Speaking Engagements


2024 AGB Board Professionals Conference

TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2023 9:15 – 10:15 AM, BOSTON, MA

Campus Active Aggressor—Preparing for the Unthinkable
Daily headlines remind us of the threat of violence and its impact on our community. In their most extreme form—an active shooter or mass casualty—these events are sudden,
unexpected, and high-profile and can have a profound impact on students, parents, faculty, and staff and the trust they have in the safety of classrooms, residences, and workplaces. With each new incident, the concern on campuses grows, as does the pressure on leaders to take action to prevent violent acts and keep communities safer. Yet few schools have adequately prepared beyond conducting tactical training for police departments and adding ambiguous statements in their handbooks to address workplace violence. In this session, we will share real-world experience and learnings as well as best practice guidance to help you:

  • Evaluate how ready your school is to respond should this type of event occur on your campus
  • Effectively prioritize and address readiness gaps
  • Understand your role in helping your school respond to and recover from an active aggressor

Simon Barker, Managing Partner, BMCG
Karen Petrularkis, General Counsel and Board Secretary, Wellesley College
Pam Roskowski, Senior Advisor, Security Management, BMCG

2024 AGB National Conference on Trusteeship

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 2024 11:05 – 12:00 PM, BOSTON, MA  

How to Protect and Build an Institution’s Reputation during M&A
In a rapidly consolidating higher education landscape, what opportunities do mergers and acquisitions create for financially successful institutions? And how can you change the dynamic of the deal such that the outcome is less about winners and losers and is more about an effective partnership, even when an institution has to close. In this session, we’ll discuss:

  • Establishing evaluation criteria well in advance of identifying potential acquisition opportunities
  • Building a memorandum of understanding that keeps mission and values aligned
  • Protecting the acquiring institution’s reputation from criticism around the deal itself, potential job loss, student displacement, and loss of institutional identity

Simon Barker, Managing Partner, BMCG
Helen Drinan, President, Cabrini University


Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, Summer Meeting


Managing a crisis in the social media age:  Tips for lawyers and leaders with Tim Pratt, former General Counsel of Boston Scientific

Fake news or real news.  Viral posts in social media.  Random versus orchestrated attacks.  In today’s world, it has never been easier for others to influence the way people think about your brand and organization.  Knowing what to do in such a crisis and how to use social media and other tools to protect and restore reputations is critical.

APLU Council on Strategic Communications, Summer Meeting


Lessons Learned – Preparing Your Team for the Crisis You Hope Never Comes with Emily Guerrant, Michigan State University, Vice President & University Spokesperson

A mass casualty event is something you hope you never have to experience but is frequently listed as a top risk by university leaders. How prepared is your team? With plenty of time for Q&A, learn from recent experiences at MSU including preparing your university communications teams, real-time execution, working with law enforcement partners and how to factor in internal communications as well as external marketing efforts into the overall response.

Association of Governing Boards (AGB): Board Professionals Conference


Join Simon and Cynthia Sanchez Escamilla, Chief of Staff, VP, and General Counsel at the University of The Incarnate Word for an interactive conversation on crisis management during their session “Crisis Management and the Board: Managing Risk.”

Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose when a crisis will come to our campuses. But the choices we make now will have a major impact on how well our institutions and their leadership weather the storm, whenever and however it might break.

Participants will come away with ideas on how to prepare their board, their colleagues, and most importantly themselves to respond to crises and safely navigate the rocky shoals of reputational risk.

Association of Governing Boards (AGB): National Conference on Trusteeship

APRIL 2-4, 2023 / SAN DIEGO, CA

Simon and Kelli R. Brown, Chancellor of Western Carolina University, will present “Effectively Assess Your Institution’s Resilience and Ability to Manage Reputational Risk” at the Association of Governing Board’s National Conference on Trusteeship. This session introduces a new framework to help participants, as board members, to soundly answer the question: Has their institution done everything necessary to prevent, mitigate, and if required, respond to an issue or crisis that poses a significant risk to its reputation?

As with every other area of your institution’s strategy; understanding and measuring against clear goals and objectives is the only way to evaluate capability and success. This session will help participants:

  • Learn the right questions to ask;
  • Understand how to evaluate the administration’s responses, as well as the plans and programs your college or university currently has in place; and
  • Know what it takes from the board and from the leadership team to mature their program and approach.

Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Summit for Leaders in Advancement 2022

JULY 18, 2022 / CHICAGO, IL

In their session “How to Prevent Crises at Your University”, Simon and Jen discussed the unique position and challenges of colleges and universities at the crossroads of a variety of difficult issues—from racial justice and freedom of speech to rankings, athletics, Title IX, admissions, financial and accreditation scandals—all supercharged by political polarization, the fragmentation of traditional stakeholder groups, and social media.

While an effective response when issues arise on campus is imperative, the better (and saner) approach is to be proactive—to take steps now to prepare for these challenges and to prevent a crisis from happening in the first place!

In this interactive session, participants:

  • Learned about the importance of risk-sensing and how to keep ahead of emerging issues and threats;
  • Practiced, through a short team exercise, the challenge of making tough decisions when faced with competing values, priorities, and stakeholder perspectives; and
  • Evaluated how prepared their institution was to effectively manage a significant issue or crisis

APLU’s Council on Strategic Communications, 2022 Summer Meeting

JULY 24-26, 2022 / CHICAGO, IL

In his session, “Preventing Crises at Your Institution – The Abridged Version!”, Simon discusses the critical, strategic role that the communications team can and must play in protecting an institution’s reputation.  This interactive session covers topics including:

  • How to assess an institution’s capability to effectively and proactively mitigate and manage reputational risk;
  • Approaches to take to get ahead of a significant issue or crises; and
  • Concrete steps to take to build your strategic influence across theuniversity

Berkeley Executive Leadership Academy


For the eighth year in a row, Lynn and Simon will participate in Berkeley’s Executive Leadership Academy – a five-day intensive training experience focused on executive leadership skills essential to serving as successful higher education administrators. They will present an overview of crisis management best practice for higher education including scenario-based discussions on select reputational risks.

2022 National Conference on Trusteeship


Simon and Marcia MacLeod, Chair, University of Tulsa Board of Trustees, will present “The Role of the Board During Crisis and Significant Change” at the Association of Governing Board’s National Conference on Trusteeship. This session will discuss the changing role of the board during periods of crisis and significant change and identify key takeaways and best practices to enable your board to navigate the crises that inevitably lie ahead. As noted by John F. Kennedy in his well-known quote, in crises we must “be aware of the danger—but recognize the opportunity.” Over the past three years, the University of Tulsa Board of Trustees has faced not just significant financial challenges but three presidential transitions and a complete strategic overhaul, emerging stronger and better positioned.

American Council on Education Annual Meeting

MARCH 5-7, 2022 / SAN DIEGO, CA

Simon and John Kiralla, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Communications, and External Relations at Loyola Marymount University, presented “Optimism Is Not a Strategy: How to Make Good Decisions During a Crisis” at the American Council on Education’s Annual Meeting. Simon and John spoke on the criticality of strategic decision-making in the midst of a crisis, when events are unfolding rapidly, accurate information is scarce, and the pressure to respond is high. They emphasized that a disciplined approach is the only way to ensure that your leadership team does not devolve into spinning and disarray when every move is critical and leadership is under intense scrutiny. This session introduced tools that can bring rigor, discipline, and a consistent risk assessment process to decision-making during a time of significant risk to your institution. Simon and John shared real issue examples related to academic freedom; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and leadership.

AMA – Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education


Simon, Erin, and Jason presented “Protecting Your Brand (and Your Hard Work)” at American Marketing Association’s 2022 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. They spoke to marketing leaders about the importance of ensuring reputation is protected, especially after the hard work of building and maintaining a brand. In this interactive session, the BMCG team introduced its Reputational Risk Maturity Model – a way to assess how capable and prepared institutions are to effectively and proactively manage reputational risk. With key concepts introduced, attendees scored their institution against a host of critical variables – from initial (1) to optimized (5).

2021 Council of Independent Colleges Presidents’ Institute


Simon presented “Presidential Communications and Management in Times of Crisis” at the virtual 2021 CIC Presidents’ Institute. Simon addressed how university presidents should best communicate to the campus and beyond when under pressure to respond quickly to multiple campus and community crises, including a global pandemic, racial tensions and student protests, and natural disasters. He answered common questions from presidents such as; what are keys to effective management of both social and traditional media as well as of key relationships with the faculty and the board? What steps can presidents take to prepare themselves and their institutions for responding to crises? And, most importantly, how should presidents think about their own role in such situations?

AMA – Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

NOVEMBER 10-13, 2019 / LAS VEGAS, NV

Jen and Kent presented “From Instincts & Intuition to Methodology & Metrics” in which they shared 5 tips to help participants apply the same rigor, methodology, and focus that they apply to their brand to the issues that risk becoming crises and the crises the risk their hard-earned reputation.

2019 PRSA: CommEx // Alaska Communicators Exchange


Kent conducted a four-hour “Issues & Crisis Workshop: Chaos and Reputational Damage are NOT Inevitable” Reputational damage should not be interpreted as the inevitable outcome of a crisis. Rather, it should serve as a wake-up call that typical approaches to crisis communications and management are not up to the challenge and must be improved. Participants learned how to improve the quality and effectiveness of their response.

Converge 2019

FEB 19-21, 2019 / ATLANTA, GA

Simon hosted “Crisis? What Crisis? Advice from Your Peers Who Have Been There” a casual and off the cuff panel discussion about what really goes on behind the scenes and how to prepare for our world to explode.

NAICU (National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities) Annual Conference

FEB 3-6, 2019 / WASHINGTON, DC

Simon and Lynn presented “Leadership in Crisis” addressing critical factors in effective crisis leadership and decision-making and the role of the President in crisis communications.

AMA – Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

NOV 4, 2018 / ORLANDO, FL

Simon, Jen and Kent conducted a four-hour “Issues and Crisis Communications Workshop.” Reputational damage should not be interpreted as the inevitable outcome of a crisis. Rather, it should serve as a wake-up call that typical approaches to crisis communications and management are not up to the challenge and must be improved. Participants learned how to improve the quality and effectiveness of their response.

Berkeley Executive Leadership Academy

JULY 9-13, 2018 / BERKELEY, CA

Lynn and Simon returned to Berkeley Executive Leadership Academy with two presentations during each session, “Building Crisis Leadership at your Institution“ and “Mitigating Reputational Risk through Issues and Crisis Management.”

Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding

JUNE 4-6, 2018 / DENVER, CO

Simon and Jen conducted a session entitled, “This is Going to Take More than a Press Release” which addressed crisis management and crisis communications best practice, focusing on how to proactively anticipate impacts and consequences to make your strategy resilient in the face of “unexpected” developments.

Law School Admissions Council > 2017 Annual Meeting


Simon lead a case-based session entitled, “Crisis Management – A Leadership Challenge” exploring methods and solutions for addressing crises within a higher education setting.

Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) > Institute for Senior Communications and Marketing Professionals

APRIL 4-6, 2017 / CAPE CORAL, FL

Simon conducted as session entitled, “Enough with the Firefighting Already!” which included a case review during the Crisis Communications session on Day 1.

Preventing Workplace Violence Woodruff & Sawyer

JUNE 13, 2016 / DENVER, CO

Bob and Simon will participate in a panel to discuss workplace violence prevention, humanitarian assistance, alignment of active shooter with emergency response plans and crisis communications.

Berkeley Executive Leadership Academy

MARCH 21-25, 2016 & JULY 11-15, 2016 / BERKELEY, CA

Lynn and Simon return to this year’s Berkeley Executive Leadership Academy with two presentations during each session, “Building Crisis Leadership at your Institution“  and “Mitigating Reputational Risk through Issues and Crisis Management.”

AMA’s 2015 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

NOVEMBER 15-18, 2015 / CHICAGO, IL

Simon joins as a panelist at the CMO Salon (by invitation only) to discuss “The Difference between Brand Reputation.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield Cyber Liability Forum


Simon will speak on “How to Manage Reputational Risk from a Cyber Attack or Data Breach”.

NetDiligence Cyber Risk and Privacy Liability Forum


Simon will be speaking on panel discussion regarding “Post-Breach Business Recovery: Getting Your Company Back on Track”.

Western Payments Alliance Annual Conference


Simon will be speaking at the Western Payments Alliance annual conference on “Beyond Technology:  Preparing For and Responding To a Data Breach or Cyber Attack.”

APLU’s Council on Strategic Communications: Summer Meeting

JULY 20-21, 2015 / DENVER, CO

Simon will present at the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities’ Council on Strategic Communications Summer Meeting on “How Effective Issues Management Can Protect Your School’s Reputation and Prevent Crises” together with Bronson R. Hilliard, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Strategic Media Relations, University of Colorado Boulder.

University of California Risk Summit

JUNE 3-5, 2015 / OAKLAND, CA

Simon will present at UC Risk Summit on “Reputational Risk & Crisis Management in Higher Education” together with Sarah Latham, Vice Chancellor, Business and Administrative Services at UC Santa Cruz.

Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE)

MAY 4-6, 2015 / LOS ANGELES, CA

Simon will present at this year’s Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE) Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding. Simon will be co-present with Ellen de Graffenreid,
Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications
 University of Missouri on “Reputation Rescue: Strategies for Issues and Crisis Management in the Era of Media Convergence”.

Berkeley Executive Leadership Academy

MARCH 23-27, 2015 / BERKELEY, CA

Lynn and Simon will present twice at this year’s Berkeley Executive Leadership Academy on “Reputational Risk & Crisis Management in Higher Education” and “Building Crisis Leadership at your Institution.”