The Tiger Woods announcement provides a great case study in public relations and crisis management that we all can learn from.
Woods did two things he had to do:
1- Appear genuinely remorseful
2- Answer the why question
He repeatedly took sole responsible for his actions, describing them as "irresponsible and selfish." He apologized to a number of key constituencies --- his family, fans, and those affected by his Foundation, etc. It could not have been easy for someone who had been at the top of the world to say those things to a global audience. It had to be humiliating but he did it, making his contrition more believable.
He did address the "what were you thinking?" issue. He explained he thought he could get away with it because he was Tiger Woods and the "rules didn't apply" to him. He said he "felt entitled" to that lifestyle. This, it seems to me, is a plausible explanation given the adulation thrown at him.
Tiger also said the true test (as his wife suggested) will be how he behaves, not what he says.
I think his criticism of the media should have been omitted. It took him off message --- his contrition --- and it is a heavy lift for someone who has made so many millions in endorsements to complain about media coverage. The goal was to eat humble pie and any other point detracts from what he needed to accomplish.
The true test of his sincerity will be his future behavior. Crisis management is never just about clever strategy and careful wording. The behavior that created the crisis must be changed. No amount of slick packaging can ever change this fundamental truth --- actions speak louder than words.
Mark Grimm owns his own public relations company (Mark Grimm Communications), spent 12 years as a TV news anchor/reporter, and is an adjunct media professor at Siena College.
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