If you're a football fan or a dog owner, you know who Michael Vick is. Once one of the most electrifying players in the NFL, Vick ended up in prison in November 2007 for his involvement in a dog fighting ring. Now, fresh out of prison, he is preparing to make his NFL comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles (with a two-year deal could earn him nearly $7 million).
Americans love their football. But not as much as they love their dogs. Because of the disgusting nature of Vick's crimes against defenseless animals, he would need to face the public and answer some tough questions before he'd be able to hit the field again. To his credit, he stepped into one of the most intense media spotlights in the world for his first major interview - 60 Minutes.
If you didn't get a chance to see Vick being interviewed by James Brown on 60 Minutes, it's worth watching (you can view it here). It's clear that Vick was very well coached prior to the interview. He said all the things he needed to say in order to begin repairing his tarnished public image (e.g. that he was sorry, that he showed poor judgment, that he failed as a leader, that he let people down, that he was disgusted with himself, even that he deserved to lose his $130 million football contract). In the days following the broadcast of the interview, a large number of media observers, bloggers and members of the public remarked that in their opinions, there was something crucial missing from the interview. Was it sincerity? Empathy? A certain look in Vick's eye that was supposed to show he was truly remorseful? Your guess is as good as mine.
The bottom line is that a significant portion of the viewing audience simply didn't believe him. As the interview progresses, it becomes clear that even Brown (the interviewer) is skeptical of Vick's authenticity, asking him, "Michael, is this you talking, or the Vick team of attorneys, image-shapers and the like?" Despite Vick's exceptional handling of the mechanics of the interview, this was one of those times when media training simply wasn't enough. Public relations is about changing minds or changing behaviour. And while Vick said all the right things, it's not clear whether he actually changed any minds.