GV’s Comms Summit: IPOs, culture, international expansion & community hardships impacting the Bay Area tech scene

Nov 06, 2019 Jill Creelman

Last month, I was fortunate enough to attend the GV (Google Ventures) Comms Summit in San Francisco and spent the day with some of the brightest people in the industry. Held on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, the event attracted top communications professionals from a variety of companies including PR agencies, in-house roles, CMOs and marketing professionals from GV’s portfolio companies and more. 

The entire day was filled with interesting panels, fireside chats and a seven-minute “Master Class” series of presentations, but I’ve highlighted a few of the most notable topics that stuck with me below:

How to maintain culture as your company grows

Steven MacDonald from Gagen MacDonald spoke to the audience about the ways a company should be rooted in culture, and not the other way around. Culture is all about experiences, attitudes, behaviors and values and it’s up to the team to be champions of the culture, despite how fast - or slow - an office is growing. Our President of InkHouse, Jason Morris, is also passionate about this topic and puts a strong emphasis on maintaining the culture with a people-first mentality. 

Mastering IPO communications

We heard from Slack’s Karesha McGee who stressed the importance of the PR team having a seat at the table from day one of road-to-IPO planning. Her main advice was this: “Do not wait to be brought it. It’s the communications and PR teams’ role to ask the smart questions and put together a dream team because it’ll be a long road.” Based on my personal experience at InkHouse, with taking Carbon Black public in 2019, I couldn’t agree with her more. 

The state of the Bay Area’s tech scene

We were fortunate enough to hear from New York Times journalists Mike Isaac and Farhad Manjoo about their roles from a social responsibility perspective. As journalists, they discussed the importance of reporting on the real hardships facing the tech community, while still sticking to the truth. One item they highlighted was the fact that San Francisco is dealing with the biggest wealth discrepancy ever, with the massive homeless crisis and the impending millionaires resulting from tech IPOs. Add in the lack of trust among the media these days and it makes for a very different San Francisco tech scene from 10 years ago. I expect we’ll continue to see this covered by journalists, and as PR professionals, it’s an important topic to follow as more and more companies integrate corporate responsibility efforts into their company values.

Doing PR abroad

We’ve seen several of our U.S. clients seek partners and counsel abroad, specifically in the UK, so I thought this talk was particularly interesting. Eliza Dabney from Sepia Communications highlighted a few keys to success when launching in the UK: take a hyperlocal approach and be authentic, find the right local partners, build the program small and then learn and scale from there.

It was valuable to hear insights from the mix of professionals throughout the day, from other PR agencies, to GV portfolio companies to in-house PR team leaders. It was a good reminder, as a communications professional, to think about the roles we can play as larger counselors for our clients’ businesses. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event! 

Topics: Public Relations, Events, Communications, Silicon Valley, Bay Area Tech Scene
Jill Creelman

Jill is an account director at InkHouse in San Francisco and works for a variety of b2b tech and security clients.

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