News & Insights  |  Posted July 12, 2022

56° North announces new senior hires in public affairs and strategic communications

56° North is boosting its team with six new hires, including three new Directors, as it expands its presence across the UK.

Strategic communications and public affairs agency 56° North is boosting its team with six new hires, including three new Directors, as it expands its presence across the UK.

The new hires include Michael Martins, one of the lead economic and political analysts at the US Embassy in London, sports communications specialist Sophie Ashcroft, who joins from the Foundation of Light, Sunderland AFC’s charitable foundation, and Arron Gatley, chief of staff to George Freeman MP.

The Edinburgh-based agency was founded in November 2020 with an ambition to build a boutique corporate communications and public affairs agency with a specialist focus on supporting business and economic growth in the North and Scotland.

The firm was named one of PR Week’s ‘agencies to watch’ in 2022.

In its first 18 months, the firm has seen impressive growth, supporting over 20 clients in the financial services & fintech, food & drink, infrastructure and sports sectors, as well as some of the UK’s leading business organisations.

The firm is now investing in a major expansion of its public affairs presence in London, and supporting its growth in Scotland and the North. Following this round of recruitment, the consultancy will have a team of 14 based in Edinburgh, London and Newcastle.

To support 56° North’s growing public affairs and campaigns practice, the firm is hiring two new Directors in London, with Michael Martins and Arron Gately joining the agency in August.

Michael Martins joins as a Senior Director. He was most recently an Economic and Political Analyst at the US Embassy in London, having previously worked at the Institute of Directors, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and for an MP in Parliament.

Arron Gatley joins as Director from his current role as chief of staff to former Government science and innovation minister, George Freeman MP. In this role he helped launch and develop the Big Tent Foundation, andled on key policy projects for Mr. Freeman such as the international covid policy commission – ‘Reform For Resilience’.

56° North is also expanding its wider strategic communications practice and presence in Edinburgh and Newcastle.

Sophie Ashcroft has joined the consultancy as a Director, based in Newcastle. Sophie has a first-rate track record in sports communications and currently supports Team Scotland on all its communications at the Commonwealth Games. Sophie was previously head of marketing and communications at the Foundation of Light, Sunderland AFC’s official charity, having previously worked in communications roles at Sunderland AFC, British Athletics, UK Anti-Doping and Tennis Scotland.

In addition to these three senior hires, the consultancy is hiring three new consultants in its Edinburgh office.

Recent graduates Rhys Ainsworth and Jack Sinclair joined the firm in June. Rhys is a graduate in Law (LLB) with a specialism in Constitutional Law, from the University of Edinburgh, while graduate Jack is completing a masters in political communications at Glasgow University.

Emilio Seifert, a graduate of Glasgow University who was an intern at 56° North in 2021, joins the firm in September.

Co-managing partner John Penman said 56° North is investing in building its team to support the firm’s continued strong growth:

“We are incredibly lucky to have launched 56° North with a strong, experienced team – and with the growth we’ve experienced in our first 18 months, we’re delighted to be attracting brilliant new talent as we look to expand and strengthen our offer to clients even further,” he said.

“All six new hires bring a variety of backgrounds to an already diverse team, and we’re thrilled that such experienced and exciting communications professionals like Sophie, Michael, and Arron will be helping us in our ambition to see 56° North become one of the UK’s leading independent communications consultancies.”

56° North is also running its second annual intern programme, with six interns currently working in the Edinburgh office across the summer:

“Although as an agency we are pretty young, we knew from the start that we wanted to give opportunities to some of the many talented students and young people in Scotland,” continued John Penman.

“We had some great interns last year – including Emilio who joins the team full time later this year – and this summer’s interns are underlining the amazing breadth and depth of talent emerging from Scotland’s universities.”