08 August 2007

Global...in a most American way...

So weve all seen the feisty comment from Rachel Bremer in PRWeak, right? She's the head of San Francisco tech agency Spark PR's new office in London. Appears that she's less than impressed with the quality of tech PR over here:

"It seems like there is a need for good PR firms with really solid tech experience in London"

Not that Spark PR's ambitions stop at London. Oh no. Despite the fact that Bremer is currently the company's only employee outside San Francisco, the London office marks the establishment of "European operations".

No, wait. That's not all. Bremer's one-way San Fran to London business class ticket actually represents global expansion. Or so the press release tells me. And Spark PR's home page.

Spark Public Relations...announced it is expanding its global footprint by establishing European operations in London....the new office will be closely linked with the agency’s headquarters in San Francisco and provide clients with highly integrated global public relations services.

“With our European office now in place, we are able to provide superior global service and have a front row seat to the technical innovation coming out of Europe,” said Rachel Bremer.

Thing is, there's already a company in London doing PR for tech clients that calls itself Spark...the lovely people at Spark Communications who kindly helped out with the logistics for our Christmas drinks last year (by 'logistics' I mean getting to the bar early and bagging a load of seats...)

Surely some scope for confusion? I asked Lauren Richards, md at Spark Communications:

"We may get calls from journalists about their clients and we are a bit concerned about them trading on our reputation, but to be fair to them they have considered this and are calling themselves SPR Europe. We just hope this continues and they don’t start calling themselves Spark as this would cause confusion.

"It is generally tough for the smaller US-led PR firms to start up in the UK as the market is quite different, which is why they generally acquire. For example, the Neva Group (which got bought by Weber Shandwick) never managed to grow above two people in the UK and that was when the technology market was booming in the late 90s. However, we’re sure SPR have researched the market thoroughly, and obviously many US firms have succeeded in Europe."


Yes, it is true that Spark PR in Europe is calling itself SPR Europe...that should help.

I hadn't heard about the Neva Group before. Mind you, with a name like that it couldn't have been a huge surprise things didn't work out. Strapline: "Neva say Neva" perhaps..?

Anyway, TWL welcomes Spark PR to London...whatever it's called...and we're looking forward to seeing how this tech PR lark should really be done.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see how they provide a "superior global service" with one lone bod in the UK.

Tom Murphy said...

The Neva Group were a successful tech PR agency in the US in the 90's. They had a good profile, focused on start-ups and were based in Cambridge, Mass, before being purchased by Weber...

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see that on the flipside, some of the fastest-growing tech PR firms in the Bay Area are, in fact, English.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, expansions like that usually happen the other way around! I wish SPR Europe the best of luck. My guess is that working in this market, having come from the US, will be a real shock to the system! But I'm sure the TWL faithful will be here and on-hand to offer any advice we can. We look forward to the invitation to the launch drinks.

tax dodger said...

European operations being run from London eh? That will go down well with our colleagues on the continent. There is nothing more guaranteed to wind up those Johnny Foreigner types than claiming you can do European PR from London. That will probably be lesson number one that they learn. Actually it will be lesson 2 after dont overtly criticise a market you have only been in for 10 minutes. It is rude and arrogant and will only annoy your future client and employee base. Regardless, welcome to this side of the pond - we might surprise you and teach you a thing or two about PR yet.....

Anonymous said...

Excellent - the yanks are here to sort us out. Its not like the UK is a harder market to do PR in (because our journalists actually sometimes write bad or at least honest things).

Might be some steep learning curves ahead...

(sorry - I hate people bitching about what I do before they try it themselves, and how rude can you get with that comment??)

Sarah Sherman said...

As the former MD of that funny-named agency Neva Europe, I thought I'd join in on the fun! Yes, my passport tells me I'm a Yank, but I'm also a Londoner and have lived here nearly 11 years. In fact I've lived in London longer than I've lived anywhere. I've also lived more than half my life in European places including Paris, Heidelberg and Spetses (Greece). I've just married a Scouser and honeymooned in Slovenia. In the last 11 years, I have noticed Britain becoming a lot more like America than Europe, which disappoints me. I agree that doing PR in Europe is 'different' and although I only worked in PR for 4 years in the US, the formula for news is certainly similar - an original story tied in with the current news agenda, a an exclusive interview with an articulate and anecdotal customer and/or executive and a snazzy photo. The 'how' varies from country to country, but can be learned more easily than some agencies would readily admit - it only takes an open mind and an open heart. Neva Europe was only in business for four months before Larry Weber acquired us. Neva was so profitable and successful that Larry made Neva's founder, Marijean Lauzier, the CEO of Weber Group. In the four months of Neva Europe my colleague Frances Keane(who is now a highly successful entrepreneur in Dublin, running Ireland's first speaker's bureau) and I did some interesting work across Europe because people weren't around to tell us it was impossible. The one that really stands out is a five country European press tour for a remote access server vendor (how exciting!) covering the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Sweden with 4-5 meetings in each country - repeated twice actually. There were absolutely no problems with our being American and Irish with fairly limited language skills - in fact it made it quite lively and good humoured. Neva was a lot more fun and interesting than working at Weber (which I did, for two more years) because we didn't have to conform to rigidly held notions about what does and doesn't work. Now I run a European team with people in London, Munich, Paris and Madrid and I actively seek opportunities for my people to work on projects outside their countries. I have a German employee working in Madrid who, due to her amazing knowledge of the telecoms industry, works very effectively with the relevant press and analysts all across Europe. With 10 years of hindsight, I can say that UK market is definitely the most challenging country in which to do PR, but also the most professionally rewarding. The journalists can be a lot fiercer, but they're also much more fun to have a drink with at the end of the day! Happy Friday all.

....the world's leading.... said...

Thanks Sarah. An insightful comment...and also, I think, our longest single paragraph comment ever.