Sunday, November 23, 2008

Who is Minding Michigan's Reputation?

The State of Michigan has been the subject of lots of negative news in the current economic down cycle, most of it having to do with the fact that the auto industry is headquartered here (see previous post). But a New York Times article today addresses the general economic overview of Michigan that paints a negative picture with broad brush.

The article has anecdotes of people who have lost their jobs and or homes. It also provides context with a map showing Michigan versus the country on these two metrics. When Governor Jennifer Granholm is quoted, the message is that she's tried all she can and it will take time to turn around.

That may be true, but can we offer a time frame or message of some hope (such as the University of Michigan study that predicts more stabilizing in 2010)? Having read this article and others like it, families and businesses and tourists are hardly considering moving or visiting Michigan, and may even question the wisdom of doing business from afar with companies that are here.

I know there are more positive subplots to the Michigan economic story. Who is getting that narrative out there if not our state government? Perhaps the Times could have done more reporting on how Michigan is dealing with the mess, not just the fatalistic story line they engineered. But it certainly is a reminder that we can't just focus on our own businesses and organizations when doing PR--we need to consider the context and the environment in which we exist, and consider how that contributes to our reputation. Just as "French wine" and and ""British food" have reputations-good and bad, respectively--associated with the country of origin, so businesses and other organizations may have reputations based on the state in which they are located.

I know I'm telling one of my clients to respond to this article with some objective information that lends itself to a more complete picture and better reputation for Michigan.

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