People

Since 2004, we’ve been helping companies to be more human. We’re all experienced brand and language strategists, change consultants, trainers and writers – most of us have more than 20 years’ experience.

We’re based the UK, and work in countries as diverse as the US and India, Australia and Germany.

Ben Afia leads every project. And we only take on challenges that are a perfect fit.

“I was impressed. You asked really good questions and it felt like a partnership. You were genuinely curious about our challenge, and that meant I trusted you. You built a long-term relationship from the start. And that was a breath of fresh air.”
Carole Stewart, Head of PeopleDev, Google

Ben Afia brand strategist and international speaker

Ben is a consultant, writer and speaker on brand strategy, language and change. 

He’s helped companies manage their brand and tone of voice longer than most, starting in 2001 at Boots, when managing language was only just becoming a thing. He created a new tone and went on to help people across the business to get better results from agencies and freelancers.

In 2005, with a first baby on the way and a week

from exchanging contracts on a new house, Boots made Ben redundant. Which seemed like the perfect moment to set up Afia.

Somehow it worked out. And Ben’s since helped Norwich Union become Aviva, Powergen turn into E.ON and given Google the language to help its advertisers and agencies develop digital marketing skills.

He’s also helped Twinings to harmonise their

packaging around the world, Vodafone build better relationships with their customers, and AirBP to get in touch with their heartbeat. That work was so effective they were still using Ben’s words 5 years later.

Ben was a catalyst and director behind the launch writers’ collective 26. And his claim to fame is helping Ronseal work out what to say on the tin.

Al Robertson

brand strategist and trainer

Al lends his writing, training and thinking skills to Afia. Essentially, he’s obsessed with words, and puts that obsession to good use. He’s helped everyone from blue chip companies to architects, sculptors and even other writers work out just what they need to say, and then find the best way of saying it.

Favourite projects include naming Ford cars, writing a 45-minute audiodrama for Strawberry Hill House, speechwriting for Vodafone’s entire board and blogging for the British Council. Industry experience includes stints at Imagination, Corporate Edge and Unilever, plus freelance work all over the place.

He writes for himself, too. He’s just finished his second novel, has had short stories published alongside work from Stephen King, China Mieville and Ray Bradbury, and was shortlisted for this year’s Best Short Fiction BSFA Award (the science fiction BAFTAs).

Sarah McCartney

language strategist and trainer

Sarah is a polymath and creative thinker. She’s not only an indie perfumer, but has worked as a Paris tour guide, sax player in a big band, planner in ad agencies, event manager for The Guardian, lecturer at London Metropolitan University, and for 18 years as a freelance writer. She’s trained hundreds of people to be better writers, and loves the moment when people realise that writing for business doesn’t have to be like writing for exams.

Unusually for a writer, she has a master’s degree in marketing and corporate strategy and A-levels in physics, maths and further maths. Sarah thinks her analytical skills, languages, musical training and yoga all make her a better writer and trainer.

Nic Simpson

project director and marketer

Nic’s our marketing aficionado, helping spread good words about Afia.

After studying journalism at uni she crossed to the dark side as a marketer. Her boss at the time suggested she might fancy writing a corporate brochure, and a copywriter was born. After a few years she went freelance and worked for various different companies and agencies. One of them was Afia, where she’s written for the likes of Aviva and Morrisons.

She has fingers in lots of pies (well she is northern), and when she isn’t working with Afia you’ll find her writing parenting ebooks or doing marketing consultancy and research.

Emma Keens

language strategist and writer

Emma writes everything from websites to scripts and customer letters. But it hasn’t always been that way. In a former life, she sold TV advertising and sponsorship deals to brands such as Shell, Nokia and Emirates. She left the dark side after 10 years to become a journalist, working for titles such as The Times and City A.M..

Now she blends all that editorial and commercial experience to help our clients find their voices through quality writing. Emma’s great at unlocking a brief and looking for creative ways to get your messages across. A self-confessed word nerd, she’s fascinated by the way language can alter how we think and feel – and gets enormous pleasure from converting people from management speak to Plain English. Which makes her right at home with Afia.

Chloe Anderson

language strategist and writer

As a copywriter, Chloe’s been helping companies get their communications spot on for over 12 years. After working in internal, external and corporate communications for several years, she spent six years heading up the brand language team at AEGON.

And having spent most of her time working client side, she’s great at getting to the heart of briefs and really understanding our clients.

Chloe loves writing copy to sell products and engage employees, and likes nothing more than boiling complicated things down to their simplest essence. She’s written for retailers, financial institutions, market research companies and energy providers.. the list goes on.

Heather Atchison

brand strategist and trainer

As one of our creative strategists, Heather lends her flair with brand and tone of voice, writing and training to our clients.

Having honed her skills at one of London’s top communications agencies, she’s worked on tone of voice and brand language with the likes of Virgin, O2, eBay, Coca Cola, London Underground and Sotheby’s. And lent a guiding hand to memorable communications projects with some of the UK’s best-loved brands such as the BBC, Habitat, Lakeland and Clark’s Shoes. Then there was Damart – remember Damart?

She also lives in Brighton, but we try not to hold that against her.

Janet Gordon

spoken tone strategist and trainer

Janet is our resident expert in spoken tone of voice.

Are you saying what you really mean? And does that relate to what people actually do?

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) sounds a touch scientific for wordsmiths and marketers like ourselves, but it’s an invaluable way to study how language affects people’s behaviours and beliefs.

It’s also Janet’s field of expertise, as a consultant and trainer in leadership, culture and behaviour change. Her approach leads to programmes that are memorable and enjoyable for people – making sure the learning sticks, in both individuals and organisations.

She first realised how powerful language can be when she was working as a business English trainer for companies like Arthur Andersen, PWC and the Bank of Spain. That’s when she realised it’s not what you say or mean that’s important – it’s what people hear.

Ruth Quayle

thinker and writer

Ruth writes for us: you can pore over her words in brochures, hear them on ads and spot them on the web. She puts them carefully together to explain how things work and whittles them down for a catchy strapline. Whatever the project, Ruth’s fresh approach helps us capture a unique tone of voice and build the brand’s identity.

Before moving into copywriting, Ruth did the journalism thing. She was a writer and editor on national newspapers and glossy magazines, including The Guardian, The Week, Tatler and Condé Nast Traveller.

She now writes elegant, dynamic copy for some of the biggest global brands, agencies and charities, but is just as happy working with small start-ups and local businesses.

Angela Savidan

thinker and writer

Ang has worked as a copywriter on some of the UK’s most recognisable brands. Earning her spurs at agencies like JWT and Grey Advertising, she spent years with the Andrex puppy and launched Persil’s UK ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign.

But she began her career in New Zealand, at a time when advertising was a whole lot younger. In those days, if something had words in it, the copywriter was expected to write it. So she’s done everything from radio to point-of-sale, new product development to press releases, consumer magazines to TV ads, customer comms and a whole lot more.

Dave Sandhu

thinker and writer

Dave’s one of our stalwart copywriters – in fact, you might have spotted his name in print. He’s written for all sorts of fancy publications – from The Face, i-D and Conde Nast Traveller to The Sunday Telegraph and The Independent.

Nowadays, his copywriting briefs are just as diverse. And just as demanding… Dave uses his journalistic nous to drill to the heart of every brand. He’s not afraid to ask tough questions to get the real story. To go a little deeper to extract the most compelling narratives on some of our biggest projects so far – making sure clients like Aviva, Morrisons and Haven really dig our work.

But he’s (maybe) too modest to mention his industry awards from The Drum and his contribution to a copywriting book.