“Japanese corporate websites are mainly just explanations of products, in incomprehensible English translations” due to Japanese companies being overly focused on the Japanese domestic market and consequently failing to communicate in English. So says Paul Argenti, Professor of Corporate Communication at Dartmouth Tuck University, when asked by the Nikkei Business Online (Japanese) to comment on Shinichi Tanaka of Fleishman Hillard’s assertion (see previous post) that Japanese companies are weak at “fighting outside” – outside the rules, and outside Japan.
However Argenti disagrees with Tanaka that a dedicated organisation should be set up to manage the company’s reputation. “It should be the President’s job, not delegated to someone else”, because it covers many areas from corporate strategy to marketing to communication (and, I would add, governance). But of course most Japanese presidents have had very domestic focused careers, are uncomfortable speaking in English and are most of all concerned about their standing in Japan, as they are not part of a global CEO talent pool.
Argenti thinks that Japanese companies became more aware of the importance of their reputation abroad after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Certainly, if Abe and the LDP’s recent visits to UAE, Turkey, Russia and soon Poland, are to be successful in promoting Japan’s infrastructure technology, including nuclear power, there is a lot more work to be done in enhancing Japanese corporate reputations as capable and reliable managers of infrastructure projects.
Argenti’s final advice – again somewhat going against Tanaka’s suggestion that Japanese companies are going to have to fight dirty to defend themselves – is that they should not let the fight go outside the ring, but focus on innovation, being number one in their specialist areas and ensuring that the correct information is communicated.
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