Shannon O’Malley, Intern
On June 29 GOP candidate Donald Trump spoke at the City Club of Chicago. Although Trump’s presidential candidacy may be a fluke to gain attention, polls show many still value the business mogul’s general opinion. He warned attendees that the city’s crime has gotten out of control and is damaging the city’s reputation worldwide. Movie director Spike Lee is directing a film on Chicago with a title of “Chi-raq.” Consequently, referring to Chicago as “Chi-raq” has become incredibly common for outsiders. Foreigners that lack prior experience with Chicago now associate the Windy City with shootings and gun violence due to what is shown on the news. These negative connotations detract tourists from visiting.
Chicago wants to be respected as a world-class city, but this is not possible if the media only shows the negatives. Although Trump rarely thinks of anyone but himself, he is right in suggesting the city implement a strategy to change the brand of the city itself. Trump also criticized the Illinois economy and its corrupt politics. Although Trump’s haughty advice to the city was filled with his signature sarcasm, he made many valid points about the city and state’s reputation.
Many metropolitan areas have been forced to create PR campaigns to change the public’s perception of the region. The most memorable is the “Pure Michigan” campaign created in 2006 to increase tourism to Michigan despite Detroit’s negative image. The point of the campaign was to prove that the state offers many more attractions than problem plagued Detroit. Michigan’s other attractions became the focus of the commercials. With Tim Allen’s voice describing seasonal activities such as serene beaches and snowcapped mountains, it is impossible not to attract a listening ear. The “Pure Michigan” campaign completely reshaped the stigma attached to the state of Michigan.
Chicago may need to imitate this model to draw media attention away from the shootings and focus the public on the culture and attractions of the city. Rebranding would increase tourism and prove that the Windy City is a force to be reckoned with politically and economically before its bad reputation detracts businesses from opening up downtown.
There are a lot of creative minds in Chicago to develop its “Pure Michigan” approach. The city must then be focused and disciplined about execution. And if Chicago’s creative community can change the city’s image from “Chi-raq” to “My kind of town” again, perhaps the next rebranding can be for the owner of our second tallest skyscraper and tourist destination.