Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Problem with Tiger's Statement

Tiger Woods has weighed in on his accident. He issued a statement to his website late Sunday afternoon. It's really a non-statement in that it answers no questions that people have about the accident. One sentence in particular stands out:
"This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way."
We all want many things.

Not to be a pessimist, but that's not going to happen. In my first post about Tiger's Troubles I wrote that all that Tiger had to do was to tell the truth. Nothing in his statement appears to be untruthful, it is simply 180 words that contain nothing of any substance.

The same reasons Tiger wants privacy are the same reasons that he needs to answer people's questions. The people Tiger wants to continue to buy the $90 polo shirts and $25 ball caps feel like Tiger is hiding something. Fame can be so inconvenient! This isn't about protecting Tiger's personal privacy, but to protect the corporate image of Tiger Woods.

In that way, Tiger is no different than any large organization under siege. He is in denial, hoping against all available indications that this will go away quietly. There were three things that I said were certainties in my first post:

  • The truth will come out
  • People will talk
  • The media (including new media) will be relentless until the story is finished

Tiger's statement has done nothing to stop any of the three. In fact, his statement will most likely aggravate the situation. The police report and 911 tapes will get more attention now than if Tiger had simply told us what happened.

Most irritating to me is that many of the people who are big Tiger Woods fans are people who run big companies that will find themselves in crisis. And when people like me come to consult with them, they're going to want to be just like Tiger... just like they do when they are on the golf course.

Then I will have to waste time explaining to them that there are two things Tiger does that they can't do.

Tiger said in his statement that he is human and not perfect. He's asking us to have a little faith in him. Tiger should have more faith in his fans. The people that love him when he hits a bunker off the fairway won't love him less because he hit a fire hydrant and tree at the end of his driveway.

Bill Salvin


  1. So here is a thought...How much, in terms of endorsements, Brand value and future opportunity does Tiger gain, or more importantly lose.... if he comes clean?

    A public entity needs full disclosure quickly as they are "owned" by the people. This is what is necessary and required.

    Tiger is private "brand" there value in protecting the preception of the brand if he can delay his way out of it? Does he hurt himself (financially) if he announces what everyone suspects? "Yeah, I had an affair, now buy my polo shirts."

    Is there any validity to keeping mum, having a cloud over your head and keeping your Jack or coming clean potentially losing something concrete?

    The marketing team at NIKE (Isn't that a Roman God?) might have a hard time renewing an agreement with a confirmed adulterer, but, I wager, can overlook what they can believe to be unconfirmed rumors from a know cash cow.

    I'll argue that crisis communications has two sets of rules; the public and the private. Tiger really owes nobody nothing.

    Now, discuss amongst yourselves....

  2. OK, game on my friend. Tiger doesn't own his reputation. We do. Because Tiger's reputation is based on our willingness to believe him, to trust him and to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's made himself out to be more than just a golfer. Now he doesn't like the requirements that come with what he's decided he wants to be. Sorry, it doesn't work like that. He's like most celebs, pretty people and athletes... rules are for other people, especially when they are inconvenient.

    Nike, by the way is the Greek Goddess of Triumph. And quite possibly free gifts.

    Tiger does owe us something. Because he's already asked so much of us (buy my stuff, watch me golf, pay me for pics of my wedding, live like a Tiger...).

    Is it really too much to ask that he simply tell us what happened?

  3. Has Tiger really asked so much of us? We are never obliged to buy stuff and more stuff no matter who endorses it. We are free people, or so we proclaim.

    The problem seems more systemic in American culture. We want to live like celebrities and in fact, we want to be celebrities. Celebrities validate us psychologically, emotionally and financially as a culture. Why is that?

    It would be nice if we could get back to validating ourselves and creating some sustainable industries instead of fame and buying stuff and more stuff as a national identity.

  4. Sorry, this is still about the money.

    If Tiger comes clean, he loses. If he stays on the down low he has a "chance at redemption." Also, he is probably work out a deal---that is the real reson for the quiet.

    The only one who wins on this is the girlfriend. Tiger, her lawyers and the NIKE people are in turbo-turbine mode cutting a deals and coordinating statements.

    Public entities have no need for message negotiation but private companies have investors to protect.

    Issuing a fast statement looses all leverage for private negotiation for all parties. There is no benefit in tossing fresh meat to the media. They will only get hungerier and no body makes any money.

  5. Bill-Thanks for reading. I appreciate the comment. As for Tiger's chance at redemption... unless we know what he has done he has nothing to redeem. Staying on the down low is a legit strategy from a legal perspective, but he doesn't seem to have a legal problem here. He has a PR problem. Agree that people need to coordinate statements, but the basic facts of what happened won't change... they are what they are. The vacuum created by Tiger's silence is being filled by people who do not have his interest in mind...just their own.

    I would disagree that tossing fresh meat to the media only makes them hungrier. Starving them makes them hungrier. That's what Tiger's doing right now.

    Tiger has an absolute right to say as much or as little as he wants. But, he's in a tough spot either way he goes.

    And he thought Augusta was tough. Thanks again for reading.

  6. Greta-Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. You are right, we are free people... and Tiger's free to not speak about this ever again. People's expectations seem higher. I don't know if that's because of Tiger's image of being, as he has put it, "boring," or if it is because we're shallow and think that by buying his shirt that we will gain some of his stellar reputation.

    As for humans, focusing on Tiger's problems distracts us from our own. The mortgage can wait while I ponder what Mrs. Woods was doing with the golf club.

    The story will come out. Sadly, there is no way to stop that from happening. All that Tiger has done up to now is ensure it comes out on terms other than his own.

    Thanks for reading, Greta.