City Reputation & Brooms
Do cities and countries recover their reputations after their images have been tarnished or damaged by natural disaster? This question is bound to be answered as we see what happens to London after the August riots. A market research firm analyst Simon Anholt studies the reputation of cities and reports on them annually for Gfk Roper. When asked what he thought about how much cities are affected by reputational issues, Anholt said “not much.” He thought that if it did, he would have seen more change in reputational perceptions of New York, London and Tokyo than he has seen so far. Essentially, memories are short. Some proof of what he says comes from The European Tour Operators Association who report having only 0.2% cancellations on visits to London immediately after the riots. Additionally, property prices have not seen any negative effects among investors or large real estate firms. There always is a silver lining when it comes to politics, however. The mayor of London said that the riots this past summer showcased London’s resilience. There is no doubt that city reputations get bruised when these types of events occur but the impact does not seem long-lasting. Is that a sign of the times?
In the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident, the city of Tokyo has seen no significant erosion to its city image according to the 2011 Anholt-GfK Roper City Brands IndexSM just mentioned above. Among the top ten cities in the 2011 survey, Paris ranks as the top overall city “brand”, and Tokyo ranks 10th among 50 cities measured. There you go.
But I must add that there was one thing that truly saved London’s reputation and set an example that may have lasting power — the “broom armies.” Groups of people took to the streets afterwards with brooms, dust bins, cleaning gloves and garbage bags to sweep away the broken glass and debris left after the looting. As someone said, it was the “perfect symbol for the civilised majority.” And another said it was a “shared response” to fear and uncertainty. Best of all, it started with a simple Twitter campaign among stranges, #riotcleanup. Twitter again comes to the rescue to mobilize people to do the right thing, not just the bad. We can expect to see more of this in 2011 and 2012. People will fight back to reclaim their shared decency, city citizens will mobilize to stabilize their home streets and reputations will repair themselves through the deeds of ordinary people who barely know each other.