Ever since the JFK assassination, it seems like Dallas has had something of an image and reputation challenge. Some see the city as a throwback to the "Old West." Others see it as a "get rich quick" type of locale (i.e. J. R. Ewing, etc.). And still others see it as emblematic of a "New South" city with lots of ugly skyscrapers and a flashy pro football team. but not much real substance. Obviously, there are counterpoints to every one of these arguments but, still, perception is usually reality in cases like this.
Now comes another blow to "Big D’s" image. Yesterday, the FBI released its survey of America’s top 10 safest cities and guess who finished dead last? According to the findings, Dallas had 8,484.4 crimes committed per 100,000 people. That equates to one crime per 12 residents. Ouch. Now guess what city topped the list as America’s safest? New York City, which reported 2,675.5 crimes per 100,000 people, or one per 37 residents.
So, what should Dallas do to start turning around its crime problem and resulting image? I have to believe the FBI’s scary figures will impact travel & tourism dollars, not to mention the lucrative conference and trade show business.
Job one is obviously to study what law enforcement agencies in NYC are doing right and apply some of those tactics to its enforcement programs. But, from a PR standpoint, Dallas might want also to highlight those individuals and organizations who have had positive experiences in their city. A viral campaign aimed at meeting planners and travel agents would be smart. As would some sort of effort showing all of the things to do and see in and around Dallas, with the emphasis being on the latter.
That said, there’s only so much that PR and marketing can do for a brand that has inherent problems. In fact, some marketing pundits argue that lots of advertising and PR will actually hurt a bad product or service since it will attract more people to the obvious flaws and initiate a negative word-of-mouth campaign.
So, note to the powers that be in Big D: fix the infrastructure first before you embark on any sort of aggressive publicity campaign. The travel & tourism dollars you save may be your own.