Strategic communications remains a nascent profession in Japan. For many organisations, it has tended to be a function into which people rotate from other parts of the business for a couple of years, as opposed to being somewhere an individual builds a career. Moreover, standing out is not something that a lot of Japanese businesses (or individuals) actively seek, which means that the craft of proactive public relations and communications is somewhat constrained.
It is because of these factors that the communications talent pool in Japan is a shallow one and, as we found in our dinner discussion, many businesses find it challenging to identify and hire talent in this field. In our own experience, ready-made communicators can be hard to find in Japan, so a certain deal of creativity can be required to unearth individuals with transferable skill sets.
For those businesses who have been bold in their adoption of the corporate governance reforms, it may be starting to facilitate better access to the international stage. Takeda Pharmaceutical Company has made notable steps in this regard; it was particularly bold in the transparency it showed in communicating its recent board appointments. Rather than wait to see whether industry press would scrutinise its decisions, the company preemptively penned an open letter explaining its choices.
This proactive adoption of the principles underlying the corporate governance code has set Takeda apart from other businesses in Japan. In an environment where it remains a relatively small player compared with the pharmaceutical giants, and where Japan Inc has lost some of its shine, this approach could play a key role in drawing the international investor community to the company.
If businesses like Takeda start to benefit from adopting this proactive, transparent style of communications, we may see more follow suit. This, we hope, will form part of a broader, long-term trend that sees increased investment from Japanese businesses in the function of strategic communications.