A Tale of Two Cities' PR Realities

On the same day that Illinois’ Governor was found guilty of Federal corruption charges, I was on the radio in Detroit giving this interview on how turnover in Mayor Dave Bing’s administration would affect the City’s image.

Talk about “a tale of two cities.” In Chicago, based on initial coverage, there isn’t much worry about the city’s image despite the fact that a product of its political system is headed to prison for the foreseeable future. In Detroit, though, executive staff turnover is a “black eye for the City.” That’s because in Detroit, when it comes to PR, there is no margin for error.

Like a company struggling to rebuild its image after years of exhibiting poor customer service, Detroit has a tough communications road ahead, but one filled with opportunity. Because of dubious events in history, Detroit carries heavy baggage. For example, cold weather during the Super Bowl here was widely reported, while an ice storm in 2000 that essentially shut down Atlanta during its Super Bowl was not mentioned during the national TV broadcast. Also, the recent political scandals seem to bite harder and last longer in the national spotlight. Even car owners blame problems with their vehicles on “Detroit.”

Meanwhile, Chicago seems to enjoy almost Teflon protection. It continues to be the region Metro Detroiters envy and remains a magnet for young people who grow up and/or are educated in Michigan. Its big city problems are seemingly ignored because of its upside. Just last week, while in the Chicagoland area on business, I saw a TV news story about high unemployment. I even felt raindrops as I walked under cloudy skies. I did not, however, see any streets paved with gold.

Now, I enjoy visiting Chicago very much. It’s one of my favorite places to go in this part of the country and I have a trip planned for a few weeks from now. But, it’s important to remember that Chicago is part of the Real World.

With cities and regions, like companies and people, reputation is everything. Changing reputations takes time, effort and a real commitment to a unified effort – something Detroit still needs now, as much as ever.