Tiger Woods seems to be immune to a lot…the laws of physics, the laws of nature, age, the complacency letdown. However, local authorities’ persistence would seem to indicate that he’s not immune to the laws of, well…laws. And is he even immune to the laws that govern public perception and ages-old conventional wisdom with respect to crisis management?
It seems not. Public relations professionals and media experts all over the country are questioning the way Tiger is handling his current moment in the spotlight. For years, PR pros have been counseling their clients that there is no such thing as “no comment” when confronted with high-profile negative publicity. This latest is a perfect example why.
What are we, the public, left with in reaction to Tiger’s refusal to provide forthright comment? If perception is reality, here is the reality:
1.) There’s A LOT more to this story than Tiger is willing to share. (aka, He looks guilty…of something.)
2.) I, John Q. Public, will take it upon myself to fill in the blanks and shape the story according to my speculation: It was a domestic altercation. He was drunk. He was on painkillers. His wife attacked him. Why is he leaving the house at 2:30 a.m.? Et cetera…
The longer Tiger waits, the more time we have to speculate. The more he hides, the more the media will keep digging, looking for a juicy storyline. The more time goes on, the worse this gets for Tiger. The story goes on, with or without Tiger…and he is currently playing no role in shaping it.
Tiger may be immune to a great deal, but he is not immune to the laws that govern bad publicity and the public’s reaction to it. In the long run, this may have little to no effect on the Tiger Woods brand. In the short term, it is clearly looking badly upon him. It just might be true that Tiger is big enough to withstand all of this. The rest of us mere mortals, however, are not.
For one round-up of several PR pros’ reactions, click here:
Local public relations executives say Woods needs to be honest and get out in front of the story disclosing what caused the accident, which involved hitting at fire hydrant and tree.
“Start with the premise that the truth nearly always gets out,” said Jason Rose, president of Rose & Allyn Public Relations in Scottsdale. “And, that he will have to face key questions at a golf tournament press conference soon anyways. End the speculation now. Don’t jeopardize the sterling brand that is Tiger Woods.”
Rose suggested some combination of a statement on a website, video release featuring Tiger or a press conference to answer all questions. “And if there was something like a dispute with your wife causing you to peel out of the drive way, own up to it. People make mistakes, even Tiger Woods,” Rose said.
Other local PR pros agree that Woods needs to come clean. The story is getting national media attention, but is also the buzz on Twitter and Facebook with various theories on why the golfer was out so late and what might cause a one-car accident at that early hour.
“I always recommend to my clients that they be truthful and authentic,” said Tony Felice, CEO of Tony Felice Public Relations and Marketing in Phoenix. “Public figures are always under scrutiny and so it is better to be forthcoming than to leave things to speculation.”
It is possible to give an explanation of facts without revealing details that invade the privacy of an individual, Felice said.