What is corporate cultural diplomacy?

Museum of Cham Sculpture. Da Nang, Vietnam

By Grant Hall.  Founder of League Cultural Diplomacy

Need to build relationships and influence in new markets? Corporate Cultural Diplomacy is the key.

Corporate cultural diplomacy (CCD) is particularly useful for organisations seeking to do business in foreign markets or cross-cultural environments.

But what exactly is corporate cultural diplomacy?

Our day-to-day experience and understanding of diplomacy is much like that of Italian diplomat and author Daniele Varè;

Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way[1]

The Oxford Dictionary very reasonably defines ‘Diplomacy’ as:

The profession, activity, or skill of managing international relations, typically by a country’s representatives abroad[2]

The Encyclopedia Britannica says ‘Diplomacy’ is:

…the established method of influencing the decisions and behavior of foreign governments and peoples through dialogue, negotiation, and other measures short of war or violence[3]

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy defines ‘Cultural Diplomacy’ as:

…a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation or promote national interests; cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society[4].

Wikipedia quotes several sources to help define ‘Cultural Diplomacy’ and its purpose:

The intent (of cultural diplomacy) is to build up influence over the long term for when it is needed by engaging people directly[5]

Ultimately, the goal of cultural diplomacy is to influence a foreign audience and use that influence, which is built up over the long term, as a sort of good will reserve to win support[6

Nations have used cultural diplomacy to manage international relations and gain influence outside of their own borders for hundreds of years.  The Medici, for example would loan-out acclaimed Florentine artists to other city-states to extend their sphere of influence.  In certain circumstances, cultural diplomacy can also variously be referred to as ‘soft power’ or ‘public diplomacy’.   Cultural diplomacy is designed to win hearts and minds.

Cultural diplomacy is enacted through cultural activities or programs and one of the most famous initiatives was the American Jazz Ambassadors.  Throughout much of the Cold War the U.S. State Department sent American jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman to many nations to help develop American national interests abroad and gain strategic influence.

Drawing on the finest traditions of statecraft and international diplomacy, many successful companies now use cultural diplomacy as a tool to manage international business relationships and gain influence in foreign markets.

When cultural diplomacy is used to achieve corporate objectives it becomes known as corporate cultural diplomacy.

Cultural diplomacy is very powerful and commonly cited as a key reason the West won the Cold War.  The very same tools are available for you to achieve corporate outcomes in foreign markets.

In coming blogs I will provide some examples of corporate cultural diplomacy and explain how you can use corporate cultural diplomacy to achieve success in your business operations abroad.

But to finish my post today, let’s go back to those Cold War days to enjoy the Jazz Ambassadors in action and learn a little more about cultural diplomacy!

Read more about corporate cultural diplomacy

4 steps to corporate cultural diplomacy

Corporate cultural diplomacy and the MAGIC 5 Ingredients

2 dozen reasons to use corporate cultural diplomacy


Endnotes and sources are on the next page.

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