Speaker biographies

Sir Craig Oliver - keynote speaker

Senior managing director - Teneo Blue Rubicon 

Sir Craig Oliver was the former prime minister David Cameron’s director of politics and communications for over six years, responsible for the government’s strategy and messaging. During that time he was director of communications on a number of political campaign teams, including the 2015 general election (winning an unexpected overall majority). His day-to-day work in this role included a radical overhaul of government communications, making them fit for the digital age.

Before working with David Cameron, he was a multi-award winning journalist, with jobs ranging from editing the BBC’s flagship television news programmes, to controller of BBC Global, responsible for the corporation’s TV, radio and online content around the world. He was a leading figure on the team, responsible for creating the world’s largest multi-media newsroom.


Tamara Bennett

Head of media relations - Virgin

With a background in broadcast, agency and in-house roles, Tamara has over 14 years’ public relations and communications experience and is currently Head of Media Relations for Virgin Management.

Before joining Virgin, Tamara led an award-winning communications team at the British Heart Foundation, prior to that she worked in agency roles with a broad range of clients including Nike, MTV and ITV1.


Isobel Bradshaw

Senior corporate communications manager - Vodafone Group

Isobel Bradshaw works on a range of corporate and financial issues for one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies and was previously head of comms at TalkTalk Group where she looked after the full range of PR issues, most notably the high-profile cyber attack in 2015.

She has also spent a considerable time in agency, where she specialised in media relations and public affairs in a range of sectors, from healthcare to TMT and everything in between.

Isobel started her career over a decade ago as a press officer for O2 and when she does have some spare time, can normally be found curled up on the sofa with the weekend papers or a good book.


Fergus Campbell

Head of communications - Gumtree

Fergus has spent the majority of his career in communications and marketing roles, working for a variety of brands and businesses in the UK and abroad, in both agencies and in-house. In his role at eBay-owned online classifieds platform Gumtree, he is focused on building the profile and reputation of the business within the UK, and rebutting misperceptions of the brand, by building proactive consumer and corporate campaigns.

While these activities are broad in nature – ranging from creating physical activities which bring the sharing economy to life, or showing tech-savvy audiences how an 18 year old open eCommerce platform like Gumtree can help you get a job, declutter your home, or find a new flatmate – consistent to all is a fundamental belief that Gumtree is in the business of helping people.

Flora Edward - CommsCon MC

Business development manager - Cision

Flora has four years experience working with agencies such as Talk Global and Speed Communications, and time in-house as a comms project manager for TONI&GUY, she is currently a business development manager within the agency sales team at Cision.

Flora is pioneering the new and innovative Cision Communications Cloud and spends her time consulting with agencies, freelancers and marketing professionals in regards to integrating their entire communications strategy.



Lee Edwards

Associate professor - Dept. of media and communications, London School of Economics and Political Science

Dr. Lee Edwards teaches and researches public relations from a socio-cultural perspective and is particularly interested in the relationship between public relations, inequalities, social justice and democracy.

She has published theoretical and empirical papers on a range of topics including public relations as a cultural intermediary, diversity in public relations, and public relations and democracy. Her books include Understanding Public Relations: Theory, Culture and Society (Sage, 2018); Power, Diversity and Public Relations (Routledge, 2014); and Public Relations, Society and Culture: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations (Routledge, 2011, with Caroline Hodges). 


Richard Griffiths

Director, strategic communications - Ketchum London

Richard has over two decades of experience as a strategic communications specialist spanning senior levels of broadcast journalism and corporate communications. He began his career as a BBC business reporter interviewing chief executives and covering a range of news stories, with secondments in New York and Europe. 

At Ketchum, Richard has brought his storytelling experience to bear across different formats, including leading some of the largest international accounts such as IBM. His expertise includes developing thought leadership and executive visibility programmes for clients, creating content for senior leaders as well as leading media relations engagement.  
Richard also prepares senior executives for various types of communications, from earnings announcements to media or analyst calls to challenging encounters on high-profile media outlets.


Emma Hazan

Global head of consumer - Hotwire 

Emma is responsible for the creative direction and growth of all things Consumer across Hotwire’s offices globally. She is passionate about comms, creativity and placing that killer story in the right place at the right time. With over 15 years’ experience in the PR industry across technology and consumer lifestyle brands, Emma has played a key role in some of the most exciting PR initiatives in the last 15 years.

She has worked across brands such as BlackBerry, Paramount Home Entertainment and Heinz through to O2, Shazam and Vodafone, even working on the Millennium Dome’s rebrand to the O2. Today, she works across the Hotwire global portfolio to provide creative insight to both blue chip and challenger brands. These clients include the likes of Visa, HomeAway, Hostelworld, Asus, RedBull and Tinder.


Peter Heneghan

Head of communications - LADbible Group

LADbible Group is the world’s biggest youth social publisher. They are at the forefront of positive social innovation on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, where they can boast a followed of more than half of all millennials in the UK alone – both male and female. 

Peter is responsible for developing the company’s media reputation and driving exposure and on all key initiatives. In 2018, they were the big winners at the Cannes Lions Festival receiving two Grand Prix Awards including for public relations.   

Prior to this he had several media roles, most notably at the BBC, Buzzfeed, Channel 4, where he worked across business, news, current affairs and sport, including the communications for the host broadcaster of the London 2012 Paralympics.


Paul Hodkinson

Comment editor and assistant editor - Financial News

Paul is the comment editor and assistant editor at Dow Jones title Financial News, where during the past five years he has served as deputy editor and acting editor.

He overseas all contributed opinion pieces as well as playing a lead role on the publication's largest news stories and investigations. He regularly writes on topics including investment banking, fintech, asset management, regulation, private equity, diversity, and ethics and culture.

Before that he was editor of Private Equity News, where he spent five years. Prior to joining Dow Jones he spent spent six years at Legal Week as a reporter and news editor.

He will soon be rejoining Legal Week as its Editor-In-Chief and will be helping oversee the international expansion of its parent group, American Lawyer Media. 



Avril Lee

Deputy chair global health practice - Burson Cohn & Wolfe
Avril is the deputy chair of the health practice and directs communications programmes for leading international and UK healthcare companies and charities. With over 20 years of experience across a wide range of communications briefs, she brings creative solutions to business challenges. Her experience covers media and social media strategy, issues management as well as extensive experience of stakeholder engagement including social influencers. She has held a number of global and regional roles in healthcare comms and was formerly CEO of Ketchum London.
As a working-class Chinese, Irish Brit (!) Avril is passionate about improving diversity in the PR industry. She has worked for many years to bring about change as part of the CIPR’s Diversity Working Group, which she currently the chair of, and is also an ambassador for the Taylor Bennet Foundation, adviser to BAME 2020 and is a mentor for the BME PR Pros / PR Week mentoring scheme.


Gabriela Lungu

Founder - WINGS Creative Leadership Lab

Gabriela Lungu is an integrated creative leader. She has worked for more than 20 years for top firms in advertising, PR, social, and marketing, in different countries and cultures, mostly in agencies, but also on the client side. Currently, she is leading WINGS Creative Leadership Lab, a nomad firm that she has founded to support companies all over the globe elevate their creativity through workshops, ideation sprints, training or bespoke consultancy.

Gabriela's work has won more than 150 awards & nominations in the last 10 years, among which many coveted PR trophies including PR Cannes LIONS, Platinum & Gold at EMEA SABRE Awards, Global SABRE Awards and IPRA Golden World Awards.


Brian McDowell

VP, worldwide sales - SocialChorus

Brian leads a team that provides insight and expertise to SocialChorus customers as they transform their communication function. He joined the company after 15 years as a change management and organisational transformation consultant.

Prior to that, he has held strategic consulting and sales leadership roles at several start-ups and Hewlett-Packard.


Kuldeep Mehmi

Associate director - Hawthorn Advisors

Kuldeep is an Associate director at Hawthorn Advisors and is also Chair of the Taylor Bennet Foundation Shadow Board.

He has over six years’ experience advising clients on financial and corporate communications strategies and has worked for clients across a broad range of sectors including Financial Services, Professional Services, Recruitment, Real Estate and Oil & Gas.



Josh Newis-Smith

Celebrity and entertainment editor - Glamour

Josh Newis-Smith currently presents his popular fashion vlog, Joshington Hosts, alongside editorial work for Glamour, one of the UK's biggest and most fashion forward brands. Josh's vlog takes a fresh and unique look at everything from the latest trend advice, to fashion makeovers as well as doing dynamic celebrity interviews that you will not find anywhere else.

After amassing 4.5 million views in 2017 and notching up 2 million views for 2018 by the start of February, Joshington Hosts goes from strength to strength. Styling, directing and writing all the scripts himself means everything you see and hear in the videos is the authentic and unique voice of Josh.

On camera Josh's rich amount of editorial and styling experience combines with his sassy sense of humour to create must-see fashion and entertainment content.



Ed O’Brien

Managing director - Teneo Blue Rubicon

Ed O’Brien is a managing director at Teneo with 14 years’ communications experience, and has particular expertise in crisis & issues management, reputation campaigning, media relations, and international campaigns. 

Working within Teneo’s crisis and issues team, Ed specialises in helping organisations weather major threats to their reputation. He helps businesses prepare for potential crises, from shaping crisis plans and embedding crisis capabilities to creating resilient narratives. He also gives live support to clients when the worst actually happens, advising on both crisis management and crisis communications approaches.


Kev O’Sullivan

Executive creative director - FleishmanHillard Fishburn

From funeral directors to the world’s fastest growing social networks, confectionary to the planet’s largest circus, oil to entire cities, Kev has conceived campaigns for, and consulted on, some of the highest profile brands and organisations. Using his unique form of facilitation, he currently heads up creativity at one of London’s most prestigious comms agencies FleishmanHillard while also helping flame the creative fires of the group’s 3000+ strong network.

As well as featuring in 2018’s PRWeek Powerbook, Kev is known for his winning work on the European Union, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, Aviva, giffgaff, Samsung, HSBC and one of the world’s highest profile property developers Land Securities. Kev is committed to personally mentoring the PR industry’s next generation of creative directors, as well as exploring ways to overcome its collect self esteem issues, a topic he’ll be covering this week.


Jenny Packwood

Head of brand engagement - KFC UK & Ireland

Jenny is responsible for building brand love amongst consumers and stakeholders for KFC. This role includes a big focus on building trust and brand relevance and incorporates PR, social media, issues & crisis management, as well as wider marketing initiatives.
Jenny was the driving force behind the boldest but most dramatically positive step the business has ever taken - the behind-the-scenes BBC documentary 'The Billion Dollar Chicken Shop'. Radical transparency and authenticity were the essential driving forces behind this decision and these same values formed the cornerstone of KFC’s award-winning approach to dealing with the delivery crisis which hit the business in February.
Prior to joining KFC, Jenny worked in an agency for 12 years where she worked on clients including Starbucks, World Economic Forum, Pizza Express and Kodak.

Giles Palmer

Founder and CEO - Brandwatch

Giles started Brandwatch after leaving BSkyB in late 2005, and since its launch in August 2007 the organisation has grown to become one of the world’s leading social listening and analytics tech companies, empowering some of the world's biggest brands and agencies across the globe.

Giles lead the merger with Crimson Hexagon in October 2018 to create a $100m revenue SAAS business and his goal for the company is to help organisations find and understand actionable insights from social data and share the right insights with the right people throughout the enterprise.

Giles has a Physics degree from Durham University and is also a chartered accountant.


Natasha Plowman

Head of campaigns - HSBC

Natasha’s has spent the last 15 years working for some of the world’s most recognisable brands. She worked briefly at Coca-Cola Enterprises before moving to Diageo. Here she headed up communications for the African markets and created some of Diageo’s most innovative and effective responsible drinking campaigns in Europe.

Natasha then joined HSBC, running global campaigns for its commercial banking arm. Running campaigns that focus on outcomes over outputs, and impact over reach has been an inherent driver of her success throughout her career.

Now, she is responsible for developing, driving and delivering campaigns that help HSBC's commercial customers transition to be more sustainable or help them navigate the world of international business and trade.


Yvonne Smyth

Group head of diversity and inclusion - Hays plc

Yvonne spearheads the opportunity and responsibility that Hays has to be a champion for change: not only as a major employer in its own staffing sector but also as a positive agent for change. She works closely with customers and Hays specialist consultant teams to shape, create and implement the recruitment strategies that effectively support and increase the representation of more diverse staff profiles and inclusive workplace cultures.

She leads the expert Hays Legal recruitment teams across the UK, having spent many years recruiting lawyers into private practice and in-house roles.

Yvonne sits as a longstanding Board Member of British American Business, the leading transatlantic business organisation and chairs the UK operations of BAB’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum, The Stir.

Ellen Stewart

Head of content - PinkNews

Ellen works for PinkNews, the world's most-read LGBT media platform, where she leads a growing newsroom. She specialises in audience development and editorial campaigns.

Ellen previously worked at the Evening Standard as acting growth editor & head of social, where she built an audience team from the ground up and successfully delivered double figure growth across social and SEO. Prior to that she worked at The Independent, Time Inc, DMGT, AOL and HuffPost