Telum caught up with Ash Spiegelberg, Brunswick partner, head of the firm’s San Francisco office and the global co-head of the firm’s technology, media and telecom (TMT) group. Ash joined Brunswick in 2004 in London and has worked in Brunswick’s offices in the UK, UAE and the US. He has also advised clients across Asia. Business Insider named him one of the leading IPO and M&A communications advisors and one of the top technology PR people to know in Silicon Valley.
Thanks for talking to Telum. Tell us more about Brunswick in San Francisco, how big is the team and what kind of work do you do?
We're roughly 40 people in SF. The bulk of our work focuses on three core areas:
We talked about the SPAC boom and issues surrounding the sector broadly how is the tech sector in Silicon Valley, what impact has COVID had on the tech industry in the US?
- Corporate reputation work: helping clients build proactive communications strategies that reach a multitude of different stakeholders, media, investors, employees, business partners and regulators.
- Financial situations - M&A, helping companies navigate and tell their story during a transaction and then a subsequent regulatory review process. IPOs and SPACs of which we've been seeing a huge amount of activity in the United States in the past two years, and shareholder activism, helping companies prepare and navigate a situation should an activist shareholder turn up on their share register.
- And issues, crisis and litigation counsel. This would be where you've got a live “house is on fire” type issue, you're helping companies manage the crisis and then rebuild reputation. Or slower burn, complicated issues that we’re seeing with tech companies around data, privacy, encryption, AI ethics to name a few.
Tech is an extremely broad group of companies and industries that can range from consumer internet companies to software firms to AI businesses to hardware companies. Many of those sectors have seen accelerated growth for a number of reasons – for example we’re talking on video right now, the way that we use the internet for information, transactions in terms of money, the boom in crypto and the crypto economy that's following. There are just so many facets of it that are being accelerated because we all have been based in our homes and away from work. This trend will only continue.
A lot of companies in APAC want to raise their profile in the US, what advice can you give to companies who are based here and want to get on the radar of investors in Silicon Valley or Wall Street?
There are a few things that companies should think about when building their profile in the United States. I’ll focus on media first as opposed to the investor piece; the two are linked, but they're also somewhat separate.
A lot of companies are looking to get exposure in the United States. It’s quite a different media market to a lot of other markets. Certainly in the West if you look at the British media there are something like 10 national newspapers with business sections, there are really less than a handful in the whole of the United States. Therefore, there are much smaller number of places to take stories.
There are a number of very good industry publications but they are inundated with news as well. Companies need to understand that it takes time to build the relationship and trust of a reporter, but to also have a story that is relevant to the readership in the United States. That can often mean that there is a limited number of companies that have the ability to spark real interest with the US media.
It goes to the second part of the question, for start-ups or pre-IPO companies, it might boil down to who your investors are and do they get the media excited in the U.S. and generate headlines in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg.
To turn the question on its head, how much interest is there in Asia tech, in Silicon Valley?
There has been a lot of historical interest, especially with the China growth story. That has shifted from the companies themselves to a story of geopolitics. Southeast Asia is a market that the US media and the US is still trying to get their heads around partly because it’s fragmented but it’s extremely exciting and there are a number of growth companies that are firmly on our radars.
Insider said in an article that you are always on the pulse of what's going on with the highest-profile tech companies. What are your tips for young people who are starting out in their career in communications?
I encourage people to join an agency / advisory firm at the beginning of their careers. It's a great way of learning about communications, different industries and corporate cultures and the important career skills of collaboration and managing fast-moving situations. To get the most out of it, you need to want to work hard and have a desire to learn, evolve and grow. Finally, if you do join an advisory firm you've got to be excited about serving clients. If you don’t want to do that you are in the wrong business. It is a very busy and demanding job but it's extremely rewarding as well. You get to be with your clients through some of their most exciting and often most challenging times.