[Podcast] Creating the Corporate Foreign Policy

The topic today is Corporate Foreign Policy, but how did we come up with this name? Because Corporate Diplomacy is pretty much a reflection of traditional Public Diplomacy, we borrowed the term Foreign Policy. States, in Public Diplomacy, have specific interests that they need to defend in the international environment, so they build up this foreign policy on how they are going to relate to the external economy, to the external political environment. So, we bring ths term – this practice of having a plan on how to relate to the external environment – we bring it to  Corporate Diplomacy and then build this matrix.

I created this methodology to build a strategy that goes beyond the economic interests of the organization. What the Corporate Foreign Policy does is it expands this planning – this strategy building – to engage with the external environment as a whole: the government, the market and society in general. It is a composition of four pilars. So, the methodology is divided in a pilar that is called Information, a pilar that is called Government, a pilar that is called Society and a pilar that is called Market. And this is what I will talk about today. I will break down these four pilars and then talk a little about each one of them and how to build this strategy by starting with the pilar Information.

Information is the main pilar because it is where the organizational philosophy is going to be constructed and how the diffusion of this philosophy is going to be carried on. So, you define the philosophy of the organization and then you also define a strategy to communicate that philosophy within the organization and then to the external environment. This philosophy of the organization is pretty much the organizational’s narrative: what are we portraying externally? What are our ideals, our beliefs upon which the organization is built? Are we a sustainable business? And if so, what do we understand by sustainability? We have to create these concepts in our organizational strategy.

A second step within the information pilar is to define the causes we support. Do we wish to engage in activities that will tackle current challenges such as poverty, climate change and education? If so, we develop these meanings. What are our ideas that compose our strategy to deal with poverty, for example. What do we think that should be done collectively so that issues are minimized and that the problems can be tackled. In the information pilar what we are going to build is a conceptual narrative and this conceptual narrative is pretty much the message that we want to communicate externally. This message needs to be diffused internally so that the people (our employees) who are going to diffuse this information are alligned with the philosophy of the organization.

Now, the second pilar is Government. There isn’t necessarily an order here,  but I like to put information first because you can first construct the philosophy of the organization and then from there on you can build your strategy in the order that you wish: either government, society or market. But within the Government pilar we want to ask ourselves: who in government are we going to engage with and negotiate our interests and interests that are more related to public interests?

Within national governments we have a set of institutions at municipal, state and federal levels. And we have to map these institutions within each one of these spheres. Do we want to relate locally (municipally), do we want to relate at state and federal levels? So, what we are going to do is: we are going to map these key institutions we wish to relate with, we are going to map the programs that interest us, So, if the institution at municipal, state and federal levels have specific programs that they already work with, we need to have these programs mapped out so that we know what kind of proposals we are going to build for technical cooperation. And I think that essentially, we need to have a map for the key contacts within these institutions. A map of people who are within the offices and the people who occupy these offices. And the reason why I think this map is really important is pretty much because organizational employees – especially in private organizations – come and go, they move either to other institutions or they move either vertically or horizontally within the organization. By mapping these contacts out we have a track record, a history of these relations, who is the organization relating to, and at which point within other institutions. And this is a good track record to have because then you don’t have to restart the relationship – to restart the conversation and the exchanges – everytime you have somebody new coming into the offices.

Then we have the institutions at the international levels, and we draw these maps slightly different because we want to know which countries have common technical and commercial interests. If we are based in one country we would also like to know which countries have similar interests and whether there are treaties, either multilateral or bilateral treaties (agreements) already in place to promote these sort of cooperation in these particular interets. Let me give an example. If we are located in Germany and we export to the United States, it would, in a particular segment – lets say, biotechnology – it would be interesting to know which treaties are in place bilaterally, between the United States and Germany, to understand if there is some space to integrate that agreement, that common interest at the higher political level into our activities. This is quite interesting, and this is where real Corporate Diplomacy comes into place, because we have the expertise, we have the economic exchange, we have a lot to be able to cooperate with these bilateral agreements and to put these activities in a more practical perspective and how we can increase the economic exchange – either scientific or economic exchange within these two countries. So this is a good example.

Then there is our third pilar, which is Society. Within this pilar we must define the policy programs that will be carried out by the organization. This is pretty much an extension of the organizational philosophy. Here is where the plan to act on the visions that we have for the collective are carried out. So, if the philosophy says we are a sustainable organization, within the Information pilar we are going to define the concepts of sustainability, and then within the pilar Society we’re going to structure programs to carry out these sort of philosophies. Are we going to promote recycling? Are we going to promote water cleaning? Decrease atmosphere pollution, and so on. We want to know if we have social or environmental policies in place, and if so, what are our priority programs within these policy programs. This is pretty much the third pilar, I’m not going to be speaking about it extensively. We already kind of spoke about it within the Information pilar because the third pilar really depends on the philosophy that the organization has. This has a lot to do with Corporate Responsibility. So, if the organization wants to engage in particular projects that can improve its corporate image, then this is the place where we should create the programs.

Then we move on to the last pilar, which is Market. This is essentially just an integration of the more traditional organizational strategy. Within this pilar we map out the entire supply chain: consumers, distributors, suppliers, competitors. And we kind of have these definitions and these maps – a visual – on how we relate to all these stakeholders.

And here we also define our Research and Development strategy. We establish our priority projects in scientific developments. We map also scientific institutions that might be working on the same type of technologies that our organization is working on, and we also map the incentive programs that are in place for technological developments.

Ideally, all of these pilars must contain action plans for at least a 12-month period. Maybe four years to relate at federal levels, because offices change after four years.  But ideally, every 12 months we should have some sort of revision on our plan, and having an action plan for the next 12-month period. That would be a good time frame to have a vision on how we are relating to the external environment.

So, what this methodology attempts to do is pretty much to centralize – in a good way, centralizing. I’m going to explain this. If you think of air traffic, for example. If you don’t have air traffic control, if you don’t have a centralized vision on what is happening collectively, than you might face accidents and all sorts of problems. So, I think that by centralizing a vision, we can tackle and coordinate the way that we are going to deal with the external issues and problems that may arise in a more efficient way. So I think that in this way, centralization is not so negatively put.

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