NEW YORK: As America's reputation sinks in both hostile and "friendly" countries, US companies doing business abroad must, like it or not, learn diplomacy.
Panelists on a recent PRWeek webcast, sponsored by The NewsMarket, "Changing Perceptions, and America's Corporate Image Abroad," suggested that, while the level of hostility toward the US government in many countries is profound and multiform, companies hold in their hands the ability to change those perceptions on the local level.
Speakers Keith Reinhard, DDB Worldwide chairman and president of Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA); David Marash, DC anchor for al-Jazeera's international channel; and Margery Kraus, CEO of APCO Worldwide, agreed that corporate leaders are aware of the problem.
Reinhard, who founded BDA before 9/11, noted that many negative perceptions are linked to ideas of US global business expansion. "Most CEOs agree it's a problem," he said. "But there's less consensus about what to do."
Kraus said her firm has tried to encourage businesses to learn "business diplomacy."
"It's what we call 'Acting glocally,'" she said. "Whoever is employed at the local level needs to practice outreach and engagement with people in these communities."
"It's under-appreciated in the US how deeply loathed and feared the American government is, and how serious the consequence are of this alienation," added Marash. "The other side of the coin is that most people still do make the distinction between the government and the people."
A positive, he added, is that American travelers abroad are well-regarded for their affability, openness, and lack of class discrimination.