London in the Limelight

Following Mark Duggan’s funeral, (whose shooting by police was said to spark the recent series of UK riots), London’s image is still under the media spotlight.

As the damage to local shops was surveyed, so was the public image of London when at the time of the riots Germany, Latvia, Sweden, Denmark and Finland all issued travel advisories. The confidence in security, politicians and police procedures was shattered in one week and the future success of the 2012 Olympics was also brought into question.

However, in terms of visitors to the capital, London’s image seems to have remained intact. Tourists are still pouring into the city with the majority realising that the rioting was on the whole in non tourist spots. The European Tour Operators Association recorded just 330 immediate cancellations (only 0.2% of all bookings).

If an image of Buckingham Palace ablaze had been projected around the globe rather than a hooded youth pinching a TV, then there might’ve been more of an impact on the world media. The royal wedding had drummed up a large amount of good PR for the capital, with 354,000 visitors flocking to see Kate Middleton’s dress since it was put on display in July (there can be no doubting her personal impact!). The city was in the height of its tourism season just before the rioting took place.

Simon Anholt, an analyst who’s specialist subject is the reputations of cities, points out that reputations of places are built up over many years and if the public were so easily swayed then the popularity of New York and Tokyo would have taken a more severe decrease than they have with events such as 9/11 and the earthquakes this year: “Serious investors may make an allowance for extra security, but will be largely undeterred. Memories are mercifully short”

Social media was used to make some arrests during the rioting when thoughtless criminal users posted pictures of themselves involved in illegal acts. However, some social networking sites came under criticism for providing rioters with a platform to arrange mass violence and looting.  It isn’t the first time that social media has been involved in a PR nightmare.  Remember the classic Dominos 2009 case where employees filmed themselves doing unseemly things to food? The video ended up on YouTube and gained more than one million viewers in a few days, spreading impressions of bad management and poor business ethics. After all, the internet has a memory, and some mishaps can come back to haunt you.

Francis Ingham, PRCA Chief Executive, implied some presentation improvement and image re-vamp is on the cards for London: “The riots have been a PR disaster for London and its leaders. As we address the underlying causes of the riots, we must also invest in rebuilding this great city’s reputation with business and tourism alike. We have the most talented PR in the world, let’s use it.” 

The impact of the riots wasn’t all negative however, the cleanup was coordinated on social networking sites and images of Londoners brandishing brooms were projected around the world. The community spirit involved after the riots combined with the success of events such as the Notting Hill Carnival have helped to restore faith in London.

After all, public image can make or break a place, person or organisation. The way the immediate fallout is dealt with is critical and luckily Bluewood Training can help with just that… drop us an email or Tweet if you’d like more detail on our presentation or crisis training credentials.
Written by Admin – www.bluewoodtraining.com – September 2011

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