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Media and Crisis Management

Tiger Woods – privacy vs coming clean

Posted on: July 28th, 2012

Crisis Management: Tiger Woods – privacy vs coming cleanCrisis decision-making

Bad news never gets better with time and just as the clock appeared about to run out on Tiger Woods he issued a new statement admitting more culpability for his behavior.  Right before he posted it December 2nd, further tabloid reports of affairs were surfacing along with recordings and emails.  More on the statement later.

As we all know by now, the disciplined golfer first found himself wallowing in the undisciplined world of crisis management after slamming his car into a tree near his home, getting hurt, cloaking himself in privacy and parsed statements, and lying low.  He approached the initial incident and rumors with a polar opposite strategy from David Letterman’s “tell it all, tell it now” about workplace affairs.  For a few days I thought it might work if nothing else were out there to bite him. But he or his handlers saw the same thing we all did: increasing nasty reports that made the world’s most famous athlete look like he’d crawled into a cave.  His rightful claims to privacy were being eclipsed by alleged behavior that could push even sponsors into crisis mode.  He was a comic’s punchline and pundit fodder: bad for Nike, Accenture, and others besides Tiger.  I had decided he needed to consider full-blown disclosure which might not have been necessary had he been more forthcoming at the start.

Before I get to Tiger’s December 2nd statement, let’s ponder for a minute how this might have played out if, at the beginning, instead of sending a precisely and vaguely worded admission of a mistake, promise of no recurrence, and request for privacy, he had said something like this, “My wife and I had an argument over personal behavior and mistakes of mine that hurt my family. I stormed out of the house and wrecked the car.  All of this was careless, my fault, and I apologize for the embarrassment to my family, fans, and, frankly, me.   Rest assured I’ll be much more careful in the future.”  Words to that affect, said earlier, might have banked much of the fire and laid a foundation for dealing with the worse news to follow.

I originally wanted to defend Tiger’s claim that his marital situation is certainly a private matter.  Private, unless he pulled a John Edwards at an illicit public rendezvous or a drumbeat of affairs begins.  The drumbeat began. The privacy claims, while legitimate, now needed to be weighed against protecting the Tiger Woods brand.

Former presidential advisor Lanny Davis recently mentioned how former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro once faced allegations concerning her husband and herself.  She called a press conference and said she would not leave the room until she had answered every question.  It lasted four hours.  The story went away.  That would be a tall order for the controlled Tiger, but the philosophy’s valid.  Assuming the transgressions were true, a full hangout including asking fans for support while he fixes his life and atones for mistakes was the way out in my opinion.

Literally minutes after I wrote the above words, a new Tiger statement said he’d let down his family, transgressed, will strive to be a better person, and offered a “profound apology.”  Nevertheless, two-thirds of the statement complained about tabloid media and violations of privacy.

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, the fault, dear Tiger, is not in the media, but in yourself.

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