As a PR guy, I often get asked how to turn around a bad reputation. There used to be a long answer. I now have a much shorter one. Look at Alex Smith. For his first five years in the NFL, the 49ers quarterback was much maligned for his play, the perception that he was soft, and that he wasn’t Aaron Rodgers, who was drafted 23 slots after him in the draft and was a local guy who grew up in Chico and played at Butte College and Cal (oh and won a Super Bowl).
While the 49ers weren’t winning, Alex Smith also did a few things that endeared him even less to local fans. He wore a Padres cap. This was widely perceived as not his not being a team player, and not wanting to be in San Francisco. In fact, it was because he grew up in the San Diego area and was a life-long Padres fan.
A funny thing happened last year. The perception of Alex Smith around the Bay Area changed. First, he started winning. Doing the right thing, winning in the first case, is the first step in turning around people’s perceptions. Along the way, he started wearing something else to press conferences. It was a work shirt given to players by coach Jim Harbaugh. It looked like he worked at a gas station. That he worked hard, and wasn’t a prima donna.
The final step in Alex’s journey in turning around his image with Bay Area Fans. He put away the Padres cap.
He’s no longer, the busted draft pick. The guy who wants to be somewhere else. He’s our quarterback. Welcome to San Francisco Alex. And that, is how you turn around an image.