Forbes: The World’s Most Reputable Cities – Reputation Institute
The World’s Most Reputable Cities
By Sue Adams
What cities around the globe have the best all-around reputations? What does that even mean and why does it matter? The Reputation Institute, a global private consulting firm based in New York and Copenhagen, has just released its third annual list of 100 cities, ranked according to ratings in three categories: advanced economy, appealing environment and effective government. According to the Institute’s managing partner Fernando Prado, the list shows where people and companies are most and least likely to want to visit, do business and invest.
Topping the list this year: Sydney, followed by Toronto, Stockholm, Vienna and Venice. At the bottom of the list, not surprisingly: Cairo, Nairobi, Karachi, Tehran and Baghdad, in last place.
The 16-year-old Reputation Institute consults with branches of a dozen city and federal governments that are trying to boost their international image, like the Brand Spain project of the Spanish government and London & Partners, which is working on boosting London’s profile. It also has more than 100 corporate clients, from Unilever and MasterCard to Petrobas, the giant Brazilian energy concern and Santander, the huge Spanish bank. The ranking is a way to boost the Reputation Institute’s own expertise in the eyes of its clients and potential clients and to show how cities’ reputations measure up to one another worldwide.
The results are worth noting. The Reputation Institute gathered its data from a large sample, an online poll of some 22,000 people in the G8 countries, which it ran in January and February of this year. The Institute instructed respondents only to answer questions about cities they knew. Some 200-300 people ranked each of the 100 cities.
Within the three categories, they ranked cities on 13 attributes. The two most important, according to Prado: whether the city is considered beautiful, and whether it is a safe place for visitors and residents.
After those threshold questions, respondents answered queries about cities’ economies, including whether they produce a wide array of unique products and services, whether they house the headquarters of leading companies, and whether the cities are technologically advanced, financially stable, have potential for growth and are generally a favorable environment for doing business.
As for environment, in addition to beauty, the questionnaire asked about experiences like food, sports, architecture and entertainment, and whether well-known people like artists, scientists, inventors and athletes live there.
In the government category, in addition to safety, it asked about the structure of political and legal institutions, whether the cities follow “progressive social, economic, and environmental policies,” whether the transportation and communications infrastructure works and whether they are “run by well-respected leaders.”
Aside from the No. 1 and 2 cities, Sydney and Toronto, the top of the list is dominated by small European cities. Florence is No. 6 and Edinburgh No. 7. A second Canadian city, Vancouver, comes in at No. 14, followed by a second Australian city, Melbourne, at No. 15.
The most highly rated American city is New York, at No. 21, behind Dublin and one slot above Paris. As a longtime New York resident, knowing that it is a target for tourists and strivers and a favored spot for celebrities and people on the Forbes Billionaires list to have pied à terres, I asked Prado why it doesn’t rank higher on the list. At least it’s climbed 12 spots from last year’s rank of 39. New York ranks No. 1 in the advanced economy category. It also moved up in the appealing environment category, from No. 8 to No. 6. Also many people apparently viewed the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy a year ago as a net positive. In the effective administration category, New York ranked No. 10. But it just doesn’t measure up to cities like Stockholm and Amsterdam when it comes to day-to-day quality of life and security from crimes like robberies.
Paris’s ranking also seems off to me, given how beloved that city is to world travelers. This year it has fallen to No. 22 from last year’s rank of 11. “People love to live in Paris,” says Prado, “but they do not think well about the government and the economy there.” Though Paris comes in No. 2 in terms of appealing environment, just behind Rome, it doesn’t rank in the top 10 for advanced economy or effective administration.
Prado says that international media attention, including fictional films and TV shows, can have a strong impact on a city’s reputation, regardless of the facts. For instance, Bogota, Colombia ranks near the bottom of the list, at No. 89, because of the country’s reputation as a crime-ridden haven for drug dealers, even though both Rio de Janeiro (No. 64) and Sao Paulo (No. 72) have rising crime rates.
As for American cities, they fare relatively well, with most in the top 50, except for Chicago (No. 53) and Las Vegas (No. 57). Like Bogota, Las Vegas’s reputation is sullied by movies and TV shows like C.S.I. that depict it as a place where crime dominates.
The Reputation Institute also does a countries ranking, which it releases in June. Prado says the U.S. has been climbing that list in recent years. But what about the weeks-long government shutdown and the country’s near-default on its debts? How will the latest legislative mess affect the world’s perception? Prado predicts that while Americans believed they were in the midst of a crisis, people around the world saw the shutdown and the potential default as short-term problems. “Unless there is a real economic crisis,” says Prado, “we won’t see people’s favorable impression of the U.S. and its cities shift.”