Michael Vick Unleashes Ethical Dog Fight for PR

Posted on August 21, 2009


Michael Vick Unleashes Ethical Dog Fight for PR

Your Next PR Client?

Your Next PR Client?

Working up a good sweat I half watched ESPN. The gym’s TV volume was off, so, they were soundlessly talking about Michael Vick. What caught my attention, courtesy of the closed-captioning, was the discussion about the PR team he hired and the issues they faced.

Given the appalling nature of his crime it was likely that animal rights activist would look to thwart any of his outreach toward the animal rights community.

The ESPN talking head went on to say that Vick’s PR strategy was to take him to events without publicity, under the radar, to gauge the reaction of the animal rights community. Simple, but brilliant. I wondered what the PR community felt about taking him on as a client. So, I ran a highly scientific-ish poll via Twitter.

The Question

Would you take Michael Vick on as a PR client?

The Results

Steve Farnsworth's Digital Marketing Mercenary

Steve Farnsworth's Digital Marketing Mercenary

54% voted “Yes” (29 votes),  46% voted “No” (25 votes)

The results show that PR professionals have mixed feelings on this issue. However, by far the most interesting aspect of this poll were the respondents’ comments and their passion.

What PR Professionals Thought About Vick As A Client

For some great insight on this topic click here to read highlights from those comments.

Lisa C. voiced the sentiment of many responds when she said, “He’d be a huge challenge.” However, she also cautioned that you better be prepared. “Vick has a lot of money, but he’d be a big headache for any PR person — unless you’re Wonder Woman or Superman.”

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Zack S. was strongly attracted to the professional challenge that Vick would be, which a lot of people noted here in the comments and on Twitter. “Imagine how creative you’re going to need to be with the amount of media scrutiny both on and off the field. It would be a challenge, but a rewarding one,” remarked Zack S. Additionally, he acknowledged ethical concerns raised by other commenters by saying, “I strongly disagree with what Vick did, but I also believe in rehabilitation.”

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Noted blogger Danny Brown (@dannybrown) said, “I believe that people deserve a second chance, and from what I’ve read of Vick (I don’t follow the ins and outs of the NFL), he’s done his time and seems remorseful.” But, that said, “It’s just something I personally wouldn’t entertain.”

Danny went on to make an interesting observation, “It is a shame that it seems to be morphing into a race issue now, as numerous reports now seem to be showing. It should be looked at on merit and not color of skin.”

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George F. Snell III (@HighTalk), who is the only person I know that can list Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi and Libya as a client reference (no joke), said, “No doubt it would be a challenge, but I think Vick means it when he says he regrets what happened. People can change and learn from their mistakes. He paid his price with prison time. So why shouldn’t he get a chance at a second shot?”

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Stephen Denny (@Note_to_CMO) commented here and on his blog that, “(Vick’s) ‘up card’ is the obvious play, which is unbelievable and not a credible role for him to play. The ‘down card’ for him is redemption, forgiveness, education, making smart decisions and following the right path.”

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PR maven Rachel Kay (@RachelAKay) said what many people expressed in one way or another, “I can’t wholeheartedly believe he is remorseful – what changed his mind? There was incredible cruelty involved with those animals. I can’t ethically or effectively represent something that is so against what I believe in.”

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Industry veteran Lou Hoffman (@LouHoffman) offers sage and matter-of-fact advice, “My decision to take on Mr. Vick would depend on the introductory meeting.

“After small talk and the perfunctory smoked salmon, I would ask a couple simple questions–

“Do you want counsel and will you follow our counsel?

“If I came away from this exchange feeling the “yes and yes” were sincere, I’d take on the engagement.”

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Robert Dowling (@RobertDowling) strikes the most salient note for me when he says, “Look, if you are concerned about ethics or love animals, etc. this is the guy to take on as a client. He’s done his time and is in a unique position to do the right thing. Why not help?

“Personally, I’d build a campaign that makes him a one-man army set on erasing dog fighting from the face of the earth. I bet he could make a difference.”

Parting Thought

All the commentators have expressed the ethical issues very well, and demonstrate the passion that PR professionals have for their clients, a good challenge,  and their genuine desire to change the world–as a profession it’s something we don’t articulate very well to the public normally.

The irony is if Michael Vick honestly realized how repugnant what he did was, and felt contrition beyond the PR nightmare he is in, it could be a huge boon for animal abuse awareness.

Because of the opportunity it presents I voted “Yes” in the poll. That said, I am a bit reluctant to believe that someone who fights dogs to the death would have that genuine introspection. I really hope that I’m wrong because this is an exceptional teachable moment.

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What do you think? You should leave a comment below.

To read the unabridged comments from the origan poll, please click here.

What PR Professionals Thought About Vick As A Client