Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

Tiger Woods and the PR disaster

Tiger Woods in 2007

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Crisis Communication is an integral part of a PR profession. A PR professional worth his salt will highlight whatever crisis communication he has handled in his career on his profile. But not every professional get his chance of handling crisis, and even if they do, it could prove disastrous even for their own careers if not handled well.

So how important is learning about Crisis Communication and how do we go about doing that. The easiest way, would be to pick up real-life situations and analyze what better could have been done in the given situation to diffuse crisis and restore the lost reputation.

Let’s take an example of a very recent incident of Tiger Woods, who is going through his life’s worst crisis and as a PR counselor, lets analyze how the fiasco would have handled better.

Let’s take a shot…

Wood’s crisis management PR advisers, are certainly giving him bad advices.  This situation is not going to just go away.  With every passing day, this situation is growing worse for him.

It’s very clear that the main mistake being made by Tiger Woods and his advisers is failing to understand the new media landscape’s hunger for every little detail. Tiger Woods let 13 hours lapse after the ill-fated day’s early-morning accident without issuing an explanation, he ceded control of his story not only to legitimate news outlets, but also to celebrity gossip mongers on the hunt for a tale –- made up or otherwise -– of adultery and mayhem.

Tell it first, tell it yourself and tell it all, should have the first strategy wood’s and his advisors should have adopted as that has been one of the most tried and true formula for handling a messy public relations crisis in the smoothest possible way.

PR analyst and author Gerry McCusker suggests that Woods or his advisers’ game plan must include four R’s of crisis management: *Regret, Responsibility, Remedial action* and bringing back the lost *Reputation.*

He suggests Woods must move towards honesty and “Get Real”. Platitudes the wrong attitude! Woods’ (or his advisers’) attempts to ’soft shoes shuffle’ the issue away is a rookie mistake. The longer Tiger takes to come clean and address the allegations in a responsible and genuine way, the longer the issues will play out in our ever-expanding, ever intrusive media.

Tiger Woods reputation management plans are being driven by lawyers, who may not be best qualified to counsel the golfer in the court of public opinion.  Add to that, the fact that Woods previously unblemished reputation as one of the world’s nicest guys, actually works against him as those others involved air their dirty laundry over the matter.

Another mistake woods is making is hiring a paid spokespersons respond to the crisis makes it seem like he is hiding something.  “Why is he having a paid mouthpiece respond unless he is afraid to answer our questions?” seems a common media response.

Wood’s statement like “I want to keep it private” no longer works with a public that feels it somehow deserves to know the intimate details about the celebrities it worships.

The public (and media) love to put people on pedestals, and then delights in knocking them off them. How celebrities deal with it will go a long way in determining if they will be back on the pedestal.

It is still not too late for Woods to set things straight.  Call a press conference and come clean about all the details that transpired.  If the details are ugly, so be it.

Tiger Woods must move to restore his credibility and a front foot position at a time when various other ‘players’ in the drama that is his personal life are coming to the fore. They are getting traction, while Tiger is being judged by inaction. Gerry McCusker, concludes that Woods might want to take control by fronting up to the media and public with an admission, some heartfelt contrition and tangible evidence that he’s prepared to address any problems or challenges in his life. As a fearless (and much-loved for it) sporting celebrity, this would reflect the kind of bravery and congruence the golfer’s adoring public expect from their idol.

What’s your take… what would you do, if you would have been Woods PR advisor? Please comment.

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5 Responses »

  1. As of now Accenture has decided to cut off the association with him.. the others still stay

  2. Agree with R-4 strategy. If I were Woods’ spin doctor, I would ask him issue a public statement – regretting his mistakes. Then, if things permit, I would ask the Woods’ couple to make public appearances like going to a church together…and give photo ops to convey the message that everything is OK with the couple. The wife also has a major role to play in playing a “forgive-n-forget” strategy. The, the coupke wd give carefully crafted, controlled and pre-recorded TV interviews, write on Blogs and attend live web chats.

    And, finally give a New Year message to all his fans and sponsors.

    My fee for this advice?

  3. Nike is the only one to retain him — rest all have withdrawn contracts

  4. Thanx Vikram for asharing this piece with us at the forum, gives out some interesting ancetodes which we can retian through our PR careers

  5. Couple of points to note here with specific regard to Tiger Woods.

    1. Crisis Communications does not exist as a function minus the personality / character / values of the brand.
    2. Crisis Management runs parallel and often must precede Crisis Communication and both often are handled by two different entities.In Woods case the former is being handled by Lawyers and the latter handler gets lost in the personal nature of the issue
    3. Celebrities dont do the dissapearing act only with the public. They also do the same with their own staff. The dissapearing act is done to personally take stock of whats lost and by the time they resurface a lot of ground is lost by the Communication handlers.
    4. Coming out Clean has to then have a follow up plan. This follow up plan needs time of the celebrity . This time if he doesnt commit to , Coming out Clean often falls on its face when its a mere statement which is dug in and every word is xrayed.

    Most importantly. The best PR person in the world cannot save a brand with merely a good PR plan. The Brand must have something to say for itself.

    In Tiger Woods case – his brand is him and there is nothing to say when you are exposed as a voyeur and more and more “exposers “are getting into the gravy train. what can be protected is his skill / his business -ie his Golf . His caddy’s statement day before was the best PR statement that ever was endorsing his business and it may have been missed by PR people or not encashed on but its a gold mine for those who root for his skillsets – his real business of Golf.

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Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed by me in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the views of my employer or the organizations I have been associated with. I believe in the principle of sharing information. Feel free to link to any of the posts in this blog.
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