Agency Profile: Speyside Group

Agency Profile: Speyside Group

Telum is looking to highlight the diverse and vibrant agencies in the Southeast Asian PR agency landscape in upcoming editions of our PR Alert. We want to encourage networking, business opportunities, and to celebrate the great initiatives being worked on around the region. If you'd like your agency to feature, get in touch.

What services does Speyside Group offer?
Speyside is a global emerging market public policy and communications specialist agency with a 30-year track record helping leading global companies and organisations with market entry and growth, issues management, and stakeholder engagement, as well as corporate affairs.

We take an integrated approach to developing strategies that meet our clients’ needs. This includes public policy intelligence, stakeholder mapping and engagement, understanding national regulations, shaping policymaking, corporate communications, issues and crisis preparation and management. We fit these solutions to our clients’ needs.

What size is Speyside Group?
Over the last 30 years, we have grown to around 175 people globally, with a high proportion being seniors in the industry, providing strategic counsel to our clients. In Asia Pacific, where we have grown organically in most markets across the region, we work in highly regulated industries including health, technology and sustainability.

Where does Speyside Group have an office?
We have presence on the ground across growth and emerging markets, with offices across Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. In Asia Pacific, our main hub is in Singapore from where we bring our international expertise to provide strategic counsel and regional oversight for our clients. They work in partnership with our country teams who provide local expertise and activation.

Do you have a particular area of focus? 
We work in a variety of highly regulated industries including healthcare, technology and sustainability. However, we also work with numerous multinational companies globally including FMCG providing strategic corporate affairs and policy-shaping support.

Who is the founder and why did they start the agency?
The Speyside story dates back to the 1990s when Chairman Alistair McLeish founded Mmd in the emerging markets of Central and Eastern Europe. Mmd grew to become a regional leader in corporate affairs and public policy, supporting many of the leading global companies with market entry and growth, working on over 50 privatisation processes and many other large-scale direct investments.

Mmd was later sold into the Huntsworth Group and Alistair Co-Founded Speyside with long-standing colleague Ian Herbison. Today Alistair serves as Speyside Chairman and Ian as CEO. With a renewed focus on emerging markets, the business quickly grew organically across five continents including Asia and the Pacific to where it is today. The business has been going from strength to strength as global companies continue to seek investment and growth opportunities in emerging markets but need high calibre advice and support to make this a success.

Tell us about the leadership team.
The Asia Pacific practice is led by Ian Herbison, CEO and Saskia Kendall, COO, both based in Singapore. Ian Herbison has over 20 years of experience in global emerging market government affairs and public policy. He started his career with PwC before moving into corporate reputation and public policy consultancy, co-founding Speyside and building teams globally. Ian provides strategic counsel to regional and global management teams on reputation, policy and headline corporate issues. He has been based in Singapore for the last four years.

Saskia Kendall, our COO brings almost 20 years' experience in communications and public policy, with a specialisation in healthcare. She spent the past three years building the Sandpiper Health business in Asia Pacific. Before that, she spent six years at The King’s Fund, a UK think tank, managing media and government engagement on a wide range of policy issues. Her clients have included major pharmaceutical companies, start-ups, arms-length-bodies and charities.

What is next for Speyside Group? What is the five-year goal?
Despite global economic uncertainty, we are well positioned to continue a path of strong organic growth as a leader in corporate affairs and public policy across global emerging markets. Key to this is our continued growth in Asia Pacific, building on our unique offer to clients.

Tell us about a campaign you are currently working on or are particularly proud of.
Much of our work enables multinationals to grow and invest in Asia Pacific, and our work to help them navigate the complex diverse markets across the region is instrumental in their success and Across APAC, we are working with a major pharmaceutical company to build and conceptualise PR activities around the rollout of a vaccine which holds massive potential in alleviating suffering and fatalities from an infectious disease that thrives in tropical Southeast Asia. We are firing on multiple fronts - spreading awareness of the disease through physical and digital activities and positioning to broaden access to the vaccine across the region.

Any key PR trends your agency is keeping an eye on?
Although the pandemic feels like it is in the rear-view mirror, the impact will be felt for some time. Trends of people relying on social media for information are likely to continue and escalate with the potential for misinformation to be spread will an ongoing threat to brands. Traditional media will continue to be squeezed, making journalism harder. This is a double-edged sword for the PR profession as it becomes increasingly important to partner journalists that are wedded to their desk but may find it hard to keep on top of the stories crossing their inbox.

Economic challenges are likely to put pressure on investment from multinationals and often these can mean cuts in emerging markets investment including in communications, even when they remain important to the business performance. That said, Asia Pacific is likely to weather the storm better than other regions.

What skillsets do you look for in new hires?
This question of course depends on the role but, most important to any potential new hire is to have a strong interest in communications and policy, and understand how to deliver impactful client services. Most of our work is regional, so experience in regional initiatives in Asia Pacific and expertise in specific industries is often required to do the job well. We also have an eye for soft skills in our talents, such as having great interpersonal skills, and having a positive and adaptable attitude towards any challenges that may arise.

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