Last summer I asked my wife, Lauren, if she'd be interested in moving to Oklahoma City. She hadn't spent much time here. But she was open-minded and we decided to spend a weekend here, scouting neighborhoods, schools and attractions. By the end of that weekend, before we were out of the city, she cast her vote: “OK,” she said. “I'm in.”
I asked her what she had noticed and if anything had come as a surprise. “The energy of the people,” she said. “They're making things happen. They seem to believe they can do anything.”
“Hey,” Oklahoma City seems to be saying, “someone needs to step up and offer world-class rowing facilities. Let's do that! Let's have a championship-caliber NBA franchise with a fan base that's the envy of the nation. An iconic downtown skyscraper that rivals anything in Houston. A burgeoning independent arts, film and music scene. Why not us?”
Branding experts say that what you see on the outside of an organization — its reputation — is often a reflection of what's happening on the inside — its culture. In their new book “Rethinking Reputation,” Fraser Seitel and John Doorley draw a clear connection between an organization's self-image, identity and character, and its external reputation. The same is true of cities.
Clearly, Oklahoma City feels good about itself and where it's headed. It's noticed by everyone, from first-time visitors to the national media. In last month's State of the City address, Mayor Mick Cornett reported that a study showed 82 percent of Oklahoma City residents like the direction in which the city is headed. For some context, national studies usually show about 40 percent of residents like the direction the country is going, regardless of who's in the White House. In today's age of cynicism and divisiveness, Oklahoma City's approval ratings are simply staggering.