The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In business, clear rules and regulations are essential to growth. Around the world, companies have found ways to express their interests and views to governments, often through the services of public policy and government relations advisers. But in Japan, it is not unusual to hear claims that government relations activities are less common, with people pointing to a political process that differs from those found in the United States or Europe as evidence that what works there simply won’t work here.

The most important message about government relations in Japan is that, while it may require a local twist, the same practices and methods that work in Washington, DC, or Brussels are just as effective in Tokyo. New arrivals might be surprised to see how foreign companies are being welcomed, have successfully embedded themselves into Japanese culture, and are now thriving.

Not only is it possible for companies to contribute to the policymaking process, it is essential that they do. The role of government is significant in Japan, so decisions and regulations can have a huge impact on the way you run your business.

While some companies might be able to leave politics alone and still prosper, for the majority it is not enough to see it as a “natural force” that can’t be controlled. In many cases, taking a stake in the policymaking process is a small investment that helps you plan and grow your business.

For those looking to get their message across to policymakers, there are a few important points to consider:

1. Definition of Government Relations
Government relations is fundamentally an organization’s efforts to proactively monitor, manage, and shape its business environment to achieve its objectives, mitigate risk, and support growth. Government relations accomplishes this by: a) shaping public policy; b) building a strong reputation; c) finding common ground with stakeholders; and d) being proactive rather than fighting fires.

2. Role of Government Relations
The role of government relations is to build value for the organization through two key methods: reputation management and issue management. In reputation management, which can be called “The Messenger,” the goal is to enhance and protect the organization’s reputation as an asset by informing key audiences and earning their support for its policies, products, and role in society. In issue management—or “The Message”—the task is to motivate key internal and external audiences to adopt beliefs, actions, and behaviors that further the organization’s mission, goals, and objectives.

3. Value of Government Relations
It is crucial that business leaders understand the value of government relations. These activities help shape a positive business environment, manage risk (by reducing taxes, regulations, and the cost of doing business, and preventing new barriers to trade), create market opportunities to promote growth or enhance revenue and profitability, and manage crises. They also need a better understanding of how to manage reputation and stakeholder relations, track emerging issues, anticipate change, and manage issues (prepare for crises).

Changes in Japanese policymaking and politics in recent years explain why the country has seen the rapid growth of a professional government relations/public affairs sector, and the rise of companies that combine very familiar international government relations practices with local understanding, networks, relationships, and thorough preparation for technocratic Japanese officials. As the government relations-related industry has grown, Japanese policymakers have become more familiar with and more receptive to international practices, enhancing access to global thinking and international best practice, and enriching the policy dialogue. The growth of this sector in Japan is set to continue.

GR Japan works across a wide range of industry sectors and issues, and has established solid credentials in the areas of healthcare and pharmaceuticals, energy, environment, information and communication technology, transport and infrastructure, food and beverages, consumer goods, etc. to ensure effective government relations and public affairs activities and programs that help companies meet their objectives. By utilizing the individual strengths of its international team members, GR Japan connects ideas and people, providing solutions for both businesses and policymakers.

GR Japan