Media Skills

This Blog Post, is like, um, Important: Dealing with Vocalized Pauses

This Blog Post, is like, um, Important: Dealing with Vocalized Pauses

This Blog Post, is like, um, Important: Dealing with Vocalized Pauses

Ah, the vocalized pause…

The “ums” the “uhs” the “like”s that can riddle our spoken sentences like bullet holes. If you are someone who struggles with the tyranny of the vocalized pause, there are two things I want you to know:

You Tawkin' Ta Me?

You Tawkin' Ta Me?

You know that moment. You’re in a meeting (or worse, on stage) and someone says something that hits you right in the solar plexus. Your face heats up, your heart races, you feel rage, or fear, or embarrassment, or sadness—pick your poison—and before you know it, you’ve missed the last 3 minutes of the meeting, lost in your own reaction. If you’re someone whose default reaction is to fight back, you consider your counter-attack. Or your default reaction may be to get out of the meeting as quickly as possible, and stay as quiet as possible in the meantime.

Either way, from my perspective as a communication coach, you are in a death spiral. Once you go into default-reaction mode, it is unlikely that anything good will come out of your mouth.

Lance Vs. Oprah - Was It Worth It?

The epic world premier has happened, and we had our moments with Lance.  And the reactions I’ve heard from people tend to fall into one of two categories:  either “it wasn’t worth watching” or “what a giant (insert expletive here).”  My husband fell asleep half way through Part II.

In my opinion, I thought the first session was fascinating, even though some of my predictions/hopes didn’t come to fruition.  He’s so clearly a narcissist in the most mythical sense of the word.  Oprah said that Lance “came prepared,” and that characterization was spot-on. His brain was primed and ready for every single question.  His heart? Not so much.  It took until the second half of the interview for a human being to show up, and only when the line of questions turned to the topic of his son.  Only when he had to describe the humiliation and sadness of that confession did he finally crack.

In fact, I truly believe it’s the only thing he feels remorse over.  At the professional level, he feels embarrassed and devastated by being exposed, but deep down, he still feels as though he’s getting an overly severe punishment for something all the kids were doing.  “Why me? Why so harsh?” whines Lance.

But the moment when it became pain at the soul level was when his oldest son saw him for what he really was: someone hiding a secret, and lying to everyone, destroying reputations along the way.  To look at his son and admit to being a hypocrite on every level… that has to hurt.  I think we all live in fear of the day our kids see us for what we really are – unsure, frightened a lot of the time, and barely able to live up to the standards we set for our children.  For about 2 minutes, I felt empathy for him.  But then it was over.

But even as I type this, I think “GAWD I am tired of hearing about this story.” And you probably are too.

The Death of the Mea Culpa Interview?

So what can we take from all of this?  Tim Goodman claimed in his article that the days of the Mea Culpa interview are over, and that this lackluster interview was the final nail in the coffin.  I’m not sure I agree, although I understand the sentiment.

We’ve become cynical, and with good reason.  But I think there will always be a fascination with self disclosure – the painful and real version – of so-called “fallen heroes” in our midst.  ESPECIALLY for fans of Oprah and the OWN Network.

Unfortunately, Lance Armstrong himself admitted that he is not at the place where he's had a real spiritual shift.  He’s still mostly pissed off that he got caught. The claim that “…it’s a process…” isn’t enough for us.  And for this I applaud him. At least he’s not faking a transformation.

But the death of the Mea Culpa interview? I don’t think so.  But, note to Mr. Armstrong: Don’t try and show up on Oprah’s couch unless you’ve been born again, in whatever form that may take.  Otherwise, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Publicists – you’ve been warned.

 

The Countdown To the Confessional - Lance and Oprah, Two Nights Only

I don’t know about you, but I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting for this Lance Armstrong interview with Ms. Winfrey.  In fact, it may be the only time my husband watches Oprah with me without a gun to his head.

I’ll be watching the interview through two lenses:

1) What would I do if I were on Team Armstrong?  Team Oprah? 2) Can we learn anything from this?

Ready? Here’s my take.

1) What would I do if I were on Team Armstrong? Team Oprah?

At this point, I imagine that precious few people are signing up to be on Team Armstrong, and those that do are either blood relations or lawyers. (His family must be in a living hell at this point)  But let’s just say they put me in charge of managing him through this from a publicity/public opinion standpoint.

(Note: I am not the media coach to hire if you’re looking for lipstick to be applied on a pig.  Lipstick on a pig application requires a different set of recommendations that I will not list here.  I'm the one you call when some measure of real redemption is the goal. I believe everyone deserves a shot at it.  Even Lance Armstrong.)

If I were in that role, my strong recommendation would be this: he needs to show us absolute self revelation and honesty.  I would say that unless he explores the possibility – ON CAMERA – of having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or even Antisocial Disorder – it’s just another PR stunt. Another opportunity to manipulate, which people will see through.

I would recommend that he not only explore this possibility, but that he also offers a compelling AND ACURATE narrative of the childhood experiences that could have contributed to this disorder.  Now, to be fair, no one really knows the exact cause of these disorders, but this would be a good place to start.  That kind of self revelation will offer people a storyline that makes sense, and may lead us to have some amount of empathy for Lance Armstrong, if not compassion.  There is a difference.

But the truth is, Lance Armstrong may not be capable of this kind of self-disclosure and awareness. (In which case, I would make my recommendations and then go home.  Truth be told, what he really needs is therapy, but a good media coach doesn’t hurt either ;).

If I were on Team Oprah, in addition to getting all of the chronology and key details down accurately, I would be exploring the dual personalities of Lance Armstrong.  As this article in the Guardian puts it, he has “something akin to a split personality: Dr Armstrong and Mr Lance.”Lance the charmer, the inspiring cancer survivor, and Lance the avenger/sociopath/playground bully.

In order for the public to feel truly satisfied by Lance’s answers to Oprah’s questions, we need to understand how he was able to cultivate these two splintered selves for so long, so successfully. How is someone able to live that way?  Lying, and being righteously indignant when being called out on the lie, even going so far as to sue and WIN a libel case … all the while, knowing you are guilty...  How did he manage it?  I'd like to see Oprah get to the heart of this in a meaningful way.  And given that this is arguably the most important interview of her career, my money is on Oprah here.

What can we learn from this?

It is tempting to put Lance Armstrong in the “sociopath category,” mostly because it is a likely diagnosis, but also because it insulates us from facing our own shadow sides.  His is an extreme case of behavior we all exhibit from time to time.  There are certain things we simply will not tolerate when it comes to how the world perceives us.

For some of us, we cannot tolerate being wrong. For others of us, we cannot tolerate having made a mistake. We can’t have others see us as anything less than perfect.

Others cannot tolerate being examined, or thrust into center stage.

Still others can’t feel good unless they are the smartest ones in the room.

Because of our intolerance, we cultivate defense mechanisms.  We lie to cover our tracks. We bully someone in a meeting to make sure everyone knows who the Alpha Dog is.  We belittle dissenting opinions.  Or we shrink, and go silent.

Lance clearly couldn’t tolerate losing. What "losing" really means to Lance we cannot guess.  But he was willing to go to great lengths to protect this external view of himself.  He traded his own integrity for a medal, and for a certain kind of public adoration.  And in our celebrity crazed culture, integrity seems like a small price to pay for the success and wealth he created.

But the truth is that each of us have little Lance moments at work, at home, with our children, with our spouses.  There are certain emotions we will do nearly anything to avoid feeling.

The opportunity for us is to try and tolerate that which we can’t.  To face the thing that most terrifies us.  For me, I hate making mistakes. Hate it.  The thought that I let something slip, or did something wrong, terrifies me.  To face the sadness and shame I feel knowing that someone has potentially lost faith in me is very, very difficult.

So I’m constantly working on that moment when I realized I’ve slipped up, fully owning it. Apologizing. Taking my lumps and – here’s the worst part – sitting with the idea, even accepting the idea, that people’s opinions of me might be lessened.  In those moments, I learn that who I am is something greater than my mistakes.  And that the world is entitled to form whatever opinion feels right to them. But there is only one person I’m accountable to: myself. But not from a place of ego and narcissism (I hope), but a place of honesty, humility, and loving kindness toward myself.

It is from this place can we truly inspire, achieve and make a difference in the world.  It is in our vulnerabilities, in our abject failures that we find our greatest credibility.  We don’t look to people who are “perfect” for help and inspiration. We reach out to people who’ve “been there” and have come out the other end.

My hope and prayer for Lance Armstrong is that he finds authentic power underneath the false power he’s relied on for so long.  It’s actually my wish for all of us.

Steve Jobs – 5 Lessons He Taught Us From the Stage

Steve Jobs – 5 Lessons He Taught Us From the Stage The Web is alive with Steve Job tributes this week after his announcement to step down from his role as CEO.  This tribute is dedicated to remembering the lessons Mr. Jobs taught us from the stage.  The ultimate showman, Steve Jobs reminded us that technology should be fun, lovable, and filled with thrills and suspense.  Even now in 2011, few CEOs are brave enough to infuse his level of creativity and playfulness into their public appearances.

For those of us who are brave enough to learn them, here are the 5 Lessons Steve Jobs taught us from the bright lights of center stage.

1) The Art of Simplicity - In a world where speed talking has become a badge of intelligence, Steve Jobs chose a cadence and rhythm that was slow and thoughtful.  He was not afraid to pause, and give important words the space they needed to take root in our imaginations.  He showed us his genius not by dropping SAT words, or heavy technical jargon.  He used the ordinary to express the extraordinary.  One of my favorite clips that exemplifies this comes from his introduction of the new iPod Nano in 2009. When it comes time to talk about the Nano’s video camera, he resists the temptation to talk megapixels, and simply says, “How good is it? Turns out, it’s great.  Let me just show you…” and he proceeds to SHOW us a beautiful video.  Simple. Powerful. We all nod our heads and agree that this is the right way to present. We know the golden rule of “show me, don’t tell me,” but rarely – and I mean rarely – do we really hold ourselves to this standard.

2) Connect the Dots – In his now legendary Stanford Commencement Speech, Jobs talked about his fascination with topography and the art of font creation during college, which lead him to spend a semester in a calligraphy class.  He loved learning about the different type faces, and as he put it, he loved learning about “what makes great typography great.” Everyone thought he was crazy for wasting time on something so obtuse.  Later in life, he would infuse this delight into the Mac.  Without that curiosity and “cross training,” we might never have had different type faces in our personal computing lives.  It sounds small, but for those of us who live in the written word, it’s a pretty big deal (I love me some Garamond).

When things delight us in our personal lives and find their way into our work lives, invariably it makes our work better, and reveals a side of ourselves to people that they might not have otherwise seen.  Following our curiosity and infusing that delight into our work is part and parcel of being truly authentic and “present” to our profession of choice.

3) Keep it Beautiful – One of the defining characteristics of Steve as a presenter over the past several years has been the beauty and elegance of not only his blockbuster product line, but his presentations.  Sitting in the cool darkness of the Moscone Center during MacWorld, audiences were wooed by their elegant design. He painstakingly rehearsed each and every slide to commit his key thoughts to memory, freeing up the slides to do what they were meant to do: set the mood, paint a picture, or drive home a simple, repeatable piece of information.  How often do we take the easy way out, burdening our audiences with slides that look like Word documents? All bullets and words, and nothing for the eye to rest on.  Creating beautiful things takes time, care, precision… it is a labor of love.  Which brings me to….

4) Launches As Love Letters – You need only listen to the audio of a Jobs presentation to understand that Mac World Keynotes were love letters to Apple fans.  Thunderous applause and unabashed nerd worship were to Jobs Keynotes what drum circles and patchouli oil were to Dead shows.  This was not by accident.  The products Apple has so painstakingly designed over the years were never for Wall Street. They weren’t to show up competitors.  They were for one thing: thrilling and delighting us.  When Jobs was interviewed by Walt Mosserberg and Kara Swisher at the All Things D show, they asked him how he felt knowing that Apple’s market cap had surpassed that of Microsoft.  Jobs replied, “It’s surreal.  But it really doesn’t matter much.” This devotion to Apple fans influenced every staged appearance Jobs did (perhaps with the exception of one press conference).  The next time you take the stage, how might you make it an expression of respect, admiration and ultimately love for your audience?

5) Frame the Argument – As my lawyer friend always says to me, “She who frames the argument, wins the argument.”  When Steve Jobs was asked a pointed question about a controversial aspect of Apple’s business, he was incredibly adept at reframing the argument on his own terms in a way that was seamless, authentic, and frankly, hard to argue with.  My favorite example comes, once again, from his interview with Mossberg and Swisher.  Mossberg broaches the subject of his letter, “Thoughts on Flash” that was written in response to the hue and cry surrounding Apple’s decision to not support Flash.  Mossberg was framing the issue as “Isn’t it bad for consumers who want the entire web? Aren’t you limiting their choices?”  Effectively, Jobs reframes the issue away from “consumer choice” to “creating the best possible experience for consumers,” two very different approaches.  In Jobs’s argument, technology products are “packets of emphasis,” and that as a company, they choose their emphases carefully, all in the name of creating the best possible consumer experience.  Flash didn’t live up to Apple’s standards, so they nixed it.  And guess what, “If people don’t like it, they won’t buy it! And if they do, they will!”  And what does the audience do? Erupts in applause.  So much for worrying about “consumer choice.”  Steve Jobs re-framed the argument, and won the argument.

To me, Steve Jobs will always be the ultimate Willy Wonka CEO.  Sure, behind the scenes he was prone to occasional outbursts of anger or confrontation, but at the end of the day, it was all about making the most exciting, surprising, delicious candy possible to the delight of children around the world.  Thank you, Steve Jobs, for ruthlessly focusing on that which would make our eyes sparkle, and our pulses quicken.

Dear Oscar Winners: Can We Be More Prepared Next Time?

There is quite a lot I could say about the Oscars last night, but I’ll spare you my commentary except to say that the bright spots were the Leena Horne quote (“It’s not the load that breaks you, it’s the way you carry it.”) and Jude Law + Robert Downey Jr as co-presenters.  Enough said.

What I continue to marvel at is the abundance of lame acceptance speeches.  The Oscar team was prescient that this year would be among the worst, and it pieced together a “top 3” list of best speeches of all time, just to ease our suffering.

In case the future holds an Oscar for you, here are some things we, the audience, wish you would consider:

Remember Who’s Out There. Yes, you’re surrounded by the who’s who of Hollywood film making, but you’re also surrounded by over 40 million every day people watching you on their TVs. Think about that: 40 MILLION minds tuned into you and your award.  That’s powerful stuff.  If just a few hundred thousand inspired people can topple a brutal, autocratic regime in Egypt, certainly 40 million people could be moved in some positive way by your words.  Need a great example? Milk Screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black left a lasting impression with his powerful acceptance speech in 2009.

Don’t Let Superstition Make You Sucky. Many people think, “if I practice and take this seriously, it’ll jinx my chances.”  Unless you also carry around voodoo dolls and tarot cards, this makes no sense.  Decide up front what you want to accomplish during your speech. If that answer is “nothing” then fine.  But know that you are missing a golden opportunity to show the world who you are, what you care about, and why your film/role mattered.  And if you’re saying, “But what about spontaneity??” I’m all for it.  Allow yourself 5 seconds to have your “freak out” moment, and then get back to your plan.  Sound strict? It’s your career for the love of God.  You need to manage that 1 minute as tightly as any press junket you’ve ever been involved in.  Sandra Bullock absolutely nailed her acceptance speech last year, and showed what a talented, articulate, self possessed woman she really is – much to the surprise of many, given her low calorie movie roles prior to The Blind Side.

Thanks but No Thanks. As much as we, the audience, loathe hearing a laundry list of people to thank, we will tolerate a few shout outs if you keep it quick.  Randy Newman got this almost right, but lingered a bit too long. Write a list, bring it with you if you have to, and make sure it takes up no more than 5 - 7 seconds (note: a cheat sheet is only ok for reading off names).  5 full beats is a lot, and you can squeeze a lot in there, and still keep us in our seats instead of going to the kitchen for more Girl Scout cookies. Use the balance of time to say something important.  Or funny.  Please.  We beg of you. (And dropping the F-bomb is a little naughty, but it’s really not all that interesting.)

Self Deprecation is Always Welcome.  But don’t be dull about it. We’ve all heard the “I can’t believe my name is up there with all of these amazing actors…” bit.  Make it interesting. “I’m afraid my career has just peaked,” said Colin Firth as he accepted his well deserved Oscar, and reminded us that it is possible to be witty, self deprecating and fresh at the same time.

For those of us who aren’t up for Oscars, we can all use a reminder from time to time that even when it’s “all about us,” it’s really not.  It's all about the audience and knowing how to use your 15 minutes of fame in way that people remember… and hopefully in a good way.



Jobs Playing Defense

Antennae Song From watching Gizmodo's live blogging coverage from today’s event at Apple’s HQs, it seems that things went a little sideways.  No, there were no technical glitches, or streakers across the stage, but somehow, the usually invincible presenter Steve Jobs struck a sour note with many of the folks in the room.

From the get-go, things weren’t exactly as they could have been.  From what I undertand, Apple rolled the YouTube video The Antennae song as a warm up, just before the press conference began.

If you haven’t seen it, it is yet another video of an average looking white guy bustin’ some hip hop skills, and basically delivering the message that this antennae issue is really no big deal, and if you don’t like the iPhone 4, don’t buy it. If you bought and you don’t like it, return it.

Playing Defense

As anyone who is worked with me can tell you, my broken record message is this: “First, serve the needs of the audience.”  Typically, when we see Steve take the stage, Apple’s needs and the audience’s needs are one and the same – everyone wants to get excited about the newest jewel in the Apple crown.  And when those two needs are in alignment, Jobs soars as a communicator.

This morning, the needs of the audience  - the press and consumers like me tuning into the live blog coverage – and the needs of the Apple executives were decidedly at odds.  The Audience/Press needed to know a) what was causing the problem and b) what Apple was doing to fix it.

Apple’s needs were to a) defend themselves and b) show how few people were actually experiencing this service issue.

Which way did Steve take it?  Unfortunately, he put the needs of Apple first.  The result?  He came off as defensive, and victim-like – why pick on us??  By the time he finally got around to proclaiming his love and concern for Apple customers, people were already pretty turned off.

The sad thing is that you would be hard pressed to find a CEO who cares more about his customers than Steve Jobs.

If Jobs had flipped the order of his comments, it would have made a big difference. Would it have been perfect? No.  But it would have established that the consumer comes first, and that ONE devoted Apple customer affected by crappy service is one too many.  By owning that, we the audience would have been far more open to hearing the logic behind the cause of the problems, and the relatively small impact it has had on the majority of users.

What can the rest of us learn?

For anyone in the media relations game, there is a very important lesson to be learned here.  Never make someone else “wrong.”  Steve Jobs made the press “wrong” for blowing the service issues out of proportion and for picking on Apple.

Whenever we make someone “wrong” we close down the lines of communication.  Does it mean we can’t feel hurt or upset or angry? No. In fact, we have to give ourselves room to feel all of those things. But we need to avoid acting from those places, especially when we go on record in front of an audience.

What he could have done was consider this: While it is true that it must feel like Apple is under siege at times, it is also true that most press believe that their job is to look at/uncover controversy and expose the truth.

If Jobs had been able to see this as less a personal attack, and more a professional obligation on the part of the press, he might have been less defensive. It might have freed him up to first address the fact that Apple cares DEEPLY about any problems their customers experience.  Then he could have gone into detail about the whys and the fixes.

Instead, it felt like, “It’s really not a big deal, but we’ll give you a free cover if that will make you happy.”

The beauty of learning this skill is that it extends into every human interaction we have.  Try it and you’ll see. The next time your spouse blows up at you for something you don’t agree with, try putting aside your needs for a moment, and focus completely on understanding his/her perspective, and meeting that need. Chances are, your spouse will be more willing to hear your side of the story.

You may even get lucky.

From Cardboard to Flesh and Blood: the New Art of Spokesperson Prep

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris O’Brien, business and technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News.  Initially, I wanted to discuss the art of “listening” during an interview – not the reporter’s ability to listen, but rather the spokesperson’s ability to listen.  Chris and I had a great discussion, but I emerged with a slightly different theme for this posting – the importance of Authenticity.

I began the discussion by describing a scene I’ve witnessed over the years (as I’m sure many PR people have): In a spokesperson’s quest to faithfully deliver key messages, he or she ends up steamrolling a reporter, or fails to pick up on important cues on what the reporter is looking for.

Chris said, “We sort of expect that a spokesperson has been prepped and knows what they want to say.  That’s fine. But you can really tell when someone is over rehearsed. I’m interested in having a conversation with a real person, not some sterile interview.”

He then added, “My best interviews are with the people who sort of refuse to be ‘handled.’  For example, Bill Watkins, of Seagate… he’s going to come in and be unfiltered with me.  And while I do pity the handler, I appreciate it when someone has spoken from their own voice…”  (For those not familiar with Mr. Watkins, this article gives a snapshot of the interview style of the infamous Mr. Watkins.  It truly is a PR person’s worst nightmare… but a knock-out interview for the reporter).

Turns out, for Chris O’Brien, the interview often begins when the spokesperson thinks the conversation is over. “That’s when they loosen up, and say what they really think.”  Yikes.  But from Chris’s perspective, the recap of the messages at the end of the interview are generally better, and delivered in a real human voice.

What’s a PR person to do?

These are interesting times in the world of public relations, and the business of spokesperson “grooming.”  The demand for authenticity and transparency is on the rise.  But so is the demand for killer press hits in an increasingly tight media landscape.

On one hand, corporate communications people are tasked with creating a level of consistency across dozens of spokespeople – no small feat.  On the other hand, reporters aren’t interested in talking with a bunch of clones.  So where does that leave us?

While having a consistent set of messages is crucial to a tight corporate message, there needs to be more of a focus on helping spokespeople to be themselves in interviews.  We need to encourage everyone to sing the same song, but in their own voices.  Cheesy? Yes, but also true.

But what does that really mean in the tactical sense?

For Spokespeople: No more showing up to a “prep” session with the statement, “OK, so tell me what to say.”  You have to work with your PR team to co-author the key messages, and make them your own.  By simply regurgitating someone else’s sound bites, you almost guarantee a flat, totally unconvincing interview.

For the Corporate Communications Team: Now is the time to cultivate a slightly different skill set than just key message development and the ability to give good guidance around what a reporter is looking for.  Begin to develop a sensitivity and sensibility around your spokespeople’s strengths, or where their fears lie.  Learn to bring out the best in your spokespeople, and guide them by giving them sound, honest, and compassionate feedback.  This does not mean spoon feeding pre-fab messaging to overtaxed executives.    It means helping people cope with and eventually lose their bad habits as they talk to influencers like Chris O’Brien.

While it may sound exhausting, it’s actually a win/win.  With a spokesperson who is encouraged to be themselves, having made the messages his or her own, the centralized corp comms team knows the messages are shining through, and the press gets to speak with actual human beings.

Is Media Training Really Just a Game?

I had a very interesting conversation recently with someone who had worked with a media coach who “knew how to play the game… and knew all of the tricks” in working with the press.  He and I both bristled at this approach.  Is there a game to media interviews? I suppose you could see it that way.  Are there “tricks” to be mastered? Sure, there are some helpful techniques.  But ultimately, this “cheating the game” approach to interactions with the press fails to honor what is ACTUALLY happening in a press conversation – two people trying to get their very valid needs met. And by treating press interviews like a game, we step out of a place of integrity and into a place of manipulation.  The result?  A crappy article, and a superficial relationship with a reporter.

Does that mean we stop teaching our spokespeople to “bridge to key messages?” Not necessarily. Does it mean we teach our executives to really listen, and empathize with what the reporter needs? Absolutely.  At the end of the day, each and every interaction with a press person is an interaction with a human being.  And the more respect, personality and authenticity we can bring to that interaction, the better.

To end the interview, I asked Chris what he wished spokespeople knew before getting on the phone with him:

“Honestly? Just be yourself. That’s all I ask.”

Amen.

The Wait is Over

As you saw in my post earlier this week, I weighed in on the 4 things I thought Tiger needed to accomplish in his apology. Let’s see how he did.

1) Express believable self-awareness. I give Tiger Woods high marks on expressing believable regret and embarrassment, but self awareness? Not sure about that.  His explanation of his own sense of entitlement was helpful, but it lacked resonance.  I’m not saying he should make up false reasons (reminds me of when I was a kid and used to invent sins to confess to the priest, just to satisfy him). But his statement lacked intimacy.  If you are appealing to a mass audience, and trying to crawl your way back into their hearts and minds, you have to infuse every statement with very real emotion, and paint a vivid picture.  “I worked hard, and felt I was entitled” didn’t do it for me.  This statement would have been perfect if he was talking about a shopping addiction.  It doesn’t work for a problem of extreme infidelity.  The correct response probably lives one layer beneath that one –How does “working hard” equate to serial infidelity?

2) Make us see a little bit of ourselves. I would love to know your thoughts on this, but I didn’t feel a connection to him at all, on any level during this statement. In fact, his explanation triggered even more judgment from me, I’m ashamed to admit.  Apologies are tricky business, and ultimately have to tap a sense of empathy in the listener without asking them to do any extra work.  We all commit sins on a daily basis (envy, greed, sloth, lust), it shouldn’t be that hard to make his transgressions feel personally familiar on some level.  But somehow he missed it.

3) Remind us of how much we love golf BECAUSE of Tiger Woods, without actually coming out and saying it.  I am most disappointed about this piece of the apology.  As the daughter of a devoted golfer, I was hungry for that moment of “I can’t wait to finally have this behind us, and see him back on the golf course.”  That moment never came.

4) He needs to mean every word he says. Here, I actually give him good marks. I think this is a man who was VERY involved in writing his own statement (how else can you explain the strange flow of it, the clunky organization?).  What the statement DIDN’T lack was real emotion and feeling.  That was as raw a Tiger Woods as I’ve ever seen.

The reference to Buddhism and how it will help him on his journey to recovery was interesting, though I didn’t entirely understand it.  But I do think it added some much needed depth to the statement.  Ultimately, I question whether this statement came too soon in his recovery. If it wasn't meant to signal his return to golf, what was it signaling? My hope is that Tiger Woods seizes this opportunity, and becomes a more three dimensional personality in the public eye. We’re seeing signs of life, but he’s still got a long way to go.

Tiger's Big Day

On Friday, Tiger Woods will “break his silence” and make an official statement Friday morning from the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass, the headquarters of the PGA Tour in Florida. Like a sports analyst giving pre-game commentary, here’s my take:  His statement needs to do four things:  1) Express believable self awareness.  It has to be real, maybe even a little bit raw.  2) Make us see a little bit of ourselves in his description of his fall from grace. 3) Remind us of how much we love golf BECAUSE of Tiger Woods, without actually coming out and saying it.  4) He needs to mean every word he says.  If this is lip service or an acting job, it’ll fall flat. Falling flat probably won’t hurt his golfing career, but he’ll lose the hearts and minds battle (which means loss of endorsements, ultimately).

I thought it would be fascinating (morbidly perhaps) to draft MY version of what Tiger should say during that press conference.  Just so we’re clear: Tiger Woods is not my client. I don’t have any connection to him whatsoever.

Here goes:

Thanks for coming.  Given how many things in the world deserve our focus these days, I am deeply ashamed that my problems have hijacked so much of our collective attention. For this, and so many other things, I am sorry.

For the past several weeks, I have been going through what can only be described as a hellish journey of self discovery.  Anyone who has struggled with and conquered an addiction knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Like many addicts, I had successfully kept parts of my life compartmentalized, living several different lives at the same time.  It allowed me to justify disgusting behavior, and allowed me to lie to myself and others.  And for a long time, it worked.  Then of course, one tiny thread was pulled, and my entire life unraveled, taking my wife, my children and my career down with it.

Coming out of an intense period of revelation, tackling some of the darkest corners of my mind and my experiences, I can say with all honesty –I’m not “healed.” I’m not “whole.” But I’m working on it, and crawling my way out of this self-made nightmare one day at a time.

Part of my recovery and journey back to integrity is to devote myself wholly to my true loves – my wife, my children and my sport – Golf.  The matter of my family is a private one. But my love of the sport is a public one.

It is my intention to get back to the game that has given so much to me.  I grew up in the company of golfers – professional and amateur, and I crave their company and the experience of walking the green, and making contact with that ball.  I know I don’t deserve it, but I’m hoping that you - the fans and the golf community - will allow me back into the sport.

As we all now know, I’m not the role model I made myself out to be.  But maybe there’s room for a different kind of role model, one who can tackle his own terrible flaws head on, and show that it is possible to heal what has been so badly broken.

Thank you.

Now… let’s see what he actually says.  I’ll be on the edge of my seat.