Who We Are

We are utterly curious about the world.

We are fiercely protective of our clients.​

We know one size does not fit all so we tailor the right people to the situation at hand.

Justin McLaren

Justin is actively involved in each of our assignments and provides counsel primarily at Board and Chief Executive level.  


His clients span multiple sectors but are united in needing to address changing competitive and cultural landscapes and the shifting expectations of their customers and employees. Justin works with clients on all aspects of their strategy.


Justin founded 8hwe in 2002 after a career in the Cabinet Office where he served as Private Secretary to three government ministers and worked across a variety of domestic policy areas.


Born and educated in Scotland, Justin read PPE at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, and has an MBA (distn) from Imperial College Management School, London.


He is a Trustee of the charity Missing People.

Michelle Hakim

Michelle founded 8hwe with Justin after graduating from the University of Bristol with a Politics degree. 


She advises clients on promoting and protecting their reputations and ensuring their positioning is relevant, resonant and consistent.

Anna Lemer

Anna joined 8hwe in 2006 and became a director in 2014.


Her analytical and forensic approach to language has redefined the way our company carries out and implements successful message development.


Anna has a degree in English from Bristol University.

Philippa Avery

Philippa provides consultancy on a wide range of issues including the arts, education and rural affairs. 


Whilst she is responsible for developing messaging and campaign strategies for our clients, her specific focus  is on devising and implementing the social media plans which seek to capture the attention of large swathes of the target audience.


Philippa has a degree in English from Queen Mary University of London and an MA in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory from King’s College London.

Saoirse Brennan

Saoirse joined 8hwe in 2014 and was appointed a Director in 2019. She works across many of our clients and specialises in media relations and the development and implementation of internal and external communications strategies.

She has a joint honours degree in English and Latin from the University of Leeds.

Joanna Goddard

Specialising in measured business development, Joanna creates highly effective stakeholder engagement strategies and effects change management to implement them within the client's organisation. She regularly guides and protects ‘personal brands’ in person and online, during periods of business change, challenge, or pre and post individual exits.


Joanna is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of the Advisory Council to the School of Management at the University of St Andrews.

Joanna is also an ambassador for The Polar Academy and in 2016 was appointed as a Director of The Scottish Child Law Centre.

Nicole McKechnie

Nicole supports on a range of projects providing crucial research and helping build our clients’ profiles through media relations and social media strategies.

She read History at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.

Maggie O'Boyle

Maggie provides high level communications strategy, media handling and reputation management advice to Board-level clients across the public, political and third sector.


Her career includes seven years working in Whitehall as a government communications advisor.

Alistair Watkins, Influence Sports 

Alistair founded Influence Sports - a partner agency to 8hwe - in 2008. Their clients have included British Cycling, Team Sky, the 35th America's Cup, Oman Sail, Team Origin, Jaguar Land Rover, Formula E, Formula One Teams Association, Google/ YouTube, Rolex and Bloodhound SSC - the World Land Speed Record challenger.

Alistair is the former Marketing Director of America’s Cup team, Alinghi, and prior to that Marketing Director of the Honda F1 Team. Alistair has also worked for Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, where he ran the global Formula One media operation.

Rob Wirszycz

An advisor to 8hwe, Rob has functional experience in strategy, change, marketing, sales, and ‘people’.


Previously European Marketing Director of EDS (now HP), Rob was also Director General of the IT industry trade association, CSSA (now TechUK); and CEO of a number of fast growing public & private companies in the UK and Japan.


Rob is a ‘Rainmaker’ for the Rainmaker Foundation, the charity accelerator.