Tiger Woods redux

Confession: I’ve been actively avoiding all this Tiger Woods talk or trying to at least. As a professional communicator and PR critic, it’s almost irresponsible for me to dodge this one. It’s not stractical. But there’s just something about intently following someone’s marital/extra-marital life, even if its one of the most celebrated superstars on the planet, that gives me the willies. The badvibes. The shivers down my spine. And while we don’t pass judgment on anything but the communications out here in Stractiville, I thought I should provide some context that leads into this:

I didn’t watch the 24 hour CNN coverage of a camera aimed at Tiger’s front door. I didn’t listen to the tawdry voicemail messages. I don’t know the names and back stories of his alleged mistresses. But I know a story broke. And I know I didn’t think much of it. But then this radio silence kept amplifying this minor traffic accident until there was no other possible explanation for the events besides a domestic disturbance. In a way, Tiger baited the media and set his own trap, not for employing a terrible crisis strategy, but by attempting multiple half-assed strategies: Keep silent, but make a statement. Express sullen remorse but lash out at the unscrupulous media attention. Speak of vague “transgressions” as a parade of mistress names roll across the news ticker. And I know there are more but these are just the few bleeding through the margins to someone actively avoiding this one. The PR strangeness is just too strong, it won’t let me escape.

I’ve read constructive PR and social media critiques here and here. The comparisons to the David Letterman strategy are particularly apt though Dave had two things going for him that Tiger lack: a sense of humour for the softening touch of self-deprecation and an hour a night on network television to fill.

I’m struggling to offer Tiger advice so I’ll be portentously reductionist:

Be stractical. That means giving the GOST treatment both short and long term. Ask the questions: What is my essential to my personal brand? Or more generally, what do I need? To continue to play professional golf at a high level? To sign and carry out endorsement deals? To keep my family together? Adoration from millions? — A multi-national corporation would rally around its raison d’etre in a crisis and so should you.

While this epic is far from over, we’ll prematurely award -65 stractical points to Team Tiger Woods and note the irony that the low score in golf wins.

And now, if you’ll excuse me.  I’ll get back to changing the channel.

Tiger in the rough


Brady admits injury, realizes there are no secrets in football

Quarterback Tom Brady of the Super Bowl-bound and undefeated New England Patriots finally admitted he suffered an ankle injury in the AFC title game with the San Diego Chargers.

Rumours spread like a cold in a kindergarten class since Brady was spotted sporting a foot cast last week by paparazzi cameras. Patriots coach Bill Belichick normally keeps the media far at bay by refusing to give any details about his team, but with the pictures of a hobbling Brady making rounds around the Internet, they were forced to admit Tom was hurt.

What the Patriots learned from this scenerio is that revealed secrets and leaks tend to take on a life of their own. Remaining silence amidst rumours transfers the power of communication to speculators and masses and you risk misinformation gaining credibility. In media relations and employee communications, it’s best to act fast to control the message. The Patriots non-reaction built momentum that inferred the injury was serious and they were afraid to acknowledge it. By crafting a message that acknowledges the rumour and moves to downplay it, the Patriots wrestle back control and can start focusing on winning the big one.

How crises are like rabies

Wikipedia lists the initial symptoms of rabies as including: paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, progressing to delirium. Corporate CEOs and their communications advisers can easily relate when a crisis hits.

A troubling story emerged in Toronto yesterday as a man who purchased a dog at a Dr. Flea market for $200 contracted rabies from the collie. As this is a public health concern, the media sprung into action and successfully reported on this story in just about every news outlet in the city. 13 Stractical points to the Toronto Humane Society who spearheaded the dissemination with a public service release that formed the basis of the reported news. Anyone who might have been at the flea market during the time the dog was present and consumes news from any source has now been alerted and have probably been checked out by their doctor.

The Humane Society, along with Toronto Public Health, also made spokespeople widely available to answer questions about the incident, and educate the public about the realistic dangers of rabies and to caution the public of buying animals from a flea market (from the department of – how stupid can you be?).

To alert and educate is a great backbone of any crisis plan. Although the infraction or blame falls on the dog seller and the Dr. Flea’s, the Humane Society’s mandate includes the advocacy for safe and responsible pet ownership. While Dr. Flea’s has yet to make a statement (perhaps because of police investigations) and risk ruining their reputation forever (nothing kills your customer base like a safety concern), I bet the Humane Society is about to give a whole lot more puppies away for adoption thanks to their cool kept in a crisis.