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Mis-Communicator of the Week: The Mayor of São Paulo

5th November 2013

It's a common part of the PR plan for many a city or tourist destination with a less than perfect reputation. There are perceptions to be changed and if the gritty neighbourhoods can just be shown to be full of hard-working people instead of rampant gangs of crack-ridden, gun-toting, maniacs then what can go wrong? A press trip is always a good idea, isn't it?

Brazil is one of the world's hot destinations at the moment. Next year they host the football world cup to be quickly followed in 2016 by the summer Olympic Games. Two amazing opportunities to showcase the country, boost tourism and secure foreign investment. The problem is that foreign perceptions of Brazil - or at least parts of its major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo - are that it is unsafe.

One recent attempt to dispel this perception was led by Fernando Haddad, mayor of São Paulo, who took journalists on a tour of an area of his city termed 'Cracklandia' because it is so over-run with drug addicts. The Mayor made a surprise visit with the city’s security chief and health secretary to show off their attempts to clean the area, and the city more widely, up.

Unfortunately the trip didn't quite go to plan as a small boy pulled a knife on a cameraman who was filming some of the addicts and stole his mobile phone. Events went from bad to worse as things escalated and the cameraman was then beaten up by junkies as he tried to retrieve his stolen property.

Perhaps now journalists will know why most press trips are so sanitised and based around five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and the occasional briefing conducted safely in a secure, air-conditioned office.

For the mayor of São Paulo, who dared to be different, it is another week where international media are reporting on the dangers lurking on the streets of his city, which is why he is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite

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