Without rehashing the gory details, let’s just say that the past week has revealed an entirely new side of Tiger Woods. Much of the public outrage seems to be directed at Tiger’s request for “privacy” as he deals with the collapse of life as he has known it. In fact, as the days have passed, the whole Tigergate mess seems to be a case study on “Crisis Communication Don’ts.” (The folks at Goldman Sachs must be thrilled to have someone else play that role for a while). In today's WSJ, Dana Mattioli talks to top crisis PR consultants, and it is definitely worth a read.
But to me, the issue of Tiger’s privacy and the outrage that request is causing could have been at least mitigated by changing one statement:
“But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be.”
The problem? “I deserve some privacy…” Tiger, the day you became a superstar role model making gazillions of dollars in sponsorship deals, was the day you gave up privacy on matters of infidelity. Here's the thing about living in this country: The good news about America is that we love a role model. The bad news about America is that we love to chew on the carcass of a role model who has fallen from grace. And you can’t separate the good from the bad no matter how much wealth you have or power you wield.
If I had been counseling you on this, Tiger, I would have said two things about your statement.
Number 1: Asking the press to leave you alone doesn’t work. It never has.
Number 2: Use the statement as a way to build up a tiny shred of credibility. How? Change the phrase above to say:
“I recognize that my actions have consequences, one of them being press scrutiny. For this I am prepared, and I take responsibility. Having said that, please understand that my wife and children did nothing to deserve this, and I beg you to leave them in privacy as they deal with this situation.”
Will it actually make a difference? Probably not, but at least you aren't asking us to have pity on you.
The other piece of good news about America is that while we love a fall from grace, we love a comeback story just as much. And as Monty Pool points out in today’s column in the Merc, “Oprah's couch has tremendous healing power.”