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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The same day we visited Shanghai Jiaotong University’s School of Media and Design, teaching graduate students on effective interpersonal communication. Great students.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
That day we spoke at Tianjin University’s College of Management and Economics. Tianjin University, founded in 1895, is the oldest university in China.
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.
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…