Many in Japan were surprised to learn of the sudden surge of vitriol in the United Kingdom toward one of Tokyo’s corporate icons. Seemingly overnight, Fujitsu became U.K. public enemy number one; in its home territory, few had ever heard of its faulty Horizon accounting software or the decades-long Post Office scandal.
One entity that shouldn’t be caught unaware, however, is Fujitsu Ltd. itself. The firm has been conspicuously quiet since British broadcaster ITV's drama series "Mr. Bates vs the Post Office" suddenly thrust the issue of dodgy software, built by a U.K. company Fujitsu acquired in the 1990s, into the spotlight earlier this month. The faulty tech led to hundreds of post office branch managers being falsely prosecuted for theft. The company has issued statements supporting the ongoing public inquiry. CEO Takahito Tokita has yet to address the media.
Going silent is a typical playbook for Japanese companies when faced with bad news. It is also a mistake. Japan is world-class at many things, but public relations isn’t one of them. Whether for self-promotion or damage control, companies and authorities alike are typically reluctant to get ahead of a story. Stonewalling and silence take the place of engagement, until the company decides it is ready to talk.