Last week’s Tiger Woods apology-cum-public flagellation was nothing if not a great case study for students of communications. The golf great continues to get awful advice (perhaps he’s acting as his own PR counsel?) on how to rehabilitate his image following last fall’s sex scandal.
From the cheapskate podium and ‘community theatre’ backdrop to the phony delivery of his ‘lines’, Tiger’s apology just drew attention to just how far he’s fallen. And deservedly so. While critics of PR say it’s all about spin and lying, this is a perfect example of one PR maxim I follow: “never lie.” Lies are almost always found out, or at least sniffed at. They obliterate credibility. Yet, here was a guy who told whopper after whopper. Pretending to be a pillar of integrity, morals and discipline, he made tens of millions of dollars on his image and has justly lost millions as his image has been stripped bare… much like his skanky mistresses, I suppose.
An apology was necessary. It should have come last fall, but it didn’t. In this case, he would have been better off giving an exclusive interview to a friendly source. The Oprah show would have been perfect. It would have given him the opportunity to tell his side of the story more fully and it could have showed him to be more human.
But aside from Tiger’s image and marital rehab, there were also lessons on how organizations need to deal with episodes like this.
Ernie Els complained that staging the apology in the middle of one of the World Golf Championship tournaments wasÂ selfish. He was right, and PGA Tour commissioner Tom Finchem apologized to Els and other players saying: â€œYou can never communicate too much in this business, and when you don’t, you usually pay a price. And that was a good example.â€
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Tiger. As my mother used to say, he’s made his bed and now he has to lie in it. That bed might not be as uncomfortable if he had been following good communications advice from the start. The same goes for the PGA Tour, which needs to make an extra effort now to adjust its marketing and branding. It can’t be considered Tiger’s tour any longer. If it is, then the tour will risk battering its image just as badly as Tiger has hurt already his.