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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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