INTERVIEW: Micho Spring Discusses Weber Shandwick’s Growth Into Cuba

S/O to Weber Shandwick for the interview.

Last week, Weber Shandwick provided news about the global agency receiving the U.S. Treasury license to pursue opening operations in Cuba.

This provides the potential for Weber Shandwick to be the first major PR shop to have more than a “presence” in Cuba, but a real office. Weber Shandwick is allowed to have discussions with the Cuban government to secure the permissions necessary to establish an office in Havana.

That news sent ripples across the PRNewserverse because this move was timed beautifully with President Obama’s trip to Cuba (yes, Weber, we saw you working) and shows that even in the world of global public relations, there are still areas for growth and expansion that deserve more than headlines — but a moment to consider the possibilities.

We were interested, so we spoke to Micho Spring, a Cuban-American and chair of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate practice, about the move, what it means for Weber Shandwick, and how this will create inspiration across the entire industry.

Is this license in Cuba exclusive to Weber? If not, is Weber the first to take advantage of U.S.-based agencies having a firm presence in Cuba? 

Many companies are requesting licenses from the U.S. and Cuban governments with the intent of doing business there. As far as agencies go, we believe we’re among the first U.S.-based marketing services agencies with this license, and are not aware of any others at this time.

What sparked the interest in practicing in Cuba? (In short, was it more than a financial incentive?) 

We have been advising clients on Cuba for many years in anticipation of changes to come and believe that engagement, among people and among companies, is important to success. We hope to advise clients increasingly interested in entering the market, as we do in other markets around the world, and are excited at the prospect of facilitating partnerships, communications and engagement at this historic moment in business and diplomacy.

How will an Havana office expand Weber as an agency? Will there be growth of practice? If so, which ones? 

If we secure the necessary permissions to establish an office in Cuba, our primary focus at the start will be to provide public affairs support to our current clients that are legally allowed to do business there. An office in Havana would elevate the agency’s already strong presence across Latin America, which includes offices in Brazil and Mexico and a network of partners in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Do you see a trend with PR agencies taking the lead from Weber in researching having a brick-and-mortar in Cuba? Why or why not? 

We can only assume that as relations normalize between the United States and Cuba, interest in the market will rise across many business sectors.

How will this galvanize the industry? 

We believe that effective engagement on the local level will be especially important in Cuba, providing marketing services companies with a unique opportunity to use the power of communications to forge relationships between and among businesses and people.

Please demystify what it means to work in Cuba (e.g., working with [or in spite of] the government, connecting with the community, grassroots outreach for clients). 

Our work will be focused on facilitating partnerships and counseling our clients on how best to navigate a complex and evolving political and economic landscape, with a focus on using communications and engagement to help them realize their business agenda.