Dentsu Public Relations Inc. held a Global Issue Management Seminar at the Industry Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward on the 9th of February. The seminar addressed core global business risks facing Japanese multinationals on the world stage, and roughly 100 participants from overseas operations, management, and public relations divisions of Japanese firms were in attendance.
With the globalization of the world economy, Japanese corporations have seen expanded growth in their overseas sales, which has in turn given their overseas operations an increasingly higher level of importance. However, with a worldwide financial crisis in full-swing, companies expanding their business in various locals around the world now face a diverse set of challenges from labor and employment issues to public health and safety concerns. As Japanese corporations internationalize their operations, global issue management has become more and more important. At the seminar, seasoned issue management experts from Europe, North America and Asia presented on global trends and regional issues.
Dentsu Public Relations’ executive director Akio Kikuchi defined issues as “items that may not currently be described as a risk, but that have the potential to seriously affect operations in the future. Issue management is the act of preventing and avoiding risks before they become major problems,” he said.
Eric Giuily, CEO of Dentsu Public Relations’ global partner Publicis Consultants | Worldwide, delivered a presentation titled “New European Social and Economic Issues and their Impact on Japanese Firms,” which focused on public policy and lobbying in the European Union. Mr. Giuily outlined the possibility of a consumer shift toward national brands in Europe. He also pointed out that depending on the results of upcoming EU elections, countries in Europe could become more protectionist, creating, risks that could affect foreign policy.
He emphasized the importance of collecting and sharing information locally in the EU headquarters of Brussels when managing issues in Europe given that the bulk of national law is created based on EU-wide laws and regulations. The presentation also included a very interesting SWOT analysis focusing on some of the weaknesses that Japanese companies have despite their strong brand image and reputation for quality. Another member of the Publicis Consultants family, CEO Chuck Winner of Winner & Associates, spoke on the new economic and political landscape of the United States. In addition to breaking down the latest issues in the U.S., he introduced our audience to the top priorities of the Obama administration, highlighting the stimulus package, employment creation programs and environmental and energy policies, and provided insight on how the changing environment can provide new business opportunities for Japanese companies operating in the U.S. Mr. Winner said that the changes provide an opportunity for Japanese companies to establish new relationships in the U.S., and he advised companies to develop an understanding of the U.S. government and U.S. congress, as well as to communicate with key decision makers as a means of managing issues in the U.S.
Eliot Cutler, director of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s Beijing office, spoke on the business risks and issues facing Japanese firms in China. Mr. Cutler emphasized the importance of establishing partnerships when developing an overseas market and highlighted new business opportunities for companies operating in China.
Chris Lin, senior counsel at Akin Gump’s Beijing Office, provided further insight on managing risk in China. Mr. Lin highlighted the need for managing not only legal risks, but reputational risks well, and provided case studies on successful crisis management in China.
The latter half of the seminar featured a paneldiscussion focused on how issue management can aid companies in dealing with globalized crises and risks. Panelists also exchanged views on the strategies and structures that Japanese firms can employ to influence public policy in Europe, the United States and China. Tetsuo Saito, chairman of the Japanese Overseas Business Association and former head of Hitachi Europe and Hitachi Australia, noted that what Japanese companies now need is the ability to recognize issues as potential problems and to appoint experts and divisions to respond to the issues that affect their services