Trusted Advisors: Up Close and Personal with… Michael Evans

As part of our Trusted Advisors series, our Web Editor meets with the Firm’s leadership for one-on-one interviews on their experience, expertise and professional journey. We’re happy to present the latest of these interviews with proven communicator and Lego enthusiast Michael Evans, Managing Partner of our Madano office in London. He may be short in stature, but he is one strong player out on the field. Just ask Madonna about it… she once lost an ideological battle against our colleague!

Michael, what types of projects do you mostly work on?

I tend to focus on energy projects. I’ve been working in communications for about seven years, but prior to that, I worked for the UK government, focusing on energy and reputational issues. I never realized how advising government was so similar to advising businesses until Madano approached me and told me that my skills were very pertinent to their business.

At Madano, I tend to focus on energy projects but also work with organizations from the Food, Drink, Health and Science sectors. I work with companies facing challenges with building something in the UK or Europe or with getting permissions to develop something later on. My work is very much based around campaigns, positioning and integrated offering. I get quite excited when a client comes to us with a new idea and wants us to take care of the creative, branding, messaging, positioning, engagement – the whole gamut. It’s exciting to help create something from start to finish, and we’ve had the opportunity to do so quite a lot in the past few years.

What part of your work are you most passionate about?

Making things happen. Delivering our greatest work for clients and actually seeing something through from idea to strategy to execution is really where I get most satisfaction. It doesn’t really matter what it is, it’s more about helping clients achieve their objective. A great example of that is a client for whom we ran a series of events in the UK about their Science Museum education program. We attracted over 300 school children to an event where a television presenter talked to them about science, and also organized a series of events featuring fun games for kids. This project was completely different from anything we do normally, and the client was amazed by the work we did to get young kids interested in science. It was slightly “softer” than what we usually do, but our team got a lot out of such exciting, fun work. It was another nice opportunity to see our team deliver a great project for a client. And knowing that we were the only ones who could have delivered that for the client is also quite special.

Can you tell us about a project you’re particularly proud of?

Last year, we were approached by a university that had an idea of creating a research institute. They’d been recommended to talk to us because of our knowledge of the sector, our understanding of creativity and our capacity to bring things to life.

They gave us a half-page brief of what they wanted to create, telling us that they wanted to bring on about five other university partners and raise money from government and industrial funders. From there, they basically told us to go ahead and run with it, think about the name, the brand, the positioning, the focus of the areas of research, etc.

And so we got to work. On the research side, we talked to people, found out what we should focus on, which areas were pertinent. Our brand and creative team developed the brand, messaging and logo, while our communications and government relations team worked on different aspects of the project, which involved a lot of internal communications. Getting six leading UK universities behind a vision, a mission, an identity is a challenge, and once you’ve achieved that, you have to communicate it to the rest of the world.

The project, called the Energy Research Accelerator, is now up and running and has raised about £200 million of funding, including £60 million from the government who is championing it as a sort of beacon of energy research. Seeing your project come to life is quite exciting, and the client is absolutely delighted with what we’ve accomplished. So much so that they see us as “their” team and want to continue to work with us.

We’ve learned a lot during the process, and so has the client. It wasn’t an easy mandate and we had to persuade many stakeholders that the project was worth backing. And what was initially meant to be a small project became this huge enterprise. We took the client on a journey and let our work speak for itself. It’s very satisfying to see that we’ve helped create something massive, but we also know that it’s the client’s organization and vision. We just helped articulate it. We were able to use all the parts of what we have at Madano to deliver something quite special.

Do you have any memorable story to share with us? Something unusual you may have experienced?

Well, Madonna once tried to have me fired when I worked at the government. At the time, she was married to Guy Ritchie and was very much involved in Kabbalah, through which she had met someone who she believed could solve some nuclear waste problems. So she wrote to the Prime Minister; the letter got passed to me. After I shared my professional opinion that it was a letter of rubbish, Madonna called me to ask for explanations… and express her disagreement by swearing at me! That’s when she wrote another letter to the PM, this time complaining about me. But once again, the letter got passed to me to respond to… I didn’t get fired, so I guess we can say that I won the “fight”.



Fun facts about Michael

I was born in: Singapore
Favourite movie: The Empire Strikes Back
Favourite book: The Metamorphosis
If I didn’t work in Communications: I’d be a landscape designer
If money didn’t matter: I’d run a record label
Most memorable vacation: Cuba
Favourite past time: Currently, it’s Lego!
First concert I ever went to is: Radiohead – supporting Teenage Fanclub
Favourite musician: The Stone Roses
Guilty pleasure: Trainers