The Wall Street Journal ran a story last week on “The Reinvention of Michael Vick,” and the article hit the same familiar points: Might need to re-start as a Wildcat quarterback; must take less money up front to prove himself; could be better off trying the United Football League first.
At this point, I’m as much intrigued by the reinvention of Michael Vick the person. What’s his strategy — I’m assuming he has one — to win back the public he lost when he pleaded guilty? What does he need to do to sway hearts and minds? So I asked a public relations professional.
Gail Sideman has her own firm in Milwaukee — it’s Publiside; catchy name, huh? — and she’s familiar with athletics (she worked as an intern under Claude Felton in Georgia’s sports information office) and Atlanta (she was the Metro Conference’s publicist when the Metro Conference existed and was based here) and electronic media (she works in TV). She’s also a leading exponent of social media, meaning Facebook and Twitter.
I asked her to sketch out a few top-of-the-head bullet points, and she did way more than that. Here, without further ado, is Ms. Sideman’s Quick Fix for Vick:
1. Michael Vick has to talk. He has done time in prison, but has not demonstrated remorse or apologized for his actions. He must talk to his public/fans.
2. He must show he’s human — social media would be a good start for that (really). He could put out some personal thoughts and communicate with fans/potential marketing partners. Right now few want anything to do with him because he’s a felon who instigated the killing of animals. If he wants to show he’s a good guy, he’s got to communicate that sincerely and consistently. His Tweets — or other comments via social media — should include his passion for football, desire to make an honest living and tidbits about his family interactions.
3. AFTER he’s reestablished a connection with football fans and communities and only after he’s garnered some trust should he do any PSAs (public service announcements) for the Humane Society or ASPCA. He must admit to his insensitive, cruel crime and connect with people, many of whom are pet lovers. THEN he can speak about being kind– and SHOW his kindness — to animals. Otherwise, these PSAs look phony and part of canned speak.
4. I’m sure Tony Dungy has spoken at length about this, but Vick has to leave the friends of his youth behind to show he’s moved onto a more trustworthy support system. He needs to surround himself, socialize and work with people with clean images. Guilt by association will continue to rule his life and being with innocent people will go a long way toward restoring his image — maybe even improve what it once was.
Me, I’d say this makes great good sense. There’s nothing outlandish involved, just basic PR. And lo and behold, the AJC’s Megan Matteucci is reporting Vick will be coming here this weekend for, of all things, a Humane Society event.
And the social media aspect, I must say, is most intriguing. Imagine Michael Vick on Twitter. Think he’d draw a few followers? A few hundred thousand? More even than Shaq and Ashton Kutcher combined?
(Oh, and if you’d like to follow Ms. Sideman on Twitter — you’ll learn things, I promise — she’s @Publiside.)