corporate diplomacy

September 13, 2013

The business world is awash with talk of soft power. It is, say gurus and thinkers, the key to durable success and it's largely thanks to women that the trend has risen to prominence. But what is it? Well, simply put, soft power is the application of emotional intelligence.

September 8, 2013

It's a June night in Kinshasa, and rapper JB Mpiana's weekly VIP bash is just starting to heat up. Toned groupies splash like mermaids in a sunken pool. Middle-aged businessmen perch on the ledge above to watch. A minute before midnight, JB runs onstage among a huge posse of gyrating dancers in sunglasses. He rips into some of his biggest hits; a bombastic performer, he glides across the stage with a beefy grace, dressed in a hunter-orange jumpsuit and matching cap.

Will the mermaid rescue Juan Valdez? Or will she send the mythical Colombian coffee farmer and his faithful donkey over an Andean mountain cliff? That’s the question Colombians are debating following the Aug. 26 announcement that Seattle-based Starbucks plans to bring its famous green sea nymph logo to Colombia by opening 50 coffee houses over the next five years.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Ikea's flagship mainland store - one of the world's largest - is abuzz with people. Walkways guiding visitors from one showroom to the next feel more congested than the road outside, and almost all 660 seats in the canteen are occupied. Yet the lines to the cashiers are refreshingly short - most are not here to shop.

After buying coffee from Colombia for almost half a century, Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) is finally opening a cafe there, part of its accelerating expansion in Latin America. The world’s largest coffee-shop operator will open a cafe in Bogota in the first half of next year and then five more locations later in 2014, Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said in a telephone interview. The stores will be operated through a joint venture between Alsea SAB (ALSEA*) and Grupo Nutresa SA (NUTRESA), and will sell locally sourced and roasted espresso and coffee.

Egypt’s stock markets may be up and its bond yields down, a sign that many businesses and investors welcome the army’s iron grip. But multinationals are easing their way out of the violence that has killed 1,000 or more people in the past few days. They’ve been temporarily shutting down local operations and evacuating staff, with everyone from Turkish textile manufacturers to GM and Electrolux taking a break from the unsettled nation.

Overall usage on social media platforms is exploding. Retailers and brands are therefore increasingly focusing their attention on social commerce. Retailers and brands are therefore increasingly focusing their attention on social commerce. But, many struggle with the question: how do you convert a "like," a "tweet," or "pin" into a sale?

The realm of social media and the power of the Internet lies in the hands of the people. Together they are a tool that allow greater access to information, global connectivity, a platform for speeches, advocacy and political statements, tools for video and photo dissemination and much more. The Internet, in many parts of the world, is free and open to the public, which allows for the rapid growth of people-to-people diplomacy across national borders, and has a democratizing effect on information. It has also created the space for the tech boom in which the giants of Silicon Valley thrive.