Posted on: September 24, 2009 11:02 pm

Analyzing the true role of a publicist

The recent twitters of athletes have brought into question the ability of a person to intelligently and strategically think for his or her own best interest.  The results have made the importance of employing a publicist or press agent to speak for them to prevent these P.R. disasters.

An up and coming athlete, actor, or musician needs a publicist to get the word out about their talents.  They need a figure that the public trusts to say that this person is worth investing time and money in.

But once an athlete or artist reaches the level of household star status, the role of publicists and press agents changes dramatically.

Once the public accepts a person as a celebrity the job of these agents is to keep their clients out of the press, unless it is a piece that will portray their clients in the best possible light.

Athletes, actors, and musicians have different skills, but all play by the same rules and look to the same public to earn their income.  Once the hard task of breaking these people to the public and gaining public approval is achieved the most important public relations strategy is to minimize the celebrities' chances of making an a$$ out of themselves.

Depending on the client this job can be very time consuming.

The Rolling Stones realized these things in the knick of time, and it probably saved their career.

In 1972 the Stones were given temporary Visas to tour the
US.  Due to their lengthy drug history their status in the state department was always up in the air.

Instead of letting outside companies film their tour the Stones decided that it would be more intimate and cost effective to hire their own crew and make their own documentary.  Robert Frank was hired and the Stones started rolling.

Because there was no filter between the band and the filmmaker the results of the tour documentary were very unfiltered and revealing.  Graphic drug use was included as well as a scene with naked groupies and the road crew involved in compromising activities.

At the end of the tour the Stones sat down with their management and reviewed the results of the footage they had shot.  Seeing this in black and white convinced the Stones wisely to shelve the project and never release it to the public.

If twitter had been around in 1972 the Stones may have released it before they came to (or were talked back into) their senses.  Despite shelving the project word had reached the government and the Nixon administration became determined never to allow these youth corrupting foreign nationals back into the country.

This situation could have killed the Stones' career.  Fortunately cooler heads intervened.

The Stones immediately hired publicist Paul Wasserman and lawyer Bill Carter.  Wasserman was the top publicist to the stars.  His job was to filter the press until his clients were portrayed in the best possible light.  Carter was a former secret service agent with vast political connections who could pull the right governmental strings to give the Stones a second chance (or third, or fourth).

Mick Jagger's realization that he needed help to maintain the image of his band (combined with the inglorious end to the Nixon administration) saved the Stones from being banned from their biggest market and saved their careers.

When I look at the Michael Vick situation I can't help but be reminded of the controversies surrounding the Stones.  Both had run afoul of public sentiment and needed a press makeover.  The job that Vick's people have done is just as important as the job that the Rolling Stones' publicists did almost thirty years before.

First Vick aligned himself with an ally that is morally beyond reproach in Tony Dungy.  Then he made contact with the humane society and attended strategic events to build good publicity, like speaking to school children and attending fund raisers to stop animal abuse.

Then his P.R. firm arranged for a softball interview on sixty minutes with James Brown (a man who has never before, or since, interviewed a person for 60 minutes).  Vick was given the questions, wrote out his answers with his publicists, and memorized the answers.

These actions softened the blow of his reinstatement and will allow him to resume his career.

I give you these two examples to show you the true nature of the press and show you that employing a filter between your true nature and your perceived image is always in your best professional interest.

Posted on: August 15, 2009 1:56 am

Vick's best case might be Eagles' worst case

Because Sportsline has a letter limit for titles let me state the full title of my article.

Vick's best case scenario might be the Eagles' worst case scenario.

Forget all the "should they or shouldn’t they" talk surrounding the Vick to the Eagles announcement.  Let us examine what this acquisition really means for the Eagles this year and in the years to come.


I was listening to Sirius Satellite Radio this morning when an analyst on the NFL channel (124) posed this question.  Wouldn’t the best case scenario for the success of Michael Vick be a worst case scenario for the Philadelphia Eagles?


The goal for Vick should be to get out on the field during games, make spectacular plays, and win fan and coach support for giving him a larger workload, and ultimately, a starting quarterback job.


For a team that has just given McNabb a two year extension, has a reliable backup in Feely, and has drafted high and spent big money on the future (Kolb), I don’t know where or even if Vick fits into the overall scheme.


If Vick can produce on the field, wouldn’t that be setting the Eagles up for a major quarterback controversy?


This situation has happened before in Philadelphia, albeit in very different circumstances.  But the end results may be the same.


My US History teacher always said that if we don’t learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it (I’m pretty sure he lifted that phrase from someone more profound, but I heard it from him first).


Therefore I submit to you, the reader, a trip down memory lane to remember the Eagles of the mid-eighties.


Ron Jaworski was a quarterback who had done more for the Eagles than any other player at the Eagles' QB position had done in twenty five years or more.


He was a proven veteran who had led the Eagles to the big game five years before.  He was the face of the franchise.


In 1985 Jaws was challenged by a young player named Randall Cunningham.  The coaches saw how explosive he could be and sought out ways to adapt him into the offense.


Cunningham was electrifying, but to the overall detriment of the team.  Jaws was 6-6 as a starter, while Cunningham was 1-3.  The Eagles finished fourth in the NFC East that year.


1986 saw an increased effort to make Cunningham a bigger part of the offense.  He regularly came in on third downs, and he performed well.


While this may have gotten the Eagles a few first downs, it created a rift among fans and players.  Ron Jaworski, who had been the unquestioned face of the franchise for many years, was getting booed every time he went out on the field.  Cunningham was cheered.


The 1986 Eagles finished fourth again, with their record dipping to an abysmal 5-10-1.


Jaws left after that year and Randall became the starter.  Although the Eagles finished 7-8 and missed the playoffs again Randall eventually became a very good QB.


The first "scramble first" QB led the Eagles to three consecutive playoff seasons, but never to the Superbowl.  The Eagles’ desire to showcase Cunningham led to two horrific seasons and the jettisoning of their most bankable player.


The comparisons are eerily similar.  McNabb is the face of the franchise.  He is five years removed from taking his team to the Promised Land.  His new team mate is a "scramble first" QB with great athleticism and instincts.


As I see it the Eagles' goal SHOULD be for a healthy McNabb to play every game and lead his team back to the Superbowl.


NFL players are big boys.  They are pros. 


Off field distractions don’t bother them that much.  However, a QB controversy could tear a team apart.


Therefore I caution Eagle fans, players, and coaches to be careful what you wish for.


Vick may be an exciting player, but does his upside come at the expense of the goals of the Eagles as a team?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com