THE FOREIGN POLICY OF GLOBAL BUSINESS
By Robert Grupp
I took the same approach more broadly in Beijing recently where I had the privilege of addressing 300 colleagues at the China International Public Relations Conference. My point—and a key takeaway I leave with colleagues I visit across the world—is that our mission as public affairs communication professionals is to build bridges for business between countries.
Corporate Diplomacy is where business, collaboration, diplomacy and public affairs converge. It means a company embeds the value of collaboration deeply into its operations and practices, extending the reach of its relationships to include groups, cultures, organizations and government, which affect the sustainability of the business.
In Beijing, I found common ground with another speaker, Xu Zhengzhong, who is teaches at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Professor Xu is Deputy Dean of the school’s Institute for International Strategic Studies and Director of the International Organizations Institute.
Backchannel diplomacy, the practice of non-governmental, informal and unofficial contacts and activities between organizations, private citizens or groups of individuals, is not a substitute for official diplomatic negotiation. Rather, it assists official actors in managing and resolving conflicts by exploring possible solutions outside of public view and without the requirements of formal negotiation or bargaining for advantage.
As companies increasingly look for growth and revenue opportunities in emerging markets, frontier markets and foreign markets, corporate diplomacy becomes important.
I was pleased to hear Professor Xu agree that corporate diplomats can help guide decisions and find solutions that last beyond political and emotionally charged rhetoric. These corporate diplomats are passionate about understanding cultures different from their own and bringing people together to solve problems. They are experienced negotiators, communicators and coalition builders.
Public affairs and strategic communication professionals are uniquely positioned to be company ambassadors, bringing leaders together from opposing sides in interactive, off-the-record contacts to introduce “win-win” concepts, and creating interpersonal cohesion by building a sense of interdependence and need to work together.
I agree with Professor Xu that Chinese-American cooperation is essential if the world is to weather another financial crisis, make progress on things like climate change and global supply chains.
The bonds between our countries are deep and breaking them would be costly. We must do all we can to avoid unilateral actions that could trigger a crisis. Competition between China and the United States should not be a bad word. There are issues to work out, to be sure, but the world will continue to integrate, especially in manufacturing, communications, technology and travel.
As strategic communications officers, we have a timely opportunity to lead change in the perception of our distinct cultures and people and in the practice of public affairs and strategic communications during these turbulent and unpredictable times.
This requires inspired leadership from within the public affairs and communications profession.
After all, we strategic communications professionals are living in a world that our profession is perfectly suited to serve.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Grupp is Director of StratCommWorld, and Adjunct Instructor and Director of a Global Strategic Communication Master’s Degree Program in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.