Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press is pleased to announce that the Chinese language translation of its book The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis has been published in Beijing.

 

 

The Agony of Decision is the first title published by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press in July 2017.

The author is Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia.

The Chinese publisher is Posts & Telecom Press, a leading publisher of business and non-fiction titles in China. The Chinese translation had been scheduled for publication in February 2020, but the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic delayed publication. Given the continuing recovery in China that began in the last few weeks, the publisher is now positioning the book as an essential tool for Chinese leaders in all sectors to be able to restore trust of critical stakeholders that was lost in the pandemic.

 

 

As with the English edition, the Chinese edition is available as a physical book, an e-book, and an audio book. The Chinese language title is 从危到机: 危机中的决策之痛与领导之术, which translates roughly into English as From Danger to Opportunity: The Agony of Decision-Making and Leadership in Crisis.

The Chinese edition is available at all major Chinese online markets, including Dangdang, JD, Taobao (Alibaba), and Amazon China (e-book available for download only in China).

The Chinese edition was translated from English by Xinyin Lu, deputy director of the Institute of Corporate Communication at the Academy of Media and Public Affairs at the Communication University of China, and by Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, Chair Professor and Dean of the School of Government and Public Affairs at the Communication University of China, the leading Chinese university specializing in journalism, communication, documentary filmmaking, and related disciplines. Dr. Dong also wrote the foreword to the Chinese edition.

 

Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, translator and author of the foreword.

 

Translator Xinyin Lu

 

The Chinese edition of The Agony of Decision has been endorsed by:

  • Yang Yujun, dean of the Academy of Media and Public Affairs at the Communication University of China, former head of the Information Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense of China, and former spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense of China. Both Yang and Dr. Dong are part of the Expert Committee for the COVID-19 pandemic in China.
  • Du Shaozhong, vice chair of All-China Environment Federation (ACEF), and former deputy director and spokesperson for the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
  • Wang Lianglan, former spokesperson for The National Medical Products Administration (the FDA of China)
  • Lv Dapeng, spokesperson for China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (NYSE: SNP, $1,217B market cap)
  • Wu Huanling, managing director of China Public Relations Association (CPRA), former vice president of General electric medical system (China) Co., Ltd.,

Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong

The Chinese edition was made possible by Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, Chair Professor and Dean of the School of Government and Public Affairs, and Provost for Faculty of Professional Studies, Executive Education and Continuing Education at the Communication University of China.

Dr. Dong is also Vice Chairman of the China Public Relations Association (CPRA) and Vice Chair of Communication and Education, All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

He is one of the official advisors for transparent governance, strategic communications and crisis management for the State Council Ministries.

Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong conducting a television interview at Communication University of China, 2015

Prior to his current appointments, Dr. Dong was a presenter for the BBC World Service in London and a morning news anchor for the China Central Television (CCTV).

Dr. Dong was among the founders of Journalism School and the founding Chair and former director of the Institute of Public Relations and Strategic Communications at Tsinghua University. He is also a very popular professor of strategic communications for the prestigious EMBA, EDP and DBA programs at Tsinghua University.

He was appointed the Shorenstein Fellow on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2009, and most recently as an Eisenhower Fellow by the Eisenhower Fellowships in Philadelphia, USA.

In 2019, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership awarded Dr. Dong its Outstanding Leader Award in recognition of his consequential professional achievement that sets the standard to which other leaders may aspire; his use of strategic communication to change the world; and having inspired and empowered the next generation of leaders through teaching, mentoring, for their advocacy on behalf of others.

Logos president Helio Fred Garcia presenting the Logos Institute Outstanding Leader Award to Dr. Steven Guanpeng Dong, May, 2019

The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis is about how leaders and the organizations they lead can maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis. First, by thinking clearly; second by making smart choices; and third by executing those choices effectively.

But making smart choices in a crisis can be agonizing.

The difference between leaders who handle crises well and those who handle crises poorly is mental readiness: the ability some leaders exhibit that allows them to make smart choices quickly in a crisis. And this ability creates real competitive advantage. One of the predictable patterns of crisis response is that the severity of the crisis event does not determine whether an organization and its leader get through a crisis effectively. Indeed, two organizations, similarly situated, can see dramatically different outcomes based on the quality and timeliness of their individual responses to the crisis events.

And the ability to respond effectively in a timely way is a consequence of mental readiness. This book is for leaders of organizations who need to be good stewards of reputation, trust, and confidence; and for those who advise those leaders, whether in public relations, or law, or other business disciplines.

Graphic of The Ten Most Common Mis-Steps in a Crisis, from the Chinese Edition of The Agony of Decsion

 

In 2018 The Agony of Decision was named one of the Best Crisis Management Books of All Time (#2 of 51) by the leading nonfiction book review site BookAuthority. It is currently listed #3 of 100 All-Time Best Crisis Management Books. BookAuthority uses a proprietary technology to identify and rate the best nonfiction books, using dozens of different signals, including public mentions, recommendations, ratings, sentiment, popularity and sales history.

 

The Agony of Decision has been adopted in a number of universities and professional schools in the United States and abroad.

Garcia was planning a teaching and speaking trip to China in conjunction with the publication of the Chinese edition. But the COVID-19 crisis in the United States makes such a visit impossible for the foreseeable future.

 

Logos Institute Thought Leadership in China

 

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership has been a thought leader in China for nearly ten years.

The Agony of Decision is the second book by Helio Fred Garcia to be published in Chinese. The first was his 2012 book The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively.

In 2014 Power of Communication was published in Chinese by Pearson Education Asia Ltd in Hong Kong and Publishing House of Electronics Industry in Beijing under the title 沟通的力量.

In 1991, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was invited to be an International Distinguished Scholar at Tsinghua University as part of an international exchange on crisis management among academics, business leaders, the government, and outside experts. Tsinghua is consistently named the top one or two university in China.

At Tsinghua, Garcia taught graduate students in the Institute for Public Relations and Strategic Communication of the School of Journalism and Communication.

He also taught at a number of Chinese government ministries, including the Ministry of Finance and the Chinese Food and Drug Administration. And he did a workshop for the chief spokesperson of all the ministries. He also keynoted conferences for a number of non-governmental organizations and associations.

In 2015, in conjunction with the Chinese language publication of The Power of Communication, Garcia conducted an extensive teaching and speaking tour of China.

He taught in both the MBA and graduate communication programs of more than a dozen leading universities, including Tsinghua University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Nankai University, Communication University of China, and Nanjing University He also delivered keynotes at major corporate events.

Since 2015, Garcia has been a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Corporate Communication at Communication University of China.

In addition to The Agony of Decision and The Power of Communication, Garcia is co-author (with John Doorley) of Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication, fourth edition pending July, 2020, third edition 2015; second edition 2011; first edition 2007 by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group; Korean language edition 2016 by Alma Books, Seoul, Republic of Korea.  His two-volume book Crisis Communications was published by AAAA Publications in 1999.

Garcia’s next book, due in June 2020, is Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It.

On Friday May 3 Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership honored Dr. Guanpeng (Steven) Dong with the 2019 Logos Institute Outstanding Leader Award.

Dr. Dong is an accomplished strategic communicator, crisis advisor, educator, and philanthropist with a multinational presence; he is presently the Provost of Communication University of China in Beijing, the leading school that prepares journalists, PR practitioners, graphic designers, documentary filmmakers, and marketers in China. At the school he is also Chair and Professor of Media and Public Affairs for the Faculty of Professional Studies and Executive Education. He is also a public relations advisor to the senior-most government officials in the Chinese government as one of the official advisors for transparent governance, strategic communications and crisis management for the State Council Ministries.

He is Vice Chair of the China Public Relations Association (the Chair is a professional party functionary). He is also Deputy Chair of Communication and Education of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, the industry association of the largest companies in China, including Alibaba and Tencent, among others.

The celebratory day began with a panel discussion with Dr. Dong, moderated by Logos institute president Helio Fred Garcia, in the public relations and corporate communication Master’s program at New York University, about the public relations industry development and career opportunities in China. The award reception was held in the evening at the Logos Institute where more than 40 guests came to honor Dr. Dong.

Helio Fred Garcia and Dr. Dong have been friends since 2011. In 2015, Dr. Dong invited Helio Fred Garcia to teach strategic communication in Tsinghua University through its Institute for Strategic Communication and Public Relations, of which Dr. Dong was a founding direcetor. In 2015 Dr. Dong, who had moved to Communication University in China, invited Fred to speak as part of his The Power of Communication Chinese edition book tour in China. Fred has been a Senior Fellow of Communication University of China since 2015

With this week’s reunion, Dr. Dong and Logos Institute are both excited about the potential opportunities to collaborate in the future in terms of joint book publishing and teaching between Logos institute and Communication University of China.

The Outstanding Leader Award is a recognition of excellence among senior professionals in the strategic communication who embody three things: he Award recognizes leaders who embody three things:

  1. 1Consequential professional achievement that sets the standard for other leaders to aspire to;
  2. That they have used strategic communication or public relations to change the world;
  3. That they have inspired and empowered the next generation of leaders through teaching, mentoring, for their advocacy on behalf of others.

The first Outstanding Leader Award was given to  James E. Lukaszewski, “America’s Crisis Guru”®. Jim Lukaszewski, President and Chairman of the Board of The Lukaszewski Group Inc., is a highly regarded leader in crisis management and strategic communication.

A video of the ceremony presenting Dr. Dong with the award is below:

 

How humility works as a leadership strength in the case of Jack Ma

Leaders in business and politics continue to pay high prices for arrogance. Just one example is the Trump administration, which has suffered from chaos and trust issues due in part to the high turnover rate of White House cabinet members, arguably a result from a president who’s not willing to listen. An antidote to that is humility, which has become an increasingly powerful competitive advantage for those who recognize and capture its value. Humility deserves a fairer evaluation in order to better serve leaders and organizations, as for too long it has been considered a vulnerability in leadership.

I studied charisma and humility in my master’s thesis on How These Characteristics of Presidential Candidates Influence Presidential Election and Retention in America. This blog is the first in a series of blogs where I will analyze how humility functions as a valuable asset for some of the greatest leaders worldwide, starting with Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Alibaba Group.

 

September 2009, on Alibaba’s 10th anniversary celebration in Hangzhou, China, the company had grown into a team that filled 16,000 seats of the Yellow Dragon Stadium. The audience was full of cheers and applause when Jack Ma took the stage in a leather outfit, long white wig, and a wild-colored lipstick. Unlike other typical billionaire CEOs on this important night, Jack started to sing, like a ludicrous punk from the 70s. People outside of the company assumed him to be crazy and weird, but it wasn’t surprising at all for his employees; that was exactly their Jack, a guy they joke with everyday who just happens to be their boss.

(Jack Ma (center), together with his managers perform at the firm’s 10th anniversary celebration)

Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, has become one of the richest men in the world with a net worth of $46.9 billion. In the past 19 years, the e-commerce conglomerate has won a war with eBay in China, made the biggest IPO in the history of NYSE, and become one of the world’s largest technology companies and the world’s largest retail platform in terms of revenue. Jack was also ranked second in Fortune‘s 2017 “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list.

Jack’s success as an entrepreneur and a leader can be credited to his judgement, strong will, and courage, but most importantly, to his distinctive charisma blended with humility that draws brilliant people to him and keeps them with him. His selflessness and genuine care for others are defining traits of his leadership. And this particular leadership style draws followers by crystallizing a mindset in them –  that is “I have faith in this person, and I want to be part of what he/she is doing.”

Humility & Leadership: How Jack Ma Does It

Let us first take a look at the humility embodied in the leadership style of Jack Ma, before analyzing how humility functions as a leadership competitive advantage using the example of Jack.

Jack came from a humble beginning. He started his career back in 1995 in his hometown Hangzhou, working as an English teacher making $12 USD a month. After his first trip to the U.S., where he was introduced to the Internet, he built the first Chinese internet company called “China Pages,” an English-language directory for Chinese companies and information, in the hope of attracting business and visitors overseas to China. While he failed to convince the Chinese government to corporate with China Pages on providing information, he realized how important it was for China to enter the international market before it was too late. “It doesn’t matter if I failed; at least I passed a concept to others. Even if I don’t succeed, someone will succeed one day,” he said in 1995 in a documentary.

In 1999, Jack took another shot at an internet idea. When the tide of the Internet finally came, he saw an opportunity to help small businesses in China sell more products domestically and globally. He founded Alibaba with 17 other people in his apartment. It often puzzles people how Jack convinced his co-founders to embrace such an audacious, unthinkable idea back in 1999 in China, and to be willingly led by a person with no money, no computer background or any government relations. A deeper dive in his personality and leadership style resolves the puzzlement.

(Jack and some early members of Alibaba)

Interestingly, Jack himself is never the center of his dreams, ambitions, or even thinking process. It’s always about doing good to his home country and empowering other people. A constant message Jack sends to his employees is that what they do is “making it easier to do business across the world,” and that this ease brings positive change that ripples through society. In a letter he sent to “Ali people” after the company’s IPO, he crowned their success to the reform and opening of China, and to the fortune of living in the era of the internet. He did not, however, applaud himself.

This egolessness and self-forgetfulness seems almost idiosyncratic in his level of accomplishment. However, this self-forgetfulness is paradoxically what has made Jack so successful as a leader.

Another remarkable aspect of Jack’s humility is a great level of empathy and genuine care for people. Jean Liu, the president of Didi Chuxing, the Chinese equivalent of Uber, and a longtime friend of Jack, learned from family friends that Jack repetitively visited a seamstress, whom he gets his clothes tailored by, after learning she was ill. “He genuinely cares about the people around him, ” Liu says.

After choosing to step down as Alibaba’s CEO in 2013, Jack devoted himself to advocating for causes related to the environment, health care, women’s empowerment, and education. He became the chairman of the board for The Nature Conservancy’s China Program, has hosted the annual Alibaba Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship, and has donated personal wealth to hospitals and schools in rural areas.

(Jack speaking at 2017 Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship)

How Humility Works

Since humility is a broad personality trait that is open to various interpretation, there are many ways to demonstrate it. In my master’s thesis, I defined humility as “a virtue allowing people to have an accurate self-assessment and think less of themselves.” I also created a five-item scale to measure humility; they are openness, tolerance and forgiveness, an accurate self-assessment, self-forgetfulness, and being highly secure.

Management expert Ken Blanchard says: “People with humility do not think less of themselves; they just think about themselves less.” (Dasa, 2014) JP Tangney also defines humility in her 2000 work, Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research, as “a relatively low self-focus, a ‘forgetting of the self,’ while recognizing that one is but one part of the larger universe.” The two definitions depict Jack’s humility best.

Jack has a very distinctive way of embodying humility. His most noteworthy aspects of humility are selflessness and genuine care, which are also the aspects of humility the article focuses on.

This type of humility serves as a leadership strength in two ways: first in creating a sense of inclusion (for existing employees), or a predilection to be included (for indirect stakeholders or even general public). Second, it inspires trust and loyalty.

A Harvard Business Review survey conducted globally among 1,500 workers found that “when employees observed altruistic or selfless behavior in their managers…they were more likely to report feeling included in their work teams,” and what’s more, “they were more likely to report engaging in team citizenship behavior, going beyond the call of duty, picking up the slack for an absent colleague.”

In Jack’s case, he is able to direct his ego away from himself in order to lead the company to a greater good, in benefiting both stakeholders and humanity at large. It makes it possible to instill a bigger-than-oneself sense of mission in his employees and cultivate a strong morale of championing for a shared cause.

With this type of humility, leaders are also able to inspire trust and loyalty by demonstrating genuine care and compassion.

Trust and loyalty don’t come naturally with a title; they have to be earned. According to an article published in Forbes, one important factor in earning trust is compassion; “People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.”  President of Logos Consulting Group Helio Fred Garcia said in a Columbia Leadership Course that followers tend to describe a great leader in three ways, one being a sense of protection and affection from that leader. The other two are an identification that they have something in common and a sense of that person is further along in capacity than they are.

When it comes to Jack, humility enables Jack not only to care for his people, but also to abandon the autocratic management style that he grew up with in China and to be open to different opinions and feedback. In an article in 2015 in the peer reviewed journal Global Journal of Management and Business Research, Chanttel Tham Jo Ee analyzed Alibaba’s management style stating that Jack’s style is highly advantageous in terms of “engendering loyalty from the employees, and leading to a lower labor turnover.” When people feel well taken care of and that their feelings, contributions, and opinions matter, trust and loyalty in leadership are natural outcomes.

 

Conclusion

Through a thorough study of charisma and humility in my thesis, I concluded that a prophetic vision is one of the attributes that make a leader charismatic. Nevertheless, vision itself is not enough. Humility lends credibility and persuasiveness to that vision, as well as to that leader.

One of the key factors that contributes to Jack’s success is his sincerity and trustworthiness, and consequently his ability to make others believe his idea. Even with President Trump, who is all about “America first” and anti-globalization, Jack was able to sell a China-U.S. e-commerce partnership proposal. It is his humility that makes his vision so convincing that the idea of fighting with him or under his lead so irresistible.

That is how humility sparkles in leadership.

Introduction by Iris Wenting Xue

This is my second in a series of guest blogs featuring my recently-graduated capstone (thesis) advisees in New York University’s Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.

I myself was a guest-blogger when I graduated two years ago from the program. (See A 10-C Model for Apologies here.) And it is my great honor to become a Capstone advisor and contribute to the program.

In her capstone, Stella Zhao analyzed corporate apologies in terms of wording, tone and body language. She compared different apology styles in the U.S., China, and Japan and came up with customized recommendations. As she notes, apology is not only about communication but also about anthropology. You can read the entire capstone here.

…………………..

Stella Danqing Zhao

Stella Danqing Zhao

Through the Looking Glass:

A Cross-cultural Study on Proper Usages of Verbal and Nonverbal Elements in Corporate Apology Speeches – Guest Blog By Stella Danqing Zhao

My thesis is a study on different apology styles regarding wording, tone, and body language in the U.S., China, and Japan. The wording part mainly focused on IFIDs of each country, which means “Illocutionary Force Indicating Device”, also known in this case as the key apologetic words. The body language part focused on the eye contact, facial expression, gesture, posture, and also a particular way of apologizing – bowing.

The study contains two parts –  study and survey. In the case study part, nine cases, three from each country, are analyzed to find the common apologetic words, tone, and body languages:

U.S.

  • Domino’s Pizza:
  • General Motors:
  • Blackberry:

China

  • 2015 Shenzhen Landslide:
  • Mindy Quah:
  • Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant:

Japan

  • Rikuentai Bus Company:
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company:

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 2.36.49 PM

 

In the survey part, a survey was distributed and assembled using the survey software Qualtrics. Participants were first asked to answer a few questions on corporate apologies to see their general perceptions regarding wording, tone, and body language. After this part, they were shown two corporate public apology speech videos – one from Volkswagen, the other from Toshiba. To exclude the influence of participant’s knowledge of certain language, they were asked to focus only on the nonverbal part and answered a few questions regarding on the tone and the body langue of the two speakers.

  • Volkswagen:
  • Toshiba:

Conclusion

Based on the case studies and the survey, several similarities and differences were found between the perspectives of the audiences from those three countries. Therefore, we can have some recommendations on different apology styles in each country.

U.S.

In the U.S., the most common IFIDs are “sorry” and “apologize”. According to the survey, people believe that the word “apologize” is more effective than the word “sorry”, but both of them can be used based on different situation. When using apologetic words, adverbs such as “sincerely” can be used to strengthen the tone. Honorific words are not extremely necessary and the speech can be informal to some degree, but it should still be written clearly and express regrets.

1

A consensus between the three countries is that the tone of an apology speech should be regretful, humble, and empathetic. However, in the U.S., people can accept a more firm, positive, and confident apology. It’s important to show your audience that you have the determination to fix the problem.

As to the body language, it’s important to make direct eye contact in the U.S. Avoiding direct eye contact can be seen as hiding and dishonest. The facial expression should be serious, and proper gestures can be applied. The posture should be formal but with natural movements instead of standing stiffly. Bowing is not recommended in the U.S. because it may be seen as an overreaction.

China.

In China the common IFID is the derivatives of the word “qian (歉)” [In English: apology] such as “bao qian (抱歉)” [In English: apologize] and “dao qian (道歉)” [In English: apology/apologize] . “dui bu qi (对不起)” [In English: I am sorry] is also a common apologetic word but it’s less used in a formal corporate apology. Adverbs such as “cheng ken (诚恳)” [In English: sincerely] and “fei chang (非常)” [In English: very] can be used to show sincerity. One should also address the audiences with “nin (您)” [In English: you, but in a very respectful way, like “Your Majesty” rather than “Hey, you”], which is the honorific form of “you” in Chinese. The speech should be written in a formal style.

Besides being regretful, humble and empathetic, the tone of the apology speech should let people feel that you are somehow ashamed for the wrongdoing, which shows that you realized what you did was improper. It should also be firm without hesitation.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 5.14.39 PM

In China, direct eye contact is also welcomed. People can accept having a modest smile on their face, which means the facial expression doesn’t need to be blank or stiff. Proper gestures can be applied, and the posture should be as formal as possible. Although bowing is not required in apology speeches in China, it is recommended to show more sincerity.

Japan.

In Japan, there are strict requirements for the choice of apologetic words. Using informal IFIDs such as “sumimasen(すみません)” [In English: Excuse me] and “gomen nasai(ごめんなさい)” [In English: apologize in daily setting] can be seen as a mistake. IFIDs such as “moushiwage gozaimasen (申し訳ございません)” [In English: apologize in professional setting] and “owabi shimasu (お詫びします)” [In English: apologize in professional setting] are recommended. One can use multiple apologetic words in one apology to make it stronger. Using adverbs such as “fukaku (深く)” [In English: deeply] and “hontoni (本当に)” [In English: truly] are also a good way to show sincerity. Honorific form of the words is required in a formal apology.

3

In Japan, the tone of the apology speech should be more “negative”, meaning it should be more sad, regretted other than positive and confident. It’s better to show you remorse for bringing other people trouble.

Direct eye contact is not recommended when apologizing to Japanese people. Lowering the head can show your regrets and humble. A smile is strongly prohibited. Although in the survey the respondents didn’t disagree with using gestures, they are seldom found in previous apology speeches. Usually, Japanese people stand in a very formal posture with their hands beside their body. Bowing is required and can be applied multiple times according to different situations.

 

U.S. China Japan
Wording IFID “Apologize”/”Sorry” Derivatives of “qian” (歉)

“moushiwage gozaimasen”

(申し訳ございません)

“owabi shimasu”

(お詫びします)

Adverb Sincerely “fei chang” (非常)

“cheng ken” (诚恳)

“hukaku” (深く)

“hontoni” (本当に)

Honorific

Form

✔✔
Tone

Regret

Humble

Empathetic

Positive

Confident

Firm

Firm

Ashamed

Sad

Ashamed

Body Language Eye contact ✔✔
Smile
Gesture Apply properly
Posture Somewhat natural Formal Formal
Bow ✔✔

 

The table above briefly summarizes how wording, tone, and body language shape public perceptions of corporate apologies, and how apology style differs in U.S., China and Japan. Reflecting on a better understanding of how stakeholders think and feel can help a leader, and those who advise the leader, to more likely craft an apology that will work.

Introduction by Iris Wenting Xue

This is my first in a series of guest blogs featuring my recently-graduated capstone (thesis) advisees in New York University’s Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.

I myself was a guest-blogger when I graduated two years ago from the program. (See A 10-C Model for Apologies here.) And it is my great honor to become a Capstone advisor and contribute to the program.

In  her capstone, Erna Li conducted analysis on the China-born e-commerce company Alibaba and compared it to American e-commerce company Amazon in terms of social media and business model aspects to learn best practices.  She focused on the challenge of building messages that resonate as the companies expand from just domestic online shopping platforms to global online retailers.  You can read the entire capstone here.

Communication in E – Commerce: Guest Blog by Erna Li

ErnaLi

Online shopping in a cash-based country could be a dream to a teenager. I still remember the excitement of winning the first bid for a backpack on eBay at my senior high school in China. After shopping online for over ten years and learning public relations/communication for six years, I realized how important it will be if e-commerce companies could strategically convey messages to their target audiences. They need to send out the right messages at the right time via an appropriate channel.

We assumed that communication would be easy for of e-commerce companies compared to other industries, because  e-commerce is online, global, and almost everywhere.  However, successful e-commerce companies face unexpected challenges when they try to expand to other territories.  They need strategic communication to overcome challenges that occur in international environments.

Alibaba Case Study: Born in China, Created for the World 

alibaba

Alibaba is an enormous China-founded e-commerce company. This company powers 80% of online commerce in China. From flight ticket reservation to fresh fruit delivery, consumers are able to find most kinds of services they need. At the end of December 2014, Alibaba had almost 334 million active buyers on its website.  Such success would not have been possible without a social media and public relations campaign.

Alibaba Corporate Communication Strategy: Domestic Shopping Day to Global Shipping Festival

GlobalShippingFestival

Each November 11th since 2009, Alibaba has launched a domestic online shopping celebration campaign. The date is well known in China as Single’s Day  — the date’s number eleven represents people who are single. Initially, the idea was for singles to celebrate their freedom and independence. Now, it is also an excuse to shop. People are more than welcomed to shop online whether or not they are single.

The above image is a screenshot of the Alibaba website. It says that all merchandise is available for at least a 50% discount on November 11th. Every year the discount theme is similar. Before 2014, Alibaba’s corporate message was about the discount and coupons. After Alibaba went through 2014 IPO, Alibaba changed its message and emphasized its global shipping services. The target audience is mostly the Chinese who live overseas. That is to say, Alibaba upgraded its shipping from purely domestic to global.  However, Alibaba’s website is not available in English, which could limit participation of the international buyers in the Global Shipping Festival.

Best Practice

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 12.22.35 PM

(http://fortune.com/2015/11/11/alibaba-singlesday-record-2015/)

With their successful public relations and social media campaign, Singles Day in 2015 reached e-commerce sales to $9.8 billion. The chart above shows how Single Day’s revenue in China was more than all sales volume during the U.S. shopping holidays in 2014.

Challenge: Stock Decline

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 12.19.50 PM

(http://www.barrons.com/articles/alibaba-why-it-could-fall-50-further-1442036618)

Barron’s, an American weekly stock market-focused newspaper, posted an analysis “A Hot Stock Turns Cold.” As the first chart shows, Alibaba’s stock has kept dropping since December 2015. The price reached its peak in November, which also suggests that Global Shipping Day campaign remains an important date for the company.

Situation analysis – Map impact and likelihood

I have learned the following chart from the crisis management perspective during the crisis communication course in 2015. Since then I tried to apply it in other business communication settings.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 11.46.38 AM

The above chart says that the most likely/ already happened is the stock price decline. The major impact of dropping stock is investment lost and negative influence on financial performance. The possible critical impact is that Alibaba might lose some investors. The major possible impact is that Alibaba’s credibility is criticized and questioned. Wall Street Journal, BBC, Fortune, Reuters and other media outlets might state the controversy from different angles. The critical remote impact on Alibaba is that the declining stock could cause public concerns and shareholders’ disappointment.

In Alibaba’s case, there are two main reasons behind the scene that led to the stock slide.

  • Alibaba has strong domestic and overseas competitors. JD.com is a Chinese e-commerce company based in Beijing. It is one of the largest B2C online retailers. Another strong oversea competitor is Amazon. As Amazon has been in the e-commerce industry for decades, it has stable customer resources and deep understanding of the market. Even some of the Alibaba’s business models are learned from Amazon.
  • A controversy regarding potentially counterfeit products sold through Alibaba has led to negative visibility and stock market declines.

 

by Iris Wenting Xue

One year ago, I organized a four-week book tour for the Chinese edition of Power of Communication, visiting more than 15 prestigious universities and participating in many events in four Chinese cities.

Yonghe Temple

During the trip, I had one day off on my birthday while we were in Beijing. As a birthday gift to myself, I visited the Yonghe Temple (also known as Yonghe Lamasery), the largest and most perfectly preserved lamasery in China. It was built more than 400 years ago and was the imperial palace of the Yongzheng Emperor, the fifth emperor of the Qing Dynasty. After the Yongzheng Emperor’s ascension to the throne, the imperial palace became a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery.

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The Yonghe Temple reminded me of my old days in Tibet – admiring the way lamas debated each other to come to a clearer understanding of Buddhism. It also reminded me of watching crows lingering over the top of the mountains. The smell of the incense and the poor-quality air at the Yonghe Temple mingled together smoothly. I do not subscribe to a particular religious tradition, but I respect all faiths. As I stood there, I reflected upon how religion and history intertwine in the same way those scents mingled together.

One year later, I gave myself another special birthday gift. Last Sunday, I visited the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. I decided to visit that place because there are some very significant Chinese notables buried there, including the former First Lady of the Republic of China (ROC).

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My motherland China is famous for its five thousand years of history. My hometown Shanghai is famous as “The Paris of the East” during the 1920s and 1930s, the beginning of the ROC. I love everything about the old Shanghai and read many books by Ailing Chang, Leo Ou-fan Lee, Geling Yan, Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai and other writers who are either from that era or wrote a lot about that era. Everything from that era fascinates me. That is also why when I learned that the former First Lady of the ROC, the former Premier of the ROC, the former top diplomat of the ROC, and former governors of the ROC government and Central Bank are all buried in Ferncliff Cemetery, I knew I had to go.

The world lost several distinguished leaders this spring. We lost Nancy Reagan. We lost Harper Lee. We lost Umberto Eco. We lost “China’s Nightingale” Xiaoyan Zhou. We lost Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal. We lost Japanese writer Satoko Tsushima (daughter of the renowned Japanese writer Osama Dazai).

died leaders

We are rarely able to decide the way we leave the world, but we can easily decide the way we want people to remember us. Even the space in which our bodies take our final rest connotes the way we will be remembered. For example, in the history of the ROC, some notables made their memorials very ostentatious, while others opted for more low-key resting grounds.

The three mausoleums housing the first ROC President, the first female Vice-Chairman of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the first President of modern ROC in Taiwan were all built in an extravagant way:

  • In his oral will, Sun Yat-sen, ROC’s founding father, wanted his remains to be embalmed for public display, just as the Soviet Union publicly displayed Lenin’s remains. But the Soviet Union did not agree to share their embalming techniques, as they believe that only Lenin can be “immortal.” In the end, China built a 80,000 square meter mausoleum for Sun in Nanjing, which is now a popular tourist attraction.
  • Sun’s wife, Soong Ching-ling, also known as Madame Sun Yat-sen and one of the “Soong sisters,” had served as the Vice Chairman of PRC and survived heavy criticism during the Cultural Revolution. Her tomb is located in Shanghai and has also become a tourist attraction.
  • Sun Yat-sen’s successor, Chiang Kai-shek, who ruled Taiwan as President of the Republic of China and General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975, is “temporarily” resting in the Cihu Mausoleum in Taiwan. It’s temporary because he wished to be ultimately buried in his hometown in Zhejiang province once the Kuomintang recovered Mainland China from the Communists. He was not buried in the traditional way, but entombed in a black marble sarcophagus. He may end up being this way for a long time.
  • (Left: Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum; Right: Soong Ching-ling’s Mausoleum; Bottom: Chiang Kai-shek’s Mausoleum)墓园

On the other hand, the former First Lady of the ROC, the other two of the three Soong sisters, the former Premier of the ROC, one of the most influential Chinese diplomats and core leaders of the former Chinese Central Bank are buried in a very low-key way in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York:

  • Chiang Kai-shek’s wife Soong May-ling, who was not only a First Lady of the ROC, but also Soong Ching-ling’s younger sister and Sun’s sister in law, is buried in a private room in the Ferncliff Mausoleum. Her lifespan covered three centuries (19th, 20th and 21st). According to The New York Times, she is the only first lady during World War II who lived into the 21st century[1]. She did not want to be buried with her older sister Song Ching-ling in Shanghai nor with her husband in Taiwan. Rather, she wanted to be buried next to her eldest sister, Soong Ai-ling, who died before her and was already buried in Ferncliff.
  • The eldest Soong sister, Soong Ai-ling, who was also a sister-in-law of both Sun Yat-sen and Chiang kai-shek, rests next to Soong May-ling’s private room in Ferncliff. Soong Ai-ling seemed to be the most low profile Soong compared to her Vice Chairman sister and her First Lady sister. However, she was Sun Yat-sen’s chief secretary after her graduation from Wesleyan College – all Soong sisters are Wesleyan’s alumnae – and gave the job to her younger sister Soong Ching-ling, who later became Sun’s wife. Soong Ai-ling was also the matchmaker for Chiang Kai-shek and Soong May-ling. Soong Ai-ling is buried with her husband, Kung Hsiang-hsi, and their children, making her the only Soong who is buried with her husband and has children.
  • Soong Ai-ling’s husband, Kung Hsiang-hsi, is buried alongside her and their children in Ferncliff Mausoleum. He was the former Premier, former Minister of Industry and Commerce, former Minister of Finance of the ROC and former Governor of the Central bank of China. He received a master’s degree in economics from Yale University.
  • Kung’s brother-in-law, Soong Tse-ven, is one level down in the same Mauseloum building. Soong Tse-ven was also highly influential in determining the economic and diplomatic policies of the ROC government in the 1930s and 1940s. After graduating with a master’s degree in economics from Harvard University and a doctorate degree in economics at Columbia University, Soong Tse-ven returned to China and served in the Kuomintang-controlled government as the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank of China, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was the head of the Chinese delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco in 1945, which later became the United Nations. He was in charge of negotiating with the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Moscow and in charge of negotiating with the 33rdS. President Harry Truman in Washington, D.C.
  • The second youngest brother in the Soong family, Soong Tse-liang, is also buried in Ferncliff Cemetery. He was not as influential as his sisters and brother, but he also served as the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the ROC government.
  • (Upper Left: Kung with 

    Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten

    ; Upper Right: Soong Tse-ven on TIME’s cover; Bottom Left: Soong May-ling on NBC; Bottom Right: Soong Ai-ling graduated from Wesleyan College.)

    宋蔼龄和孔祥熙_meitu_1

The Soong sisters are not the only Chinese notables in Ferncliff Cemetery. The cemetery listed three Chinese in their Celebrites & Notables list: Madame Chiang, Soong Tse-ven and Wellington Vi Kyuin Koo. Koo was a very prominent diplomat of the ROC. He attended the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 as one of China’s representatives; he served as an Ambassador to France, Great Britain and the United States; he was a participant in the founding of the United Nations; he sat as a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the mid 20th Century.
Photo of the members of the commission of the League of Nations created by the Plenary Session of the Preliminary Peace Conference, Paris, France, 1919(Photo of the members of the commission of the League of Nations created by the Plenary Session of the Preliminary Peace Conference, Paris, France, 1919.Wellington Vi Kyuin Koo is the 4th standing from right to left.)

Koo’s daughter, Patricia Koo Tsien, a senior official in the United Nations and the founder of the Ad Hoc Group on Equal Rights for Women in the U. N. Secretariat, is buried next to her husband on the second floor of the Ferncliff Mausoleum. Another influential Chinese diplomat, Dr. Victor Chi-tsai Hoo, the first Chinese Under-Secretary of the United Nations, is buried in the same building.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 5.15.13 PM(Patricia Koo Tsien in 1989. Source: Columbia Library columns)

The last unexpected name I saw in Ferncliff Cemetery is not as famous as any of the rest, but completes the puzzle of a well-known Chinese romantic epic. There was a legendary Chinese poet Xu Zhi-mo in the beginning of the ROC. He was legendary in part because of his romantic poems, and his friendship with the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, but mostly because of his romance with three Chinese women. He had two sons with his first wife, Yu-Yi Chang, a woman he never loved but who he married at his parents’ direction. Xu finished his studies at Columbia University and flew to London, and fell in love with Chinese architect and writer Lin Hui-yin. His most renowned poem is about his feelings for her and their days together in Cambridge. By the way, Lin Hui-yin’s niece is Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Xu divorced his wife, but Lin only ever saw Xu as a friend. Xu later married another Chinese artist, Lu Xiaoman. This union was regarded as unethical because two divorcees getting married was not considered appropriate in China 90 years ago. Xu died in a plane crash in 1931. Lin Hui-yin died in 1955 and is buried in Revolutionary Cemetery in Peking because she contributed to the design of the Chinese national flag, the National Emblem of the People’s Republic of China and the Monument to the People’s Heroes located in the Tiananmen Square. Lu died in 1965 and is buried in Suzhou. Chang was not as famous as Xu’s other love interests, but she had another happy marriage after her divorce with Xu and lived much longer (she died in 1988). She is buried in Ferncliff Maseoulum. And her son with Xu and daughter-in-law are buried beside her.
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(Lin Hui-yin,Rabindranath Tagore and Xu Zhi-mo)

 

I was surprised to see so many famous Chinese names in a cemetery in Westchester County, New York. But I am not surprised to see that a part of Chinese history is buried more than 7,000 miles away from China.

I still vividly remember the squawking crows in the cemetery in Hartsdale. I had never thought of the crow as a spirit animal associated with life and death until I saw them in Tibetan lamaseries, in Japanese Shinto shrines, and now in a cemetery in Westchester County.乌鸦神社

People rarely visit a cemetery on their birthdays. I did. And I am still not quite sure if all human beings are born equal, but I am pretty sure all human beings are equal in death. If you visit any public cemeteries, you will find that Christian crosses and Jewish Stars, Chinese names and English names are standing next to each other – sharing together this hallowed ground.

 

Sidebar:

Ailing Chang (1920 – 1995)
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Born in Shanghai, Chang is one of the most influencial writers in modern China. Her fiction is among the best Chinese literature of her time.  As University of Southern California professor Dominic Cheung says: “Had it not been for the political division between Nationalist and Communist Chinese, she would almost certainly have won a Nobel Prize[2].” Her second husband, Reyher, was among those who helped to extricate German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht and his family from Nazi Germany[3]. Chang was found dead in her Los Angles apartment where she had lived as a virtual recluse, according to New York Times Obituaries[4].

 

Geling Yan (1959 – )

严歌苓

Born in Shanghai, Yan is a renowned novelist and scriptwriter. She is a member of the Hollywood Writer’s Guild of America and the Writer’s Association of China. She served in the People’s Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution and later as a journalist in the Sino-Vietnamese War, achieving a rank equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel.

 

Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung (1937 -)

白先勇

Pai is a famous writer, who wrote about the Old Shanghai, Taiwan, Chicago and New York. He was born Muslim, but attended missionary Catholic schools and embraced Buddhist meditation practices. His father was a well-known Kuomintang General. Pai won the Order of Brilliant Star award for ROC for outstanding contribution.

 

Leo Ou-fan Lee (1942 – )

李欧梵

Lee is a commentator and author. He was a professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, Princeton University, Indiana University, University of Chicago, University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard University. He was elected a Fellow of Academia Sinica (Chinese Academy) in Taiwan.

 

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/24/international/asia/24CHIANG.html

[2] http://china.usc.edu/usc-gains-treasured-chinese-collection

[3]http://digital.lib.umd.edu/archivesum/actions.DisplayEADDoc.do;jsessionid=17796A4CC5813ADDB316133EFC64CDC5?source=MdU.ead.litms.0037.xml&style=ead

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/13/obituaries/eileen-chang-74-chinese-writer-revered-outside-the-mainland.html

 

by Iris Wenting Xue

Last month, my mentor and boss, Helio Fred Garcia, and I visited more than 20 organizations, including top universities and prestigious corporations, in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Tianjin.

During our visit, we have experienced different learning approaches and different cultural styles of lecture attendants. We had international students from joint-venture universities; Chinese students at top Chinese universities majoring in business (both MBA and Executive MBA), communication, and other liberal arts and sciences; senior PR managers from multinational groups; mid-career bankers from a national banking commission; and officials from local governments.

This post is the second in a series of posts on how to understand and overcome sociocultural obstacles. I learned three lessons about sociocultural and linguistic gaps during the Logos The Power of Communication China trip. In my last post I described the first gap: different languages. We can easily bridge the language gap by translation.

Today I will describe lessons about two other gaps that are harder to solve, although we constantly talk about them.

Lesson 2: Different Learning Approaches

In order to demonstrate how hard it is for audiences to pay attention, we showed many of our audiences the video Invisible Gorilla. You can click on it and watch before you keep reading. You will be surprised about your counting skills.

Gorilla screen shot

I first watched this video during my strategic communication course at New York University in the Public Relations and Corporate Communication Graduate Program.

In this 30-second video, six people – three in white shirts and three in black shirts – pass basketballs around. The task for the audience is to count the number of passes made by the people in white shirts, and spot a gorilla that strolls into the middle of the action, thumps its chest and then leaves.

At that time I had a robust discussion with my classmates about 1) why was it so hard to accurately count how many times the players passed the basketball and also to spot a gorilla among human beings, 2) how to understand cognitive tunneling, which is what makes the tasks so hard, and 3) what we could learn and apply to our work from that exercise.

This time in China, I discovered some interesting learning approaches beyond these three takeaways – each specific to different groups of people.

1) PhDs

When we showed this video to a group of, let’s say, 50 people, there were always 15 who counted accurately, 10-ish who came close but got the number wrong, 10-ish who got close but chose a different number, 7-ish of some less-close number and two or three people who counted very wrong.

So one of our conclusions was “Counting numbers under 20 is not as easy as we thought it’d be.”

However, when we showed the video to a group of people including Ph.Ds in China, one of their conclusions was: “The answers could be plotted as a curve.”

This was the first time we discussed The Invisible Gorilla with PhDs.   And this was the first time we received a response with the word “curve.” So, we responded with their language, “Gaussian distribution,” to acknowledge their worldview, to motivate them, to deepen the conversation.

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2) Bankers

After the count, we typically asked: “While you were counting how many times the players passed the basketball, did you see a gorilla?” People either saw it or did not see it, so when they watched the video again they either were proud of their observation skills or disappointed that they had missed the gorilla.

We played the same video to a group of mid-career bankers. When we rewound the video, they denied that they had missed the gorilla:” We saw it, but we didn’t think it was a real gorilla. Instead, it was a human with a gorilla costume.”

This was the first time we had showed bankers The Invisible Gorilla. This was also the first time the audience challenged the content of the video. We respected the different habits, so we reframed the “gorilla” as “a human in a gorilla costume” based on their descriptions, to keep the conversation going.

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3) Heads of Communications

Our routine at the end of the discussion was – “Any other thoughts and comments?”

Typically audiences will respond with their opinions about their counting skills or the missing gorilla.

But when we showed the same video to a group of PR directors, heads of public affairs and senior PR managers  —  from Standard Chartered, General Motors, Estée Lauder Companies, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical Company and some other multinational enterprises — some of their final thoughts went far beyond the counting and the gorilla. Some of them knitted their brows and raised questions like “Are you manipulating us?”

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They provided an interesting reason why the curve occurred, and why the gorilla, or the human with a gorilla costume, was overlooked. They insisted that the designer of the experiment manipulated the audience through putting a black gorilla among black-and-white-shirted players. They argued that since they concentrated on counting the passing of the white-shirt team, they could not pay attention to the black team and the black gorilla. If it had been a light brown gorilla, they would easily have dentified it.

How would you respond to this tricky question?

Lesson learned: “Understand your audience” appears in the slides we show to our clients.  But we have to walk the talk and meet our audience by observing their approach and adopting their language.

 

Lesson 3: Different Cultural Styles

Before we landed in China, we thought we would face one group of audience – Chinese audience. To our surprise, our audience differed in certain ways: Some of them were shy but smart; some of them were as open like those in the States; some of them stayed in their own world, and it took us a long time to understand their thoughts.

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I use the word “cultural style” to emphasize their subtle differences beyond imagination. To my surprise, I found in my research that Professor Dan Kahan of Yale Law School blogged this conception based on his study with his collaborators on Joseph Gusfield:

 “The term “cultural style” is, for me, a way to describe these affinities. I have adapted it from Gusfield. I & collaborators use the concept and say more about it and how it relates to Gusfield in various places.…

Examples of these are cultural generations, such as the traditional and the modern; characterological types, such as ‘inner-directed and other-directed’; and reference orientations, such as ‘cosmopolitans and locals.’”

I agree with Kahan about how people differ from each other due to the difference of location or character and share the affinities with each other due to time or education background.

Below are the four main cultural styles during our trip:

1) Top Local University Style

We visited four of the top ten universities in China. Not to our surprise, the institutions are powerful. Here are some recent updates of some of them:

Tsinghua University celebrated its 104 anniversary this past Sunday and posted some old pictures of its famous alumni, including current President Xi (graduated from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Department and later got an LLD degree), former President Hu (graduated from the Water Conservancy Engineering Department); the governor of the People’s Bank of China Xiaochuan Zhou (got a Ph.D. degree in Automation and System Engineering), and the controversial Chinese-born American Nobel Physics Prize winner Chen-Ning Franklin Yang (received a Master’s Degree and later became an honored director).

Xi Jinping, as a student at Tsinghua University, and now as President of China

Xi Jinping, as a student at Tsinghua University, and now as President of China

Shanghai Jiaotong University, through its School of Media and Design (at which we spoke) and the University of Southern California jointly established The Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry (ICCI). Ernest J. Wilson III, Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, visited the same campus we visited one month after our visit.

USC&SJTU1

To our surprise, some of their current students were not as vocal as we expected. Lectures we held in the top local universities were much more silent than those we held in joint-venture universities, although we discovered later that they had brilliant thoughts. In general, they are proud about being “blue blood”, and they tend to appear modest but think aggressively. They were reluctant to share their personal opinions about some topics until we pushed them several times.

2) Joint-Venture University Style

Elite universities in China and other countries are already on the path of exploring partnerships with universities from other countries. For example:

  • In 2004, The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) was set up by the University of Nottingham (UK) with the cooperation of Zhejiang’s Wanli Education Group in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.
  • In 2006, the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) was jointly established by University of Liverpool and Xi’an Jiao Tong University in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.
  • In 2012, Duke Kunshan University was organized as a collaboration between Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, with Wuhan University, and the city of Kunshan, Jiangsu Province.

Among joint-venture universities we visited in China this time, we were impressed with New York University Shanghai, Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, and Sino-British College.

NYU Shanghai is NYU’s third degree-granting campus. Its enrollment started in Fall 2013, and now there are only Freshmen and Sophomores. Students are not only from China, or other Asian countries like Singapore, South Korea and the Philippines, but also from the States, Canada, France, Dubai and many other countries.

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The Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies is a joint educational venture between the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University and Nanjing University. It has been operating in Nanjing since 1986.

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Sino-British College is an international university college in Shanghai, China, jointly established by the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (USST), and nine British universities (The University of Bradford, The University of Huddersfield, The University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University, Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Salford, The University of Sheffield, and Sheffield Hallam University).

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These three joint venture universities have built global classrooms with a global view, where students are open and comfortable hearing other opinions and sharing opinions themselves. The diversity of student and faculty kindled the diverse discussion we typically associate with academia.

3) Business Style (Communicators and Non-Communicators)

Business audiences tended to be more worldly and more serious. For example, when we talked about crisis management in a Corporate Social Responsibility Forum in Shanghai and showed a picture of an oil platform explosion to the communicators, participants immediately identified it as “BP”. It was self-evident. They were aware of what was happening in the crisis management field, even though they live in a country where people tend to whitewash scandals. Also, some of them asked tricky questions like “Is it a smart crisis strategy to find another crisis that will shift the focus and will thus save our company from the spotlight?”

Coast Guard Attempts Burning Off Oil Leaking From Sunken Rig

Here is another sign of how seriously the business community takes professional development. When the largest residential real estate company in China (which has an office in New York) invited my boss, Helio Fred Garcia, to hold a speech about The Power of Communication, they not only offered a huge auditorium of 200 people, but also live broadcasted it to 40 other national offices. Each office was equipped with live broadcasted lecture and real-time slides. Each office had at least 20 attendants. And even though it was a Friday evening lecture, the company told us that they had an attendance rate of over 90 percent and that nobody left in the middle of the speech.

Executives at a Vanke regional office spending a Friday evening watching Prof. Garcia's workshop via remote technology

Executives at a Vanke regional office spending a Friday evening watching Prof. Garcia’s workshop via remote technology

 

4) Local Government Style

We coached 90 officials from Nanyang, a “small” city of 10 million residents in Henan Province.

They were being trained in crisis management because they were working on a huge national project “South–North Water Diversion”.  (Think of the drought in California, and imagine diverting a major river 800 miles to California.) Due to this project, a huge amount of Nanyang residents had to relocate. So government officials were eager to be trained for if (or when) a crisis might happen.

Route of the Water Diversion Project to bring water from the South to the greater Beijing area

Route of the Water Diversion Project to bring water from the South to the greater Beijing area

I did the simultaneous translation for the lecture. My observations are as follow:

  • The officials were focused on the lecture, even though the majority of them cannot understand English beyond “Hello” and “Thank you”.
  • They were the only group of people that were uniformly unfamiliar with Professor Garcia’s references to Greek tragedies. Every other group understood immediately when he referred Greek tragedies as the example that people remember bad things rather than good things. They were the only group of people that could not get our point of “Greek tragedies are all about choices — Do I kill my father and marry my mother?” Every other group, including students from universities and even engineers from big companies, laughed at the reference. The officials remained silent.
  • They were eager to share a Confucius quote, and insisted that I translate it simultaneously for Professor Garcia. They also expected his response and feedback to the Confucius quote. In other words, they were the group who seemed to ignore others culture, but emphasize their own culture.

 

Zeus hurling thunderbolts; Confucius

Zeus hurling thunderbolts; Confucius

 

Lesson Learned: When social patterns and cultural differences are involved, we have to be very careful about what is happening to people who do not share the same learning approach and same cultural style as ours.

The two lessons we learned today are much harder than the first lesson. Accordingly, there is no single solution for each of these gaps.  But one large takeaway from the trip is that we need to take seriously not only differences in language but also differences in learning approach and cultural style.

eastwest_germanchinese

 

by Iris Wenting Xue

Earlier this year I organized last month’s four-week China book tour for my mentor and boss, Helio Fred Garcia.   The Chinese edition of his book, The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, and Logos Institute’s approach to leadership, communication, and crisis management, were well received and highly appreciated by Chinese readers and audiences.

PoC English Chinese

We visited 15 prestigious universities and had many public events in four Chinese cities.  Our audiences were from such disparate organizations as:

  • Top Chinese universities such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Communication University of China, Nankai University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and Shanghai International Studies University;

Chinese University Logos

  • Joint-venture universities such as New York University Shanghai, Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, and Sino-British College;

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  • 3) Large corporations like Vanke, the largest residential real estate developer in China, and

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  • 4) Renowned media organizations like Shanghai Daily.

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We dealt with varied groups of people, from 20-something college students to 70-something millionaires; from public relations majors to MBAs, and EMBAs;  from journalists to government officials; from crisis managers to bankers and engineers…

As a result of this exchange, Logos Institute is now in discussion with several top universities for longer-term academic collaboration, but that is not the most valuable result of the trip.

Right of Prof. Garcia, in green, Dr. Xiaojun Qian, Professor and Assistant Dean, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua university; Left of Prof. Garcia, the publisher, Wendy Yang of Publishing House of Electronics Industry

Right of Prof. Garcia, in green, Dr. Xiaojun Qian, Professor and Assistant Dean, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua university; Left of Prof. Garcia, the publisher, Wendy Yang of Publishing House of Electronics Industry

We have built relationships with several institutions and companies for future cooperation, but again that is not the most valuable result.

Lessons Learned

As a communication practitioner, a tour observer and a translator, I discovered three lessons to be the most valuable outcome of the trip; lessons that can help us all to better understand, respect, and bridge the communication gap between different audiences.

We should understand, respect and bridge the gaps caused by:

  1. Different languages
  2. Different learning approaches
  3. Different cultural styles

These three lessons are universal and universally applicable.

Below I elaborate on the first lesson, different languages. In a subsequent post I will elaborate on each of the remaining two lessons.

Lesson 1: Different Languages

One obvious gap between the American author, Helio Fred Garcia, and the Chinese audience is language.  We can easily overcome this obstacle by translation; translating both the slide content for visual reinforcement, and simultaneous or consecutive translation of the spoken word.

Some universities and organizations in Shanghai, and Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, did not require simultaneous or consecutive translation because most lecture attendants spoke fluent English.

But on most other occasions I translated the lecture, the Q&A session and even the meeting with deans, professors, or other leaders.

These two scenarios were easy to handle compared to the third scenario – The audience or the leader had the illusion that they were fluent in English, and then the misunderstanding came as expected.

This illusion of fluency has consequences, sometimes tragic, sometimes comical, but often just frustrating.

Throughout the trip, I discovered many of the challenges associated with the illusion of fluency.  I offer just two representative examples:

1) “Publicity” or “Propaganda”?

Chinese is one of the three hardest-to-master languages in the world (The other two are Arabic and German).

One difficulty is its brevity. One Chinese character could easily have five or six meanings, so there could be various explanations for one Chinese word.

For instance, the Chinese word 宣传  (“Xuan Chuan”) can be accurately translated in English as both “propaganda” and “publicity.”  In English the word “propaganda” is derogatory.  But “publicity” is benign, if not commendatory.   Because of this linguistic phenomenon, many Chinese cannot understand the subtle difference between publicity and propaganda. They interchangeably use them, just as Americans in a big city might interchangeably use “subway” and ”metro.”

To add to the confusion, there is a Chinese Central Government Department called the “Xuan Chuan Department.”  Technically, it should be translated as “Department of Publicity.”  However, because many Chinese conflate publicity and propaganda, they simply translate that department as “Department of Propaganda.”   Many even prefer the word “propaganda” because, as one person confessed to me, it “looks premium and shows the translator’s profound English vocabulary.”  This can create a deep sense of suspicion among native English speakers that “this Chinese Central Government Department does nothing else but propaganda.”  Fortunately, the official name of this department is now “The Publicity Department.”

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2) God uses [a] VPN (virtual private network)?

It is commonly acknowledged that many Chinese popular foods are hard to translate. CNN and HuffingtonPost featured some humorous accounts of this.

HuffPo

For example, “Fo Tiao Qiang” is a southern China dish or soup originating in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).  It contains shark fin, quail eggs, bamboo shoots, scallops, sea cucumber, abalone, chicken, Jinhua ham, pork tendon, ginseng, mushrooms, and taro.  The literal meaning of the name is “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall.”  It is meant to suggest that the dish is so enticing that even Buddha would be unable to resist its lure, and would jump over the wall of his temple to be able to taste the soup.

But last month we saw the soup translated as “God uses VPN.”  Some context:  In China much of the internet is blocked behind a firewall.  But Chinese people know how to access some of the forbidden parts  — Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.– simply by using a virtual private network (VPN) to get past the firewall. The same Chinese words lead to dramatically different English translations.

Untitled

So, the delicious dish traditionally translated as “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall” on at least one menu is now rendered “God uses VPN.”  How can we understand it without the context?

In my next post I’ll address the two remaining questions:

How to understand, respect and bridge the gaps caused by

  • Different learning approaches
  • Different cultural styles.

 

 

 

by Helio Fred Garcia

I’ve been in China for just over a month, the last two weeks of which were spent on book tour in connection with the publication of the Chinese edition of The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively.

Book Tour

 

Publications - PC China Cover - 2014 Jun 12
The concepts from the book and the best practices and principles applied by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership have been very well received by both academic and business audiences here.  I have spoken so far in three cities: Shanghai, Nanjing, and Tianjin.  I’m now in Beijing, and all the remaining work will be here.

By the time we’re done, I will have spoken at fifteen universities, including most of the top-10-ranked Chinese universities.  And also will have spoken at a half-dozen corporate events.

From business school deans and graduate students to newspaper editors to business executives, there has been an appetite for the best practices in crisis management and crisis communication, and also in executive leadership skills.  As China goes through extraordinary change, there is also a recognition that a management approach that promotes a culture of compliance but not of innovation may not be sustainable.  The tough migration to leadership that inspires, and to timely decision-making that maintains trust, has produced meaningful desire to get the principles right.  It is part of a larger change taking place across all elements of Chinese society.

Announcement at Nanjing University

Announcement at Nanjing University

Three universities so far have asked to discuss formalizing long-term relationships with Logos Institute, but no commitments in either direction have yet been made.

Shanghai

The tour started in Shanghai, in friendly territory: NYU Shanghai, where NYU Shanghai student and Logos colleague Evan Chethik made introductions.   The school, only in its second year, is housed in an ultra-modern building with smart classrooms, up-to-date labs, and even iPads in public areas for student use.  Their art lab has two 3-D printers.  I gave two classes, one on The Power of Communication and Leadership for the Global Liberal Studies course, and a public lecture focusing more on Power of Communication and barriers to effective audience engagement.  The students were smart, engaged, and engaging.  About half of my group were Americans visiting for a year; some were from NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus; the rest were Chinese, part of the first two classes of Chinese students to get an NYU Degree completely from NYU’s Shanghai college.

With my Logos colleague and NYU Shanghai student Evan Chethik

With my Logos colleague and NYU Shanghai student Evan Chethik

Our NYU Shanghai contact, Professor Ray Ro, is also on the faculty at Sino-British College, a consortium of University of Shanghai for Science and Technology and nine British universities.  We went there the next day.  Most of the students were Chinese, majoring in either engineering or business.  They too were quite engaged and engaging.

Teaching MBA students at Shanghai International Studies University

Teaching MBA students at Shanghai International Studies University

The same day we visited Shanghai Jiaotong University’s School of Media and Design, teaching graduate students on effective interpersonal communication.  Great students.

With Dr. Zhen Fan, Dean of the School of Business, Shanghai International Studies University

With Dr. Zhen Fan, Dean of the School of Business, Shanghai International Studies University

The next day we visited Shanghai International Studies University School of Business.  This was the first of two visits to the university, and three classes.  Here the students were getting their MBAs, some with a concentration in communication.  Most were Chinese, but there were some Americans and several Europeans.  The discussion was lively and vivid.

Teaching undergraduate business students at Shanghai International Studies University

Teaching undergraduate business students at Shanghai International Studies University

We returned to Shanghai International Studies University, to teach School of English Studies and in the undergraduate business school.

NYU MS in PR/CC Student Reunion

2014 grads of the NYU MS in PR/CC. L to R, Iris Wenting Xue, Ci Song, Judy Zhu, and Ada Yang. (I was thesis advisor to Iris and Judy)

2014 grads of the NYU MS in PR/CC. L to R, Iris Wenting Xue, Ci Song, Judy Zhu, and Ada Yang. (I was thesis advisor to Iris and Judy)

One of the highlights of the Shanghai visit was a reunion of several of my NYU MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication students who now live and work in Shanghai.  All are working in good public relations jobs.  (A similar reunion is planned for Beijing.)

Corporate Presentations

While in Shanghai we had the opportunity to speak at three corporate events.

Shanghai Daily, the English language newspaper of Shanghai, invited me to give a luncheon workshop on crisis management to the heads of communication of about 25 multinational corporations.

Shanghai Daily StoryThe event was also attended by a number of editors and reporters from the newspaper, and officials of the Shanghai city government.

With Joyce Wu, Editor-in-Chief of Shanghai Daily, the English language newspaper of Shanghai

With Joyce Wu, Editor-in-Chief of Shanghai Daily, the English language newspaper of Shanghai

That evening we went to the headquarters office of Vanke, a the largest residential real estate developer in China.  Our evening was jointly sponsored by Vanke and Ivy League English, which hosted us several times.  The session was on strategy, leadership, and the power of communication.

The main room at Vanke, 250 people, plus 40 offices participating remotely via video hookup

The main room at Vanke, 250 people, plus 40 offices participating remotely via video hookup

In addition to the 240 people in the headquarters office, forty of Vanke’s offices throughout China also participated via video hookup.  This was the first session we held where we needed simultaneous translation into Chinese (although at all sessions, our slides were in both English and Chinese).  Ivy League English will also sponsor a similar session in Beijing.

Vanke employees at one of 40 remote locations participating in the workshop

Vanke employees at one of 40 remote locations participating in the workshop

Several days later we met at Ivy League English’s Shanghai headquarters offices for a meeting of Shanghai CSR We Can, a group of 25 heads of corporate social responsibility for major Chinese companies and for the Chinese offices of multinationals.  We spent the afternoon covering the overlap between corporate responsibility and crisis management; especially the need in each instance to take seriously stakeholder expectations and concerns.  We had lively discussion and debate.

Nanjing

We then took the bullet train to Nanjing, and spent a whirlwind 36 hours there.

That night we gave a public lecture at the Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center, a campus of the School of Advanced International Studies.   The topic was the use of power in all forms, but especially communication as soft power, and therefore more sustainable than hard power.  The students were getting their MAs or graduate certificates in international relations and foreign policy.

The announcement at the Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

The announcement at the Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

These students, generally older and more experienced internationally than the business students I had met at other universities, had a sophisticated understanding of foreign policy, economics, and military force.  We had lively discussions of American foreign policy, framing (ISIS or ISIL?), and the limits of soft power.

Student interaction at Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

Student interaction at Johns Hopkins University Nanjing Center

Another unexpected delight on the trip was a surprise visit to the Johns Hopkins lecture by my former NYU PR/CC student Tao Feng.  He graduated in 2014, and now works for Burson-Marsteller in Guangzhou, China.  He happened to be in Nanjing for a client meeting, and saw the notice of the lecture on Weibo (Chinese equivalent of Twitter) and was able to get to the lecture, his boss in tow.  We shared a taxi afterward.

With Tao Feng, 2014 graduate of the NYU MS in PR/CC

With Tao Feng, 2014 graduate of the NYU MS in PR/CC

The next day we returned to downtown Nanjing to speak at a public workshop at Nanjing University on maintaining trust in a crisis.  It was a small but focused group of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctorate students.

We spent the afternoon at a distant campus of Communication University of China, Nanjing.  The public lecture on effective leadership communication was held in the library auditorium to a standing-room only crowd.  The discussion was lively and toward the end got a bit raucous.  Or, as Dr. Shirley Tse, our host, said, the students were vivid.

Teaching at Communication University of China Nanjing

Teaching at Communication University of China Nanjing

Tianjin

After class we took the bullet train from Nanjing to Beijing, and seven hours later took the bullet commuter train the half hour (90 miles) to Tianjin, a city of 13 million known for its technology and manufacturing base.  (Logos has several large industrial clients with facilities here.)

The announcement at Tianjin University College of Management and Economics

The announcement at Tianjin University College of Management and Economics

That day we spoke at Tianjin University’s College of Management and Economics.  Tianjin University, founded in 1895, is the oldest university in China.

With Dr. Zhang Wei, Dean, College of Management and Economics, Tianjin University

With Dr. Zhang Wei, Dean, College of Management and Economics, Tianjin University

We spoke to the MBAs, Executive MBAs, and other business students on leadership and the power of communication.  The next day we were back in Tianjin to speak at Nankai University’s business school.

Teaching business students at Nankai University Business School

Teaching business students at Nankai University Business School

And then we rested.

My wife, Laurel Garcia Colvin, returned to New York Saturday, after four and a half weeks in China.  I got a three-day weekend, just ending now.

The trip has been ably assembled and managed by Logos Institute Research and China Business Development Associate Iris Wenting Xue (who also did most of the simultaneous translation, when needed). She has worked closely Beryl Young,  a manager with the book’s publisher, Publishing House of Electronics Industry.

Tomorrow the Beijing portion of the trip begins, and will last nine days.  Stay tuned…

Fred

Watchtower on the Northwest Corner of the Forbidden City, Beijing, from across the moat

Watchtower on the Northwest Corner of the Forbidden City, Beijing, from across the moat

 

 

This is my first post since the Logos Institute Blog began its weekly “what we’re reading” series.

I haven’t been reading as much lately as I usually do, because I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my next book, about which you’ll hear much more in the coming months.

But when I’ve read it has mostly been building upon my reflections on China by paying attention to what others with far more experience there are saying.

An excellent starting point for anyone interested in understanding China from the perspective of the United States is Henry Kissinger’s On China.  This first-hand account from the nation’s architect of the 1972 Opening to China is both a fascinating read and a good guidebook to the seminal moments in China’s and the United States’ increasingly important relationship.

But to really understand how China got from 1972 to the present, from a Chinese perspective, the indispensable read is Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra F. Vogel.  The author is Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard.  He took a break from teaching to spend time in the CIA in the 1990s as the National Intelligence Officer for East Asia. His voluminous and deeply-researched book includes private and Party papers, interviews with family members and participants at major events, and a deep understanding of the day-to-day workings of the key players.

It’s particularly interesting (and both fun and scary) to read Deng’s accounts of his meetings with Henry Kissinger side-by-side with Kissinger’s.  The book also places those meetings into a Chinese context and shows how the U.S. mis-calculated significantly again and again in its relationships with China — from the risk of Chinese intervention in the Korean war to China’s relationship with Vietnam.  China invaded Vietnam soon after we left, worried about Vietnam’s likely invasion of Cambodia and fearing Soviet encirclement.  So much for our fear of global communist domination.

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