Philadelphia’s Plummeting Reputation Hindering COVID Comeback

Member Group : Broad + Liberty

By Dan Cirucci and Lisa Simon

A shooting in broad daylight at 17th and Chestnut. A woman beaten to death by a 12-year-old. A commuter stabbed twice at a center city PATCO station. A passenger thrown onto the subway tracks under City Hall. A congresswoman carjacked in South Philly.

Philadelphia’s burgeoning crime problem is a daily nightmare.

Today, Philadelphia ranks above the national average in terms of crime and has the highest violent crime rate of the ten American cities with a population greater than one million residents. With a record 562 homicides last year Philadelphia’s murder rate once again jumped by more than eleven percent. And now, a new round of carjackings has racked the city.

An old adage rings true: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

And yes, these dastardly deeds are taking a toll on Philadelphia’s reputation and no doubt preventing the city’s economy from making a much-needed post Covid recovery.

Consider the following conclusions from a recent Pew Charitable Trusts study:

  • Since the Covid pandemic the city “has underperformed the national economy, recovering more slowly than many other cities have.”
  • Philadelphia’s job losses in the critical leisure and hospitality sector have more than doubled the national average and the same is true in the city’s largest job sector, health care and social assistance.
  • Since the pandemic more people are leaving the city. In fact, the average monthly number of people moving out of the city has nearly doubled.
  • Working from home seems more permanent and less temporary. It’s now estimated that 14 to 27 percent of people who worked on-site in Philadelphia pre-pandemic will “work remotely some or all of the time moving forward.”

The bottom line: a flight from the city and a sense of abandonment.

At this critical juncture, Philadelphia needs reputation management. Reputation includes the intellectual, emotional and behavioral response to the public perception of any brand. In this case the brand is Philadelphia. And those of us in public relations know that reputation can drive business away or send it soaring to new, robust levels.

Next year is a municipal election year for Philadelphia — the city’s chance to recruit a new crop of leaders who will put Philadelphia’s future (and its reputation) first. Key business, civic and community stakeholders must unite now with an eye toward shared goals centered around brand building and brand management. The city’s public relations professionals stand ready to help. But first must come a recognition of the seriousness of the problem and a willingness to put aside past differences, recriminations and failed policies.

The hour is late. Philadelphia’s brand is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The time for “many good deeds” is now!

Dan Cirucci and Lisa Simon are inductees of the Philadelphia Public Relations Hall of Fame.