When a CEO or public figure is in trouble, their crisis turnaround begins with words acknowledging their responsibility, a pledge to do better in the future, followed by deeds of contrition.
But no PR professional worth their salt would have allowed their client to hide out for three months pondering their crisis turnaround while watching their lucrative sponsors and customers defect in a groundswell of public animosity and disappointment. One has to assume that Tiger Woods was again his own boss and that the executives of Nike and Electronic Arts held their collective breaths at 11AM EST as they observed his tightly choreographed apology (read their response here).
“I thought the rules didn’t apply to me” was a theme throughout his empathy-drenched mea culpa, presented in a tightly controlled venue with only friends and (presumably) favorable media in attendance.
Therein lies the chasm in the credibility Tiger Woods seeks to reclaim.
He missed the mark for understanding that the “rules” for Tiger Woods, a global marketing icon whose very image propels or sinks companies and network ratings, ARE different. Take note: every major TV network (including YouTube and TMZ) broke into regularly scheduled broadcasts for this man and his statement. Does that sound like this was a regular guy with a regular story?
Tiger, if you truly understand that you don’t “get to play by different rules” then the timing and journalist protocol for your public statement would have been different; your police interaction would probably have been different as well. Stacking your room called your sincerity into question. Being indignant about the media’s incessant speculation rings hollow when you left them to create the story you failed to correct. Your PR advisors and your own branding instinct should have told you that YOU extended this story, and did not shorten it.
Tiger, must we restate the obvious: You are a public figure. We can all agree that we don’t have a right to know your private marital conversations. As you said, your aggrieved (appropriately and elegantly absent) spouse summed up the reality of any executive crisis: “My real apology will not come in the form of words, it will come from my behavior over time.”
And now the TV networks, corporate sponsors, and the golf industry will move forward. America is kind to redemption, but loathe to hypocrisy.
Which will this be?