communications expert
These days ‘expert’ is almost a dirty word. But I’ve put in many more than my 10,000 hours learning this trade and don’t think it’s immodest to use the ‘e’ word. Amongst other things, from 1997–2009 I led brand strategy at Precedent and from 2014–15 I was Strategy Director at Frank, Bright & Abel.
mediaeval foundations
The oldest organisation I have worked with is the University of Cambridge (founded in 1209). In 2017 I created a new brand for Gonville & Caius (founded in 1348, and the fourth oldest Cambridge college).
understand themselves better
When it comes to helping organisations develop a deep understanding of themselves I’ve often been described as a corporate therapist (for instance, by the former Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University, Professor Michael Driscoll).
I’ve worked with investment banks Midland Montagu and Charterhouse Bank, retail banks Barclays, Allied Irish Bank, Midland Bank (now HSBC), RBS and Sunbank, and Swiss private bank Lombard Odier.
Central government functions I’ve worked with include the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Government Communications Network and the National School of Government. Local authorities I have worked with include Essex County Council, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and Waltham Forest Council. I have also worked with quasi-governmental agencies including the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA).
Utility companies I’ve worked with include National Power, Northumbrian Water, Essex and Suffolk Water, Manx Telecom and Atlantic Telecom.
I’ve worked with numerous startups, particularly in the area of digital technology and the social economy, the best known being Just Giving. I’ve also worked with incubators and venture capitalists, particularly in the Cambridge Cluster, including Cambridge Enterprise and Cambridge Innovation Capital.
Professional firms I’ve worked with include (lawyers) Linklaters and Richards Butler, (accountants) Mazars, (management consultants) PwC and (built asset consultants) EC Harris.
I’ve worked with universities including: Cambridge, King‘s College London, Birmingham, Warwick, Oxford Brookes, Gloucestershire and Southampton Solent. In 2005 I was awarded an honorary doctorate for my role in rebranding Middlesex University, and in 2007 I led the successful rebranding of the University of Southampton. I have also worked with FE colleges East Hearts and SEEVIC and in 2011 rebranded Brentwood School.
I’ve worked with numerous membership organisations, mutuals, housing and other associations, foundations, and social enterprises at national and international level. These include the IPA, CIPD, NICEIC, UNISON, RSSB and the EEF.
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I’m James Souttar

I’m a communications expert, consultant, designer and writer. For three decades I’ve been helping organisations, from mediaeval foundations to startups, understand themselves better and express this understanding in their communications. I’ve worked across sectors, from banking to government, utilities to professions, education to the social economy.

My consulting skills consist in getting people to open up in interviews and workshops, in perceiving patterns in what they tell me, in persuading and enthusing a client organisation, and in representing these patterns in ways their audiences find recognisable, distinctive, relevant, insightful, authentic and inspiring. I create simple, rich, resonant approaches.

In 2005 I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Middlesex University for my role in rebranding the University.

What I offer

proposals and presentations that engage clients and win business. I can also help you develop an effective and systematic approach for your tendering and pitch materials.
interviews and perceptions studies which get to the heart of the matter and win people’s support. I’m particularly adept at drawing the c-suite into enjoyable and productive conversations.
communications audits of client, competitor and comparitor brands, identifying strengths and weaknesses, spotting opportunites and drawing conclusions for ongoing development.
workshops that stimulate participants to share knowledge and come up with creative responses. Over the years I’ve developed a range of tools and approaches to get the best out of groups.
communications strategy which stakeholders recognise as authentic, compelling and distinctive. I listen carefully to clients’ stories, looking for what gives them their energy and fascination.
verbal identity developing succinct, simple and arresting propositions that ‘keep it real’, creating secondary messaging and tone of voice guidelines, and writing for print and web.
creative translation working closely with your creative team to translate ideas into memorable experiences for audiences. Because nobody sees strategy — only the executions which deliver it.
brand hierarchy sorting out the confusion and accretions that affect organisations over time, especially in the relationships between parent and sub-brands and in ventures with third parties.
client direction I have a keen awareness of organisational politics, I’m good at building client relationships and I enjoy negotiating agreements between people with different perspectives.
engagement I can help you plan spectacular or low-key launches, deliver launch events, presentations and surgeries, and develop guidelines and other brand management materials.
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What others have said

‘I honestly never heard Governors use the word excellent so easily and instinctively. They are very good at being unexcited! They were so impressed. By James’ presentation, of course, but you’d all put so much in to make sure the presentation could be that good.’
Marie Owens
Director of Communications
Middlesex University
‘Middlesex has a vision of where it wants to be — and, unlike many of its rivals, a communications strategy that links back to this goal.’
Financial Times
Perceptions of Royal Mail, as evidenced by the new forms, will shift massively in a positive direction.’
Conway Smith Rose
Market research report on the Royal Mail forms project
‘I truly believe we have a brand that we can be proud of and this project has been hugely successful. We’ve achieved something incredible here and the new brand is an important step forward for the University. We’ve really enjoyed working with you. And your expertise, experience and talent has been invaluable — especially in the darker days!’
Angelina Bingley
Head of Marketing Communications
University of Southampton
‘The Vice-Chancellor was over the moon! James was really switched-on and his work was superb. ’
Caroline Dowler
Acting Head of Marketing & Communications
Southampton Solent University

Recent projects

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Cambridge Enterprise is the University of Cambridge’s commercialisation business, combining the functions of technology transfer, company creation, seed funding and consultancy support. With more than 60 employees it’s the largest operation of its kind in Europe. After extensive internal and external consultation I helped Cambridge Enterprise create a brand which brought the company much closer to the University. I have also designed their annual reports for the last four years.
See their website.

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Founded in 1348, Gonville & Caius is the fourth oldest Cambridge college. Tucked away at the top end of Trinity Lane, Caius is one of the University’s hidden gems. My job was to make it more visible. Which I did with a distinctive typographic logo that made play of Gonville & Caius being the only Oxbridge College with an ampersand in its name. The new logo is accompanied by a raft of supporting elements, including the historic Gate of Honour through which Caius students pass on graduation.
See their website.

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Cambridge Innovation Capital is the £50m investment fund started by the University of Cambridge to grow IP based companies in the Cambridge Cluster. Working with cutting-edge technology businesses, CIC represents the most modern face of Cambridge. But it also draws on the University’s 800 year old reputation. I developed a brand which uses the ermine bar in the University shield to highlight the connection between them, while letting CIC look like a modern venture capital firm.
See their website.

I also offer workshops, training and coaching on the human aspects of branding, including: why congruence matters, rebuilding trust, new ways of seeing, communicating across boundaries and nurturing healthy cultures.

Thinking and writing

I have taught, lectured and written extensively about brand, communication and design (including being consultant lecturer at Central Saint Martins and Virginia Commonwealth University). My work has been published in eye, Revolution, Critique, Marketing Business and XYZ. I’ve also written numerous white papers and articles—some of the most recent are linked below.

Get in touch

I’m an independent consultant working directly with my own clients and on a freelance basis with agencies. I’m based in South East London.

© 2018 James Souttar