PR advice for Vick: Don't pass on charity
The PR machine is in full tilt for Michael Vick. But the Eagles' newest player needs to do a lot more than appear on television, be photographed with poodles, or express remorse for the dogfighting scandal that sent him to jail, local marketing and public relations professionals say.
The PR machine is in full tilt for Michael Vick.
But the Eagles' newest player needs to do a lot more than appear on television, be photographed with poodles, or express remorse for the dogfighting scandal that sent him to jail, local marketing and public relations professionals say.
He needs to walk the walk: Do meaningful charity and community service, and actively fight against animal abuse such as the case that landed him in the slammer.
"If I was running his PR, I'd say, 'Look, dude, you are going to have to demonstrate that you are a big crime fighter against this,' " said Jan Talamo, cofounder and chief creative officer of the Star Group in Cherry Hill.
Talamo said he would advise Vick to become aligned with the Philadelphia Police Department to rid the city of animal cruelty. "I'd have him in city neighborhoods that are hot spots for dogfighting to speak at town-hall meetings and educate people."
Peter Madden, founder and president of AgileCat marketing in Philadelphia, said: "People want to see contrition. It needs to be meaningful and it needs to be consistent."
"Michael Vick needs to make sure his off-field performance matches or outweighs his on-field performance," Madden said. "He needs to take this to an entirely other level, doing real charity, real community service, and just stay the heck out of any limelight."
David Neff, president of Neff Associates advertising and public relations in Center City, said Vick "must become a poster child for animal rights."
"I would have him actively pursue a campaign in inner cities across America against abuse of dogs and animals," Neff said. "He has to be aggressive and proactive in his approach."
But St. Joseph's University marketing professor David Allan said Vick and the Eagles would need to "tread slowly because people are going to think it's contrived."
"I think he's going to have to form a foundation, a nonprofit, with total community ties."
"And, by the same token, he's going to have to keep his nose clean," Allan said. "He's going to have to stay out of bars, stay out of trouble, be careful of who he hangs around with and where he's seen. He's not going to want to be on South Street at 2 a.m."
Local marketing professionals expressed surprise that the Eagles had signed Vick. "It came down to they needed a backup quarterback," Allan said. "They decided the potential of him was worth the pain."
But the animal-cruelty flap will never totally go away. There will be animal-rights activists picketing outside Lincoln Financial Field. And Vick will likely get booed by fans on the road.
As for Philadelphia fans, well, it will depend.
Some in the community are saying how could the Eagles sign Vick - look at what he did, said Steve Albertini, general manager of public relations for Tierney Communications. Others say he deserves a second chance, and still others are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
"Then there are Eagles fans who probably just want to win a Super Bowl," Albertini said, "and if this guy will help do it, they'll forget about what he did."
Albertini said Vick must continue to show that he is taking responsibility for what he did, and give back to the community:
"I would suggest that he reach out and offer his services to a couple of organizations - the Salvation Army would be a great fit because of work they do in the inner city."
Madden, of AgileCat, said Vick should visit inner-city schools to speak to students "about second chances, about not screwing up. He needs to engage with local charities that deal with animals.
"I don't mean do a big press conference. Get truly engaged, and really help."
"When it comes to Eagles fans, trust me," Madden said. "After his first touchdown pass, it will be a forgotten memory when it comes to people who love the Eagles. It comes down to his on-field performance, but off-field contrition. It needs to be consistent, and to keep going."