Random readings - business and influence

Good NYT article by Roger Cohen making the point that firms moving operations abroad isn't necessarily a bad thing.

“A General Electric or a Goldman or a Twitter tries to work in each country in culturally appropriate ways, but at their base these companies hold an American set of values. And that is what influence is,” Xenia Dormandy, a senior fellow at Chatham House, told me. “Power viewed in state terms alone, or even primarily, is a false premise these days.”

In Londonstani's experience, that last sentence is key, and has been true for British influence abroad for quite a few years already. Wherever Londonstani has worked in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, job seekers want to work for foreign (ie Western) companies not solely because of the money on offer, but because they think their employers will operate a fairer set of standards. British organisations, in particular, retain a powerful association with values such as meritocracy, fairness, honesty. Londonstani isn't saying these are true (sadly in his experience, they often aren't) but the connotation is a powerful asset.

Speaking in a US-specific context, Cohen goes on:

"The conspicuous failure of American hard power — in Iraq and Afghanistan — has tended to obscure the way American soft power has flourished over the past decade. For a while soft power was undercut because the U.S. reputation was tarnished, but the Arab awakening has demonstrated how powerful American-driven social media are in opening up closed societies. Facebook and Twitter have been conspicuous. But when I.B.M. invests massively in Africa — which it has identified as the next major emerging growth market — it is also investing in an openness that advances U.S. interests."

Trade and communicate - It's the way forward

UPDATE: There's saying drummed into you if you do journalism training that seems to apply equally well to public diplomacy and strategic communications; "Show don't tell". This seems to be the crux of Cohen's point here.