The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

As countries struggle to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for a digital transformation has become clear. In Japan, where much of the process remains analog and shrouded in bureau­cracy, obstacles to change are formidable.

But there is opportunity to be found in crisis. Fields such as teleworking, telemedicine, online learning, and the Internet of Things offer innovative companies a chance to put their solutions to work. These technologies can save lives, prevent infections, and bring additional benefits to society.

One of the biggest challenges companies face in Japan is regulation. The conventional process cannot keep up with the pace at which new technologies are being introduced into the market, nor are they designed to account for these new capabilities or ways of providing services.

Circumstances such as those brought about by Covid-19, where markets and consumer behavior change almost over­night, present added challenge.

Companies must act aggressively or risk losing opportunities. A business’s response—or lack thereof—can be the difference between gaining market share and bankruptcy.

This is where public affairs can help.

An adept practice of public affairs takes a unique approach to every issue. Stakeholders across government, business, media, and the rest of society must be identified and engaged in a strategic, multifaceted way. When successful, regulatory change can happen in months—or even weeks—rather than years. In a country with complex policymaking, such as Japan, few have the experience and networks needed for this.

Even global companies typically have fewer than four employees dedicated to public affairs in Japan. Small businesses rarely have even one, with external affairs often handled by the CEO or another executive. So, what should a company do when they need immediate support? Sending a fresh hire into the field comes with added risk.

More businesses are seeing the value in developing and executing a public affairs strategy with a professional team that knows the key players and how to reach them. But finding the right team—one that knows the language and the culture, has the right background and connec­tions, and is up to speed on the issues—is a challenge.

Using a third-party provider for a public-affairs strategy is a major decision. They will work closely with the company to represent it to high-level policy­­makers and the public. That means due dili­gence is crucial to finding a reputable and capable partner, especially for companies that are subject to strict regulations such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other anti-corruption measures.

Looking at a potential provider’s website is a good start, but it is also important to check what others say about them. Are there negative mentions of them in the press? Have they been caught up in scandals? These are red flags that should be avoided at all costs. Reputation is everything in Japan, and it is easily tarnished through association.

When a company finds the right public affairs provider, it can reach new heights. A good provider can become an essential part of a company’s team, guiding it through the maze of regulations, politics, and social norms that can leave others lost.

Contact us for a free case study on what we have accomplished for past clients, and what we can do for you. 03-4563-8550

Stakeholders must be identified and engaged in a strategic, multifaceted way.