The Indiana Economic Development Corporation hired the firm Porter Novelli to "strengthen Indiana's global brand reputation as a welcoming place to live, visit and do business," according to a press release Monday. Chris Cotterill, executive vice president of the IEDC, said in an interview with The Fix the decision was "not a response to the recent controversy," but the uproar convinced the state investing in its image was a good idea.
"We're very proud of our state, and we were hurt by the negative attention," he said.
Arizona, which has had its fair share of controversial bills in the late 2000s and early 2010s that were viewed by some as anti-LGBT or anti-immigrant, saw the impact the negative publicity can have. Between 2009, the year before S.B. 1070 about immigration enforcement was signed, and 2012, bookings at the Phoenix Convention Center dropped 30 percent, for example. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has said he wants the state to move forward and has courted businesses since he took office this year.
One route Indiana could take is emphasizing its hospitality.
"I think one of the challenges the state has is to showcase the state's diversity," said Scott Hogenson, a communications consultant who has worked in crisis management.
But its troubles are also more than just communications problem, said Eric Dezenhall, chief executive and co-founder of Dezenhall Resources. "You're dealing with a very volatile issue," he said, and Indiana will have to decide what sort of outcome it wants. Does it want more business in the state? Does it want people to say nice things about it on "Hardball?"
"Some sort of opinion research is going to have to be a part of it," he said. "Before you can know the solution, you have to define the problem."