Defend Charlotte: Polishing the Queen City's Image


by Will Kennedy
Bio | Email | Follow: @willkennedynews by Photojournalist Billy Carrier

CHARLOTTE, NC -- Image is everything.
When scandal tarnishes your image, you have to take action. Ex-mayor Patrick Cannon's arrest on corruption charges could cost the Queen City future business. 
A mayor arrested, accused of corruption, resigning under a cloud of allegations. How does a city deal with that? The city of Charlotte went on the offensive, and public relations pros say that was exactly what was needed. 
"As immediately as possible, with whatever information you have. Even if it's just a little nugget," says crisis management expert Dianne Chase. "And say we'll get back to you with more. But get out in front of that message."
"Be open, honest, and truthful is the thing that I recommend to our clients," says Patrick Pearson, Vice President of Redfont Marketing. "Don't try to hide anything. Don't try to cover things up."
Dianne Chase is a senior partner with C4CS, dealing with communication strategies and crisis management. When city, county, and chamber leaders pointed to the Cannon scandal as an isolated incident, and touted the city's history of clean government, it was the right move.
"Communicate, communicate, communicate. You really to have to get out. You have to be honest, forthcoming," says Chase. "You have to say what you know, what you're doing about it."
No Charlotte mayor or city official has faced corruption charges before. Patrick Pearson has 25 years of marketing and PR experience, and knows Patrick Cannon's arrest was a huge blow to the Queen City.
"It could very easily and quickly tarnish the image of the city," says Pearson. "But the city has done a really excellent job of getting past that, and moving very quickly for a replacement and really moving on in my opinion."
The city quickly named a new mayor, and the council is discussing potential changes to its ethics policies. All steps that could help speed the recovery.
"I think it will be through pretty quickly. I really do. Again, because people will get the sense that this is not who we are. It doesn't define who we are," says Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter
"I think it can be moved past, for sure. Again, it's all about how the city steps forward. How the officials step forward, and put a new face on the next phase," says Chase.
Cannon is free on $25,000 bond. He faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted of all charges. His case could go before the grand jury on May 20.
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