Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tiger's PR Crisis: What He Got Right

My last post, "The Problem With Tiger's Statement" picked on golf's biggest star for his non-statement which, if you read closely enough is actually a lie.
Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible. Tiger Woods, November 29, 2009
The stories circulating weren't so much irresponsible as they were TRUE.

Tiger was trying to use his reputation or "Tigerness" to shame people so that they would feel bad and prevent embarrassing news from coming out. It worked about as well for Tiger as it would for anyone else. As I said in my first post about his problems, the truth will come out.

I understand the strategy of not saying anything. I'm a Navy guy, I understand what it means to batten down the hatches. But there is a huge difference between securing for heavy seas and hiding below deck to let the sea take you whichever way the winds blow. Navigating in a storm takes active engagement. My friends who have stood a bridge watch in heavy seas will enjoy the understatement.

So what did Tiger do right? He (or his people) maintained the comment function on Tiger's Website. As I write this, there are 19,602 comments on the site; many positive, some fiercely negative. This is important because in our participatory age, we all want to be part of a big story; especially one about a celebrity. Tiger gave that opportunity to people. After eight days of horrible PR mistakes, this is one thing Tiger got right.

Besides the fact that the truth will come out, I said that there were two factors that would keep this story alive. People will talk. And, lord have they ever. The Web is alive with the tales Tiger's mistresses. Whether they actually were one of Tiger's mistresses we don't really know. The last thing is that the media will not stop covering this until everything comes out. The problem with Tiger’s strategy is that the people talking now have more credibility than he does. After all, he’s already been caught in a lie.

Tiger's PR crisis is as ordinary as his sin. Those that don't get out in front of the story find themselves at the mercy of the people who do.

Bill Salvin

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff McDowell/Released


  1. Nice observations.

    I still wonder what is the tangible effect of Tiger's "PR Rope-a-dope?"

    Although the media and voyers fertively craving information have manufactured this "crisis" his silence allowed his attorneys to handle his most important crisis; shoring up his endorsements.

    I might be wrong but to date he has maintained 100% loyality from money partners.

    I'm still wondering what would have happened if Tiger did a hasty press conference with a sheepish "Mea Culpa?" Other women looking for cash would have still surfaced, his wife would still look to a renegotiated prenup (wouldn't it be a post nup?) and the ladies on "the View" would still be salivating with all the "what ifs?"

    Tiger is a master strategist on the course. He has taken a really bad golf situations and with patience (something the "admit everything NOW!crowd completly misses) turned a loss into a win. Panic on the course and on the podium rarely wins the hole.

    Regardless of tempreature of the current media, all this will be old, old news in 3 months. None of his current PR mistakes--or successes--will matter. It is all about protecting the long game.

    I'm all for a full and quick disclousure when a public entity is involved. It is our taxes, votes and trust that need to be reaffirmed.

    I'm not sure what the bankable effect of a pro active media strategy would yeild? I can bet that an "apology tour" would guarentee loss of financial support.

    What counts is who is still backing him financially, who I'll argue is the real PR audience. I'm thinking that there is something to a different public and a private media strategy tactics.

    Play slow Tiger, you are winning the holes that count.

  2. Yes.

    Maybe quickly coming out with the whole truth is a good strategy for those who are trying to avoid losing everything.

    It's possible that Tiger already knew he wasn't going to anything (other than his relationship with his wife).

    People don't buy Tiger's ballcaps because they think he's wholesome, they buy them because for a small moment they want to pretend they're the best golf player in the world. And as long as he didn't do anything way outside the limits of most people (like killing dogs), then he knew he wasn't going to lose anything.

    I mean, come on, your decision of which ballcap to buy isn't going to come down to whether the athlete cheated on his wife or not.

  3. Bill Schroeder-Thanks for reading and for commenting as always. Let's be clear on a couple things... this isn't a manufactured crisis, this is an actual crisis. The media didn't create the Escalade Escapade out of whole cloth.

    Tiger may be a master strategist on the golf course, but let's remember this is the same Einstein who left voice mails and text messages on his mistress's cell phone. His behavior is certainly one club short of a full bag on this one.

    It's not all about the money, it's about reputation. The immediate storm may have passed, but we all know plenty of danger lies in the clean up afterwards.

  4. navyjournalist, thanks for taking the time to comment. I think people may decide which ball cap to buy based on what Tiger did. Here's why: Tiger is a brand. A brand is nothing more than an idea in the mind of the customer. What Tiger has done is change people's idea of him. Brand Tiger used to be about discipline, focus and committment. Not sure what it's about know, but his off-course rounds show a lack of discipline, loss of focus and disdain for committment. He's changed the essence of his brand and the effects of that won't be fully known for years. Thanks again for reading. Go Navy.

  5. In the golfing classic Caddy Shack, country club diva Judge Smails asks caddy Danny Noonan, who recently enjoyed the company of his neice Lacy Underalls, if he wanted to be a member of decent society and "to be good."

    I wonder if Tiger knows how to be good?

    Until now, I've been a moderate proponent of a go slow...take your time...let it blow over strategy for the PR Crisis (yes, I'll admit it is a crisis now, Mr Salvin). I though it was smart to keep your head down and your business partners happy. But who could have predicted that Tiger had 10 (and where there is 10 there is 20) recent "distractions?"

    Porno Actresses? Yuk. Now there is an unavoidable "ick" factor. Red state support is now lost.

    At this point I'm calling for full Catholic Spanish inquisition level media confession, replete with Hail Marys and promises of tithing. Where is Jesse Jackson to scream for injustice?

    Simply, the dam is cracking at a faster rate than his lawyers (Who I bet had know idea of the full extent of his putting game) can manage. Sponsors are now re thinking. Again, I think alot of this has to do with the money.

    Plus, it is now coming out that Tiger was drunk and on prescription meds when he crashed his Caddy. This now has more twists than a Nip Tuck episode.

    I still maintain that there are two sets of PR rules for the public and the private. However, there is only one rule for the cronically stupid and completely caught.

    Come clean. Early and often.

    It is now better to hear the Tiger roar than to hear Mario Lopez snicker.

  6. Bill-Glad you finally admitted it was a crisis. Which mistress tipped the scale for you? #6 or #9? Just wondering. Tiger appears to be like the guy spinning plates on those old variety shows of the 50s and 60s. Once one plate falls, the rest tumble in short order.

    By the way, I'm so borrowing your line "there is only one rule for the cronically stupid and completely caught. Come clean. Early and often"

    Thanks for the comment, my friend.