekends –on several occasions, he has politely declined the offer of counselling from his worried HR team ……

Gemma McGrattan, Director, Synergy Creative

With a background in marketing and communications, Gemma has 17 years’ experience in marketing, creative communications and employee engagement. She is a founding director of Synergy Creative, a creative communications agency which focuses on brand engagement, from the inside - out.

Working with global brands, Synergy improves business performance by delivering creative, design communications that engage and motivates employees and stakeholders for real business improvement.

Employee communications projects includes bringing to life and embedding all aspects of an employee’s journey with the company from induction, vision, values and strategic direction, people development, communication and engagement, reward and recognition and change management.

Gemma has also planned and led creative change transformation programmes for global clients as well as the NHS including manager and employee workgroups, creative campaigns to facilitate two way communication and employee involvement throughout change.

A regular speaker on employee engagement, engaging communications and committee member on the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Iain Cracknell, Director of Communications, Seadrill Management Ltd

Iain Cracknell is Director of Communications at Seadrill who are one of the largest offshore drilling contractors in the world. He holds responsibility for media relations, internal communications and public affairs across the group of companies and all territories. Iain has worked in communications within the oil and gas sector for over 17 years. previously working for TOTAL UK as Head of Corporate Communications.

Kirsten Walkom, Interim Director of Internal Communications, Save the Children International

Named one of Marketing Magazine's Top 30 Under 30 and Top 10 to watch, Kirsten Walkom is an experienced communications and branding leader. She has worked with global organizations offering innovative and successful business solutions. Valued for the creativity, strategic insight and the endless enthusiasm she brings to every project, Kirsten has proven to be instrumental in increasing brand profile, position and market leadership for her partners.

She is a strong advocate of strategy before tactics and ensuring messaging is relevant across all channels - it is not about the delivery, but the message. Her experience working with digital and traditional media has allowed her to successfully deliver strong messages and content to a multitude of audiences. Always seeking the best ROI for partners, Kirsten is dedicated, determined and flexible. 

Currently leading communications for Save the Children International, Kirsten aims to empower 17,000 staff across 120 countries to bring immediate and lasting change for children. Working in some of the most dangerous and difficult contexts in the world, Kirsten knows the importance of strong communication and brand leadership in helping to inspire change and true breakthroughs.

Both professionally and personally, Kirsten wears a lot of hats. She holds a HBA from Queen’s University with a specialization in Terrorism and Counter-terrorism. She leverages this knowledge to strengthen communications in both traditional and crisis situations. She also did a semester abroad in Herstmonceux Castle where they shot some of Harry Potter.

Kirsten's work and leadership has won multiple awards from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Canadian Public Relations Society and the Canadian Marketing Association. As a new transplant to London, Kirsten is excited to embrace the English capital city. She is a  Londonphile,  avid traveller, news-junkie and red velvet cupcake connoisseur. She was a former contributor to Forbes.com for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Richard Thomson, Managing Director, Kaptcha

Richard is one of the UK's leading exponents of Business Video and Video Strategy and founder and Managing Director of strategic comms agency, Kaptcha (www.kaptcha.tv)

He is passionate about the power of video for communications and marketing and how it establishes a powerful relationship between brand and audience (whether internal or external) delivering tangible business results.

This was illustrated when Richard set up HSBC's multi award-winning Business TV channels and for 4 years led the team delivering over 120 high-level internal TV programmes a year that were instrumental in increasing employee engagement within the company.

Before joining the comms world he was Commissioning Executive at the BBC - Factual Programmes where he was also responsible for directing some of their highest rating series. These included Top Gear, Crimewatch, Holiday, Gardeners’ World and live coverage of the Formula One Grand Prixs with a global audience of over a billion.

Richard has taken this enviable wealth of broadcast experience and skill to the corporate world. He now gets a buzz from working with some of the UK's leading CEO's, Communications, and Marketing Directors, helping bring purpose and vision to companies through the power of video.

Henry Davies, Founder - Communications Consultant, 106 Communications

Henry Davies is the Founder of 106 Communications, a business that focuses on driving engagement and building reputation from the inside out.  He and his team work with a range of organisations on everything from leadership communications to promoting health and wellbeing, from researching values to using advocacy as a way of engaging talent.

Virginia Tirado, Principal, Executive Recruiter for EU Operations, Supply Chain, Transportation and CS, Amazon

With over 20 years’ experience in technology and services, Virginia has  played a key role in transforming businesses in EMEA and Latin America, including the integration of some of the most complex software and hardware  businesses acquired by Oracle over a decade of acquisitions (PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA, Hyperion, Sun Microsystems, Right Now and Taleo.   She has managed large teams over 40 countries in direct organizations (over 250 people) and in matrix organizations (over 3, 500 people).  She has built service centers in Latin America, EMEA, and India, as well as leading the integration of over 60 acquired businesses while at Oracle.  Virginia has lived and worked in Latin America, USA and Europe, and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Over the last decade her career has focused on helping businesses manage change and transform organizations through process improvement and optimization.   In the past two years she played an important role as an advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workforce, increasing female and minority representation in leadership positions in Europe, Russia and Africa.  She has a Master’s degree in International Law and Finance from Tulane University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami.   She currently has become a Principal Executive Recruiter for Amazon EU with focus in Supply Chain, Logistics and Customer Services.   She hold advanced degrees from Tulane University and the University of Miami.  

Paul Morgan, Communications Director, Premiership Rugby

Paul Morgan is the Communications Director at Premiership Rugby, the umbrella organisation of Aviva Premiership Rugby. He moved to Premiership Rugby in 2012 after more than 20 years as a sports and news journalist. He was editor of  Rugby World  Magazine where he launched not only their website but social media platforms. At Premiership Rugby he manages their social media output across five different platforms and was a co-author of their Aviva Premiership Rugby social media policy. An author, he edited the  IRB  World Rugby Yearbook for four years. He ghost-wrote Year of the Tiger!: My Diary by  Lewis Moody  and in 2011 Splashdown which covers an incredible year in the life of England Test star Chris Ashton.

Richard Wilding, Boss, WMW

Richard set up WMW 18 years ago with the ambitious aim of helping the world communicate better at work. Over the years, one client at a time, inch by inch, he’s directed WMW towards that goal. A behind-the-scenes kind of chap, he’s nonetheless thrilled every time his agency steps into the limelight to bag a national or international prize for its work.

He was originally a copywriter but was long-since overtaken in talent by his own team. He turned his talents towards account handling – again, his talents were long ago outstripped. So today Richard spends his time advising clients how to translate commercial strategies (which achieve nothing by themselves) into flawless everyday execution (which achieves everything).

He lives by a simple mantra: make your clients smile.

Kate Hetherington, Client Service Director, WMW

Kate has around 20 years’ experience in people communications and employee engagement. After graduating with a first class Psychology degree, she knew that she wanted to work in a creative agency environment. She’s worked at WMW for over ten years now, they offer the perfect balance of consultancy (understanding, research and strategy) and creative (bringing the strategic thinking to life through lovely, engaging creative comms outputs). In her time at WMW, Kate has enjoyed working with a wide range of blue-chip clients including UBS, Barclays, M&S, John Lewis, Cisco, Mondelez International, Standard Bank, Cisco and O2.


Seamour Rathore, S enior Engagement Specialist,  Instinctif Partners

Seamour  has more than 15 years’ experience as a communicato.  Her  specialisms  include  marketing strategy, coaching senior executives, plus workshop design and facilitation. Before moving into consulting, Seamour was assistant vice president in thought leadership for US bank State Street. Having held senior roles in e-commerce, Seamour is adept at using digital and social media to reach a target audience.


Kate Hetherington, Client Service Director, WMW

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Praise for 2014:

A great way to inspire new ideas and realise you share issues with other businesses

Brand and Communications Manager,  Insights

Fast paced, jam packed, nice mix of interesting topics and speakers

Client Service Director,  WMW

An ambitious Internal Comms line up which delivers - I left full of ideas and primed for action

Internal Communications & Events Manager,  Nestle Central & West Africa

Useful and thought provoking!

Head of Group Communications, The AA