Michael D. Moberly – February 19, 2015 ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!
St. Louis’ reputation clearly at risk… Make no mistake, reputation is a company or cities’ most prized and valuable intangible asset, but it comes with risk. In the past six months alone, we have witnessed numerous examples of corporate and individual reputations’ plummeting due to systemic and (company) culture risks surfacing as well as prominent and/or celebrated individuals engaging in behaviors – actions that were not merely risky, but criminal. In either circumstance, the outcomes are often similar, with either losing, sometimes irreversibly, revenue, goodwill, and image.
Now, with DoJ’s pending suit against the Ferguson Police Department, preceded by St. Louis native Michael Gerson’s skillful, but stinging characterization of St. Louis’ reputation on PBS’ NewsHour recently, this city’s reputation, once again, lies at the mercy of a global audience. The recent incident that unfurled on the parking lot of a Berkley gas station prompted Ms. Woodruff (co-managing editor of PBS’ NewsHour) to raise the relevant, but perhaps disparaging question to Mr. Gerson and Mr. Shields, ”what’s going on in St. Louis”?
Impending sightseeing tours… It should come as no surprise then, not unlike New Orleans’ lower 9th Ward, following Hurricane Katrina, that St. Louis sightseeing tours will likely, if they haven’t already, include, visits to the Shaw neighborhood, the communities of Ferguson and Berkley, and Clayton’s Justice Center each of which was the origin of countless hours of live video feeds globally. Do you, like I, wonder who will write the narrative for these sure to come ‘sight seeing’ tours?
Reputation nosedive, irreversible, permanent, or salvageable… To bestow absolutely no disrespect to any of the tragic events that have occurred, or the words that have been spoken, and the hurt that is now unforgettably embedded since mid-August, 2014, our city’s reputation has taken a decided nosedive.
Materialization of reputation risks like this are humanly, emotionally, and intellectually quick, with the economic and competitive advantage consequences moving at a somewhat slower pace insofar as being fully felt. But, perhaps the latter will be one motivator that brings committed people to the table.
Precisely how the adverse reputation St. Louis has acquired is subject to some qualification. That is, how citizens of St. Louis, outside observers, visitors, and prospective businesses wishing to expand or relocate in greater St. Louis are variously dependent on how they personally understand the origins and reasons that collectively contributed to this city’s current reputational state. Obviously, merely returning to its former state, absent viable, relatively quick, permanent, and sustainable change would be a devastating blow to reputation re-builds.
Reconciliation… Experience suggests the answers to these critical questions are inseparable from the emotional trauma following the death of loved ones to their families, friends, and supporters. Deeply rooted emotional wounds of this magnitude take time to reach some point of psychological and emotional reconciliation, should it ever occur. In 2015, I would not forecast that to commence absent viable, acceptable, and trustworthy options being on the table for near term financing, execution, and follow-through.
Make no mistake… But, make no mistake, the city of St. Louis, many of its citizens, and to be sure, its businesses, large and small, have and will continue to receive both subtle and direct questions about conducting business with firms in a city with a globally tarnished civil rights reputation. That includes businesses with prospects of locating in St. Louis. The latter of course is difficult to quantify, but let there be no doubt, such issues have already been on the agenda in numerous boardrooms and c-suites across America, as well they should!
Not in my backyard… All this leaves me genuinely puzzled by the opposition to Reverend Larry Rice’s downtown shelter for homeless and how this issue is being addressed by a coalition of downtown businesses. Admittedly, my familiarity with this issue is far from that of an insider. I did however, observe a Rice shelter opponent being interviewed locally who, quite naively, in my judgment, note Rice’ shelters’ coded capacity vs. actual occupancy was the reason why existing downtown businesses are leaving and prospective businesses are electing to situate elsewhere. Through my lens as mitigating reputation risk, I am quite confident opposition of this type can only exacerbate St. Louis’ endeavor to recoup its reputation. There are always suitable and viable options, providing of course, decision makers are genuinely willing to look for them.
As always, reader comments are respected and encouraged.