Meeting government comms: in our students’ words

Last Thursday (November 16), the MSc Strategic Communication met two excellent guest speakers from the UK Government Communication Service: Alex Aiken, Executive Director of UK Government Communications Pinky Badhan, Head of Government Campaigns and Strategy at the Prime Minister Office and Cabinet Office. Both sessions were part of the module “COMM505-PR and Investor Relations in Practice” and Alex Aiken’s talks also inaugurated this year’s Strategic Communication Leaders Seminar Series.

In the morning, Pinky Badhan expounded the structure of a government campaign, introducing us to OASIS, which is the model they use to plan, implement and evaluate campaigns. She offered the students a very practical explanation about how different government campaigns work and gave detailed analysis of real case studies.

In the evening, we had the pleasure to welcome Alex Aiken at our London campus

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. In his seminar, he outlined the historical development of government communications in the UK and provided some interesting insights about its connection to concepts such as democracy and society. Alex Aiken also argued that government communication should not be conceived of as a monologue but rather as a dialogue, which means for example to acknowledge people’s reactions and concerns on different issues. Then, he stressed the importance of honest communication for the government to be trusted by citizens and the public opinion at large.

Overall, both speakers were very helpful for us and broadened our view about Government communications. After the talks we had the opportunity to ask questions to the guest speakers and to actively engage with them. Alex Aiken’s public seminar was also attended by other students and staff from the London campus, who found the meeting very interesting and insightful.

“I’m starting to think about a new approach of government communication in my country and how it could be integrated with national objectives”, said one of the Strategic Communication students, who were able to combine what they learned in previous lectures with a professional perspective.

Xueying Zhang, Aisamal Abilkhan, Chiara Mercuri (MSc Strategic Communication students)


Strategic Communication Leaders – seminar series 2017

The staff and students of MSc Strategic Communication – University of Liverpool in London are all very excited about the upcoming Strategic Communication Leaders seminar series. Following last year’s success, we have no doubt these meetings will be another fantastic opportunity for us to learn about the current challenges in the practice of strategic communication. And from the direct voice of the industry experts. Key topics on this edition will be public service communication, crisis communication, and investor relations.

Next Thursday, Nov. 16 Alex Aiken (Executive Director for Government Communications) will inaugurate the series of public seminars with a talk on “100 years of Government Communication – lessons, highlight and the future of public service communication”.

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, Ben Verinder (Managing Director, Chalkstream) will cover the topic “Crisis management – preparing and performing”.

“Building trust-based relationships through investor communication” is the focus of the third public seminar, which will be held Wednesday Dec. 6 by Vincenzo Leporiere (Investor Relations Managers, Hays plc).

Last but not least, on Thursday Dec. 14, Faeth Birch (Global Board member and Managing Partner, Finsbury) will discuss the important role of “Strategic communications in Mergers & Acquisitions”.

All meetings are open to the public and will be covered on social media. Our students will report on all of them through this blog. For more information, see the flyer attached.

Strategic Communication Seminars 2017 Eflyer 3x

“Coming to a classroom near you”. Industry speakers at MSc Strategic Communication.

COMM505 “Public Relations and Investor Relations in practice” will start next week. Through this module, our MSc Strategic Communication students have the opportunity to meet communication experts from a variety of sectors and contexts, including government communication, investor relations, third sector campaigns, advertising and media. Like last year, four of these meetings will be open to the public as part of the Strategic Communication Leaders seminar series (see next post on this blog).

The first meeting for our students is next Thursday, with Pinky Badhan – Head of Campaigns, Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications, who has prepared a workshop on “Developing government communication campaigns”.

In the evening of the same day (Nov. 16, 5.30pm) Alex Aiken (Executive Director for Government Communications) will inaugurate the series of public seminars with a talk on “100 years of Government Communication – lessons, highlight and the future of public service communication”.

Below the full programme of the module (*open to public). Although many of these meetings will be restricted to university members, our students will report on all of them through this blog. So, stay tuned!

Thursday, Nov. 16, 9:30-11:30
Pinky Badhan – Head of Campaigns, PM’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications
Developing government communication campaigns

 Thursday, Nov. 16, 5:30pm-7pm
*Alex Aiken – Executive Director for Government Communications
100 years of Government Communication – lessons, highlight and the future of public service communication

Thursday, Nov 23, 6.30pm – 7.30pm
Ben Wiseman, BBC Chief Press Officer

Friday Nov. 24, 9:30-10:30am
Carolan Davidge Director of Marketing and Engagement, The British Heart Foundation
Making the British Heart Foundation relevant

Friday Nov. 24, 10:30-11:30am
Chloe Watson Policy Manager for Research and Prevention, The British Heart Foundation
Policy and Public Affairs: From Air Pollution to Brexit

Monday, Nov. 27, 5.30pm – 7pm
John Gollifer – General Manager, Investor Relations Society
Financial communication and investor relations.

 Wednesday Nov. 29, 4pm – 6pm
*Ben Verinder – Managing Director, Chalkstream
Crisis management – preparing and performing

 Thursday, Nov. 30, 1pm + Monday, Dec. 4, 9:30pm
Marco De Angeli – Clients and External Relations director, ABC Production Agency
The advertising process: from brief to on air

 Wednesday Dec.6, 5pm – 7pm
*Vincenzo Leporiere – Investor Relations Managers, Hays plc
Building trust-based relationships through investor communication

Thursday Dec. 14, 2pm-5pm
*Faeth Birch, Global Board member and Managing Partner, Finsbury
Strategic communications in Mergers & Acquisitions

Our London students visit to Liverpool

During Week 10 (24-26 of april, 2017), the London-based MSc Strategic Communication programme moved to…Liverpool. Our students had the opporutnity to discover the “home” university and our fantastic city, while attending part of the module COMM504 “Research Methods for Strategic Communication”, with sessions taught by various members of the Communication and Media Department. One of our students, Rosario Ruiz, wrote a report of this fabulous student experience made possible by our uniquely connected university. Thanks Rosie!

(By Rosario Ruiz)
London to Liverpool. A fantastic trip. We arrived at noon, at the same time as an avalanche of Liverpool FC fans arrived, as there was match that evening. Once we had left all our luggage and settled in, we met with our dear course leader Rudi and module coordinator, Craig, to have a good pint of beer as a welcome to the Beatles city.

pub 1

It was Sunday, still soon to go back to the hotel. We decided to go and explore a bit the city. Since Liverpool FC was playing, the city looked so quiet. We started our walk in the Albert Dock.

The Albert Dock, a historic place that is home to old warehouses, located next to the river Mersey, that have been refurnished and converted into new restaurants, shops, galleries and offices, making it one of the main attractions in the historic centre of Liverpool. In fact, this is a historic zone and these docklands are now part of the UNESCO, as some time ago this was one of the biggest trading centres in the world.


We continue our journey in the downtown, getting familiarised with the area and heading for Mathew Street, which was very close to the docklands. There we found the legendary Cavern.

The “most famous club in the world” as indicated right at the entrance, where the Beatles started playing their first gigs. But not only them, for those who love good music, you should know The Cavern had the pleasure to witness great music legends such as Queen, The Rolling Stones and The Who, among others. Needless to say, it is a must go place where you can enjoy live music.

Next day, Monday, we finally got to see the original campus in the University of Liverpool; being “London students” we were excited to visit it for the first time. We had our first sessions on Quantitative Research Methods, with prof. Simeon Yates, and City Branding and Mega Events with Dr Beatriz García.


Liverpool was rather cold for many us and so, despite visiting the city was lovely, we decided to go for a nice coffee nearby the hotel, before doing some shopping, as books were really affordable, and we end up having dinner in a lovely Lebanese restaurant.

city center

On Tuesday morning, we continued the research method sessions. Craig gave us more hints about how the use of Digital Media offers us a wide range of topics and issue for our dissertation. Then, Dr. Yannis Tzioumakis, an expert in Film and Media Industries, shared with us his passion towards cinema and his knowlegde about its industrial and strategic (like how media conglomerates control film production), discussing key methodological challenges when investigating this fascinating field of communication research. Finally, Dr Rosalynd Southern introduced us to the techniques of content analysis.


After a very fruitful and intense day, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Mowgli. It was great opportunity to meet other members of the Department, particularly the Head, prof. Kay Richardson, dr. Peter Goddard and her PhD student, Catrin Owen. The place was really a great choice, Craig. Thanks! Delicious Indian street food in a very cool place.


On Wednesday, we had the very last session with (soon Dr.) Kerry Traynor who shared with us her experience with Ethnographic Research in Media Communication.


And finally, we met with Rudi for a cup of tea before leaving at the delicious Cuthbert’s. A very sweet good bye…


On behalf of all MSc students, I would like to thank all the Department of Communication and Media for giving us such a nice welcome to the university and to the city, as well as for the guidance and advise with respect to our dissertation projects. And especially thanks to Rudi and Craig for organising and being so thoughtful with all of us. Hope we can meet soon!


The importance of strategic communication for television public relations by student Laura Hernández Fuentes


Department of Media and Communication: MSc Strategic Communication Leader Seminar Series.

Through the format of the strategic communications seminars, we have approached the subject through different contexts. On the 7th December 2016 Marion Bentley showed us how strategic communication works when doing public relations in television.

Marion Bentley works as group publicity manager for Channel 4, where she has been developing her career for 11 years. Channel 4 is always aiming to challenge and to engage their audience in the ongoing concerns within the United Kingdom. Also, it attempts “to give a voice to diverse groups in the UK, in particular those that tend to be under-represented on TV”.  As Marion highlighted: “We are trying to challenge people to think about things differently and inspire a change, which means that a lot of programmes are very controversial”; often things provoke a huge reaction and Marion and her team are responsible for handling reaction to these issues.

Public relations is responsible for media; dealing with all the incoming requests, information, pictures and interviews. Also, they put into practice the corporate strategy to preserve and improve Channel 4 public image. A key element of their strategic public relations is prioritising the programmes that they are going to publicize; those that are going to deliver ratings and to drive audiences.

Marion explained the strategic plan that Channel 4 developed for their exclusive reporting of the Paralympics. The marketing team developed and launched a campaign called “We’re the Superhumans” including a promotional video. Its purpose was to involve the public in the Paralympic sport; “we were a leading voice in changing public perception around disability”. She explained the PR team gave voice to the campaign by means of premiering the video in an event surrounded by TV producers and celebrities and improving the coverage in press and social media and, once the games started, by holding interviews and gathering views behind the scenes with the Paralympic athletes.

However, there are some occasions when public relations have to act faster and the planning develops differently. Marion explained the case of the documentary “Ian Brady: Endgames of a Psychopath”. Ian Brady is a British serial killer responsible, with Myra Hindley, for the deaths of five children in the 60s. The team interviewed Brady’s mental health advocate and during the interview she revealed the existence of an envelope in which Brady said where the body of the only child who couldn’t be found was buried. This information became known unintentionally before the documentary was delivered and through this, the story became much bigger. In Marion words; “we were getting a lot of criticism, people said that this is a publicity style typical from Channel 4, not caring about the victims”. At that point, the public relations team reacted, dealing with media and preparing Paddy, the director of the film, for some interviews.

Marion also discussed “Benefits Street” one of the series that has defined Channel 4. Before delivering this program, she said the team knew that it was going to be controversial, but not at the level that it was. The series followed the lives of a number of benefits claimants on James Turner Street in Birmingham.  Channel 4 received lot of criticism from different angles with suggestions that the series not only highlighted the difficulties of life on benefits but also demonised benefit claimants. Marion and her team were in charge of applying the proper response to it; people managing the phone, media training with spokespeople.  Rather than close down debate, Channel 4 wanted to encourager further discussion, therefore they held a live TV debates after an episode of the series to discuss its impact.

We are very thankful to Marion Bentley for sharing her experience with us and explaining how public relations is performed in Channel 4.


The purpose of government comms. CBE Conrad Bird at Strategic Comm Leaders Seminar Series

by our student Valeriya Gavrilenko

Last November. 23, the Strategic Communication Leaders Seminar Series had the pleasure to host Conrad Bird CBE, from the UK Government Communications (see picture below).

Conrad leads the GREAT Britain campaign, that aims to promote the UK internationally as a GREAT place to visit, study and do business. During the seminar Conrad talked about the Purpose and Practice of Public Service Communication.

Before the seminar, I had the opportunity to talk to Conrad and ask him some questions about the challenges of the campaign and its mission as a whole. In this interview, Conrad shared his insights on the campaign, its role after the Brexit referendum, and strategies moving forward. I report a summary of the interview.

Valeriya: Why did the UK Government decide to launch The GREAT campaign? What was the reason?

Conrad: There were two reasons. Firstly in 2012 Britain had many opportunities including the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics and Paralympics to attract the world’s attention, and 4 billion people watched Britain celebrate great moments and host great sporting events. Secondly we faced the challenge of an economic crisis, and therefore there was an imperative to encourage more students, more tourists, and more inward investment to help British businesses.  

Valeriya: The GREAT campaign is a very unique campaign in terms of combining a lot of things under one brand. What are the main difficulties that you confront because of that?

Conrad: It’s an enormous brand. We cover the whole nation’s outputs: infrastructure, healthcare, oil, gas, energy, tech, right up to film and fashion, tourism and education. The toughest element of the whole campaign is to organise government. There are 23 government departments and organisations involved in this whole effort. And that is a real tough act to ensure they are working together under one single brand instead of taking their own initiatives.

Valeriya: After Brexit the perception of Britain will probably change. Do you think that there will be some implications that may affect the GREAT campaign?

Conrad: The EU referendum presents opportunities and challenges for the campaign. The opportunity is the weak sterling, making our tourism more attractive. So, we have dialled up our tourism campaign in places like US because we are taking advantage this.  Foreign direct investments are more difficult because people are looking at the UK and wondering about the uncertainty, but equally Britain is exporting more.   So, what we need in a climate of uncertainty is consistency. And the GREAT Britain campaign delivers a very strong message to the world that Britain is confident, open and connected and wants to do business with the world.

To conclude, it is always a good idea to take advantages of the strengths that you have. At the same time, the GREAT Britain campaign is a great reminder that it is also possible to make use of weaknesses, such as economic crisis, and this is a crucial aspect of strategic communication.

Conrad Bird with our students, Programme Lead (R. Palmieri) and Head of Department (K. Richardson)
Conrad illustrating a campaign



Managing market expectations is key to successful Investor Relations: a workshop with the IR Society

By Bugrahan Doganoz

On the 21st of November, as part of the module COMM505 (Investor Relations and Public Relations in Practice), our programme hosted two experts in strategic financial communication: John Gollifer (GM and Director of the UK Investor Society) and Vincenzo Leporiere (IR Executive at HAYS PLC, Finance Committee Member of The IRS).  They introduced us with the main challenges that IR officers are facing on their agenda and explained “what really goes on in the world of Investor Relations”.

After John Gollifer’s inspiring public talk a week earlier, we all knew that the IR is not just about share price but, in the first place, about engaging with potential investors and make sure they are the right people for your organisation and convincing existing shareholders to hold their investment in the long-term. And a week later, it was so enlightening to listen real-life examples and understand how IROs do achieve the aforementioned goals.

During the seminar, two important points have been strongly emphasised by Vincenzo: the importance of transparency and managing expectations with sell-side analysts and the importance of developing two-way communication flows with investors. These are two crucial points on which successful investor relations should be based.

Managing the relationship between companies and the market is a key for IRO and, if markets lose their trust in the company, it would be very difficult to recover an unmet expectation. To that end, the keyword is “being open and transparent both during the good times and the bad times”, i.e. consistency should characterise financial communication with sell-side operators.  The two guest speakers presented Hays PLC as a case in point of a company that was very diligent in communicating transparently and consistently during hard times, such as the Brexit. And this produced good effects, also in terms of share price recovery.

The company’s operations are worldwide. Vincenzo has explained the responsibilities and the workload of IROs enabling us to understand how complex their agenda can be. The IRO is engaged in numerous events where the aim is not just informing the market but, above all, collect feedbacks from investors and build two-way communications. In Hays PLC case, as a result of a successful management not only of the operations but also of the communication process, there is a good level of trust between shareholders and the management team. And this lay down the basis for shaping the future success of the company.

Many thanks to John Gollifer, Vincenzo Leporiere and also to Nicole Solomon (IR Society). During the workshop, we had the chance to ask many questions and get very valuable insights.