Foreign companies look to build boycott strategy

WASHINGTON: A group representing foreign companies operating in the US hopes to work with the US Chamber of Commerce and other business associations to formulate PR messages that multinationals can use globally to deflect possible boycotts and other anti-business actions.

WASHINGTON: A group representing foreign companies operating in the US hopes to work with the US Chamber of Commerce and other business associations to formulate PR messages that multinationals can use globally to deflect possible boycotts and other anti-business actions.

The Organization for International Investment recently commissioned research to gauge American feeling about boycotting French and German goods as a protest over France and Germany not supporting the US in the war in Iraq.

The survey, done in mid-March, found that when the topic of boycotts was raised, US consumers seemed interested. But when the issue was framed in terms of US jobs that boycotts might impact, pro-boycott sentiment among consumers dropped significantly.

The group is telling its members to stress the jobs issue when talking about possible boycotts. US companies can take the same tack in other countries where anti-American sentiments are strong, said Todd Malan, executive director of the organization. He's hoping to work with the chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers to create public affairs efforts here and in Europe to address the local economic impact of boycotts.

"The important thing companies have to do is engage people in discussion.

Once people are presented with facts, you'll find that some of them will come back and say, 'Thank you,'" said Michael Fanning, VP of public relations and government affairs with Michelin North America, which is involved with Malan's group.

Malan added, "We think that the message that trumps all others is jobs." Multinationals need to talk about the jobs they create in local economies to blunt consumer sentiments for boycotts, he explained.

- See Analysis, p. 9.

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