Thursday, August 27, 2009

What happens when the public sees the spin?

The Philadelphia Eagles' decision to sign Michael Vick has unleashed a firestorm in the media, both old and new. Aerial Ellis, who is not from Philadelphia, took a different angle by blogging on the PR frenzy that following the signing. In her excellent blog entry, Aerial calls it A Victory for Vick's PR.

From the objective perspective of a PR professional from outside the city, the campaign to re-brand Vick as remorseful and ready to atone for his six years of running a vicious dog-fighting ring was perfectly orchestrated. Here on the ground, it seemed as if almost everyone saw the PR campaign for what it was. I don't think anyone changed their minds after the onslaught of interviews and Vick chest beating. Eagles fans were happy to believe that everyone deserves a second chance, as long as they can bring the team to the Superbowl. Non- football fans, especially those who are animal lovers, believe Vick is evil incarnate and would love to see him suffer the 21st century of being ridden out of town on a rail.

But I don't think anyone viewed the PR campaign as anything but spin. Even before Vick went public, people knew he was going to repent and join forces with the SPCA. Everyone I spoke with knew that it was a game he was playing so he could collect his millions and play football again. After all, for two years, we heard no "mea culpa" even after the verdict that sent him to prison.

So what do you do when the people see the man behind the curtain pulling the strings? Do you just proceed with your campaign as if no one realizes what you are doing? If your PR effort is humbug do you just keep playing the wizard until the fuss dies down?

The Eagles won their first game tonight with Vick on the field. For most of Philadelphia, that was all that needed to happen.

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