THEME: ISSUE MANAGEMENT / REPUTATION ♦ The line between company privacy and public advocacy is becoming increasingly blurred. Business leaders today are under increasing pressure to take a stance on the issues happening in their communities and act. For a company and its spokespeople, the decision to comment on a socio-political topic is not usually a simple one. That’s why FTI Consulting conducted a comprehensive audit, researching 35 separate case studies of corporate activ...
Welcome to Value@Stake
… the leading niche PR agency specialized in communications strategies and tactics in times of corporate turnaround and related issues.
Our clients need to change for the sake of continuing value creation for their stakeholders. This need can be caused by a strategic turnaround choice, it may be the result of sudden issues and crises.
The "why" of Value@Stake
Actually, we like complex communications issues. Our approach is no-nonsense and is based on profound professional relations with our clients. We are solution-oriented and we dare to be bold in our strategic advice, in order to deliver the most impactful results for the most critical organizational challenges.Read More!
Edwin van Wijk Managing Partner
Founder and managing partner of Value@Stake. He advises clients on corporate communications crisis and issues management. In the last years he has mainly focused on restructuring communications. In 2015 he advised the board of directors of V&D Group and acted as a spokesperson for the board and administrators of the company. Prior to founding Value@Stake, Edwin headed the financial communications practice of a leading international communications agency. Also he managed communications departments at several financial services companies, like Delta Lloyd, Robeco and MeesPierson.
Michael Renssen Strategy Director
Michael Renssen is our specialist in integrated corporate and marketing communications concepts. After his graduation as a political scientist, he worked for Royal Dutch Jaarbeurs, where he was responsible for the conceptualisation and execution of (largescale) national and international tradefairs and crossmedia events. In 2002 he moved to the financial services industry, heading the marketing communications and event marketing department at leading insurance company Delta Lloyd. Prior to joining Value@Stake he worked as marcomms and digital comms practice leader at a leading international communications agency.
Charles Groenhuijsen Associate Director
Charles started his career at the Dutch news agency ANP and Dutch national daily newspaper De Volkskrant. Following that, he joined national broadcasting organisation NOS, first as a reporter, next as a correspondent in the United States, and finally as anchorman of the 8 o’clock News, NOS’ flagship evening news programme. In addition to his work as a journalist and publicist, Charles is in high demand as a key note speaker and presenter at corporate and business events. At Value@Stake, Charles Groenhuijsen will support domestic and international clients, providing them with tailor-made media strategies, interview training as well as leadership coaching.
Edi Cohen Associate Director
Edi Cohen has a wide experience in consulting, large corporates, financials and public sector organizations in corporate communications and PR. She is an expert in media relations, corporate writing and shaping thought leadership and media publicity. She was a journalist at The Banker Magazine and The Independent in London, and Het Financieele Dagblad in the Netherlands. Besides that she co-published a standard book on the subject of corporate transparency. She was Director at CFF Communications in Amsterdam for eight years. At the moment she is also a lecturer of Communications at the University of Applied Sciences in Leiden.
Lars Hooning Associate Director
Rotterdam-based lawyer Lars Hooning has a vast experience in public governance and public affairs. In this intricate stakeholder arena you have to pick a good position, know your stakeholders, make a smart plan and establish real communications between your organisation and your stakeholders. This is where Lars is one of the Netherlands' leading advisers. Lars Hooning has worked for: Rotterdam Harbour, several federations of employers in different industries, the Dutch Consumers Federation, and the Dutch Centre for Executive and Supervisory Board Members.
Value@Stake Mission-critical insights
There is value at stake for our clients, every day again. This might be financial value, brand value, reputation value or client value. Having been corporate executives ourselves at different companies, we understand what keeps you out of your sleep. But even more, we know how we can give you back your night's rest. Our blog posts and insights reflect our thoughts, and the way we advise and help our clients.
Our offices are based at Villa Lindeheuvel, a famous 19th century landmark building in the City of Hilversum, RTV capital of the Netherlands. In its vibrant history the villa hosted the illustrious Dutch broadcaster VPRO. Many creative and high-profile TV concepts and formats were invented and conceived in the same rooms as where we nowadays invite and advise our clients.
THE 36 CHINESE STRATAGEMS
Strategic Communications should always be aimed at realizing the goals and the mission of an organisation. That is why we prefer to call it ‘mission-critical communications’. In communications, strategy is as important as in warfare. The ’36 Stratagems’, that Chinese warlords developed thousands of years ago, are still as valid here and now as they were back then and there. They describe the tricks and tactics that have proven successful in ancient warfare, but which can also be found in modern day business and politics.
In our emblem below, you will find a matrix of six by six blocks. Each row stands for six stratagems that apply to the following situations:
Row 1: Winning stratagems
Row 2: Enemy dealing stratagems
Row 3: Attacking stratagems
Row 4: Chaos stratagems
Row 5: Proximate stratagems
Row 6: Desperate stratagems.
By hovering the cursor over the blocks, you can read more about the meaning behind these stratagems and how they can be implemented into strategic communications.
1: Cross the sea without the emperor's knowledge
Mask your real goals, by using the ruse of a fake goal, until the real goal is achieved. Tactically, this is known as an ‘open feint’: in front of everyone, you point west, when your goal is actually in the east.
2: Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào
When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that he cannot be superior in all things. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead. The idea here is to avoid a head-on battle with a strong enemy, and instead strike at his weakness elsewhere. This will force the strong enemy to retreat in order to support his weakness. Battling against the now tired and low-morale enemy will give a much higher chance of success.
3: Kill with a borrowed sword
Attack using the strength of another (in a situation where using one’s own strength is not favourable). Trick an ally into attacking him, bribe an official to turn traitor, or use the enemy’s own strength against him. The idea here is to cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed.
4: Wait at leisure while the enemy labors
It is an advantage to choose the time and place for battle. In this way you know when and where the battle will take place, while your enemy does not. Encourage your enemy to expend his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength. When he is exhausted and confused, you attack with energy and purpose. The idea is to have your troops well-prepared for battle, in the same time that the enemy is rushing to fight against you. This will give your troops a huge advantage in the upcoming battle, of which you will get to select the time and place.
5: Loot a burning house
When a country is beset by internal conflicts, when disease and famine ravage the population, when corruption and crime are rampant, then it will be unable to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack. Keep gathering internal information about an enemy. If the enemy is currently in its weakest state ever, attack it without mercy and totally destroy it to prevent future troubles.
6: Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west
In any battle the element of surprise can provide an overwhelming advantage. Even when face to face with an enemy, surprise can still be employed by attacking where he least expects it. To do this you must create an expectation in the enemy’s mind through the use of a feint. The idea here is to get the enemy to focus his forces in a location, and then attack elsewhere which would be weakly defended.
7: Create something from nothing
A plain lie. Make somebody believe there was something when there is in fact nothing. One method of using this strategy is to create an illusion of something’s existence, while it does not exist. Another method is to create an illusion that something does not exist, while it does.
8: Openly repair the gallery roads, but sneak through the passage of Chencang
Deceive the enemy with an obvious approach that will take a very long time, while surprising him by taking a shortcut and sneak up to him. As the enemy concentrates on the decoy, he will miss you sneaking up to him. This tactic is an extension of the “Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west” tactic. But instead of simply spreading misinformation to draw the enemy’s attention, physical baits are used to increase the enemy’s certainty on the misinformation. These baits must be easily seen by the enemy, to ensure that they draw the enemy’s attention. At the same time, the baits must act as if they are meant to do what they were falsely doing, to avoid drawing the enemy’s suspicion.
In the present day, “sneak through the passage of Chencang” also has the meaning of having an affair or doing something that is illegal
9: Watch the fires burning across the river
Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become exhausted fighting amongst themselves. Then go in at full strength and pick up the pieces.
10: Hide a knife behind a smile
Charm and ingratiate yourself with your enemy. When you have gained his trust, move against him in secret.
11: Sacrifice the plum tree to preserve the peach tree
There are circumstances in which you must sacrifice short-term objectives in order to gain the long-term goal. This is the scapegoat strategy whereby someone else suffers the consequences so that the rest do not.
12: Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat
While carrying out your plans be flexible enough to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any profit, however slight.
13: Stomp the grass to scare the snake
Do something unaimed, but spectacular (“hitting the grass”) to provoke a response of the enemy (“startle the snake”), thereby giving away his plans or position, or just taunt him. Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy’s suspicion and disrupt his thinking. More widely used as “[Do not] startle the snake by hitting the grass”. An imprudent act will give your position or intentions away to the enemy.
14: Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul
Take an institution, a technology, a method, or even an ideology that has been forgotten or discarded and appropriate it for your own purpose. Revive something from the past by giving it a new purpose or bring to life old ideas, customs, or traditions and reinterpret them to fit your purposes.
15: Lure the tiger off its mountain lair
Never directly attack an opponent whose advantage is derived from its position. Instead lure him away from his position thus separating him from his source of strength.
16: In order to capture, one must let loose
Cornered prey will often mount a final desperate attack. To prevent this you let the enemy believe he still has a chance for freedom. His will to fight is thus dampened by his desire to escape. When in the end the freedom is proven a falsehood the enemy’s morale will be defeated and he will surrender without a fight.
17: Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem
Bait someone by making him believe he gains something or just make him react to it (“toss out a brick”) and obtain something valuable from him in return (“get a jade gem”).
18: Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief
If the enemy’s army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money, superstition or threats, then take aim at the leader. If the commander falls the rest of the army will disperse or come over to your side. If, however, they are allied to the leader through loyalty then beware, the army can continue to fight on after his death out of vengeance.
19: Remove the firewood from under the pot
Take out the leading argument or asset of someone; “steal someone’s thunder”. This is the very essence of indirect approach: instead of attacking enemy’s fighting forces, the attacks are directed against his ability to wage war. Literally, take the fuel out of the fire.
20: Disturb the water and catch a fish
Create confusion and use this confusion to further your own goals.
21: Slough off the cicada's golden shell
Mask yourself. Either leave one’s distinctive traits behind, thus becoming inconspicuous, or masquerade as something or someone else. This strategy is mainly used to escape from enemy of superior strength.
22: Shut the door to catch the thief
To capture your enemy, or more generally in fighting wars, to deliver the final blow to your enemy, you must plan prudently if you want to succeed. Do not rush into action. Before you “move in for the kill”, first cut off your enemy’s escape routes, and cut off any routes through which outside help can reach them.
23: Befriend a distant state and strike a neighbouring one
Invading nations that are close to you carries a higher chance of success. The battle fields are close to your own country, thus it is easier for your troops to get supplies and to defend the conquered land. Make allies with nations far away from you, as it is unwise to invade them.
24: Obtain safe passage to conquer the State of Guo
Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy. Once the enemy is defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the first place.
25: Replace the beams with rotten timbers
Disrupt the enemy’s formations, interfere with their methods of operations, change the rules in which they are used to following, go contrary to their standard training. In this way you remove the supporting pillar, the common link that makes a group of men an effective fighting force.
26: Point at the mulberry tree while cursing the locust tree
To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo. Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity.
27: Feign madness but keep your balance
Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about your intentions and motivations. Lure your opponent into underestimating your ability until, overconfident, he drops his guard. Then you may attack.
28: Remove the ladder when the enemy has ascended to the roof
With baits and deceptions, lure your enemy into treacherous terrain. Then cut off his lines of communication and avenue of escape. To save himself, he must fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.
29: Deck the tree with false blossoms
Tying silk blossoms on a dead tree gives the illusion that the tree is healthy. Through the use of artifice and disguise, make something of no value appear valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use appear useful.
30: Make the host and the guest exchange roles
Usurp leadership in a situation where you are normally subordinate. Infiltrate your target. Initially, pretend to be a guest to be accepted, but develop from inside and become the owner later.
31: The beauty trap (Honeypot)
Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp. This strategy can work on three levels. First, the ruler becomes so enamoured with the beauty that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane. Second, the group of men will begin to have issues if the desired women courts another man, thus creating conflict and aggressive behavior. Third, other females at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues further exacerbating the situation.
32: The empty fort strategy
When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretense of military preparedness, act calmly and taunt the enemy, so that the enemy will think you have a huge ambush hidden for them. It works best by acting calm and at ease when your enemy expects you to be tense. This ploy is only successful if in most cases you do have a powerful hidden force and only sparsely use the empty fort strategy.
33: Let the enemy's own spy sow discord in the enemy camp
Undermine your enemy’s ability to fight by secretly causing discord between him and his friends, allies, advisors, family, commanders, soldiers, and population. While he is preoccupied settling internal disputes, his ability to attack or defend is compromised.
34: Inflict injury on oneself to win the enemy's trust
Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he no longer considers you to be an immediate threat. The second is a way of ingratiating yourself with your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.
35: Chain stratagems
In important matters, one should use several stratagems applied simultaneously after another as in a chain of stratagems. Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; however, in this manner if any one strategy fails, then the chain breaks and the whole scheme fails.
36: If all else fails, retreat
If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat, then retreat and regroup. When your side is losing, there are only three choices remaining: surrender, compromise, or escape. Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat. As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance. This is the most famous of the stratagems, immortalized in the form of a Chinese idiom: “Of the Thirty-Six Stratagems, fleeing is best”