Friday, December 4, 2009

Lessons learned from the Woods affair

So, now the story is out: Woods cheated on his wife. Raise you hand if you thought that he had remained faithful. Now, raise your hand if you thought his admitting it before the tape surfaced would have quelled the media firestorm. If you are honest, you wouldn’t have raised your hand either time.

If you are a PR person and thought Woods should have gotten out ahead of the story, here’s a question: which affair would you have had Tiger admit to? The nightclub hostess in Australia? The woman after the Masters? And you know there had to be more than one or two, so how many?

If you do an interview, how do you deal with the domestic violence question? What if you say it didn’t happen, but someone gets a hold of his medical records from the hospital? What if that wasn’t the first time? How do you answer the question, “Excuse me but when did your wife stop beating you?

It’s hard to know what was in the minds of the Woods camp. Did they think that no one would step forward with proof of his infidelities? Did he consider his personal life to be a personal matter? I can’t answer the first, but given how quickly the Woods camp issued a statement after the tape surfaced -- three hours – you have to assume they were ready for damage control if it did happen.

People will argue that it’s PR 101 to get ahead of the story, but that’s only part of the course. The other part of the course is to understand your objectives.

Proponents of the get ahead of the story argument insist Woods should have talked to the media and the police. I think most people understand now that he should not have spoken to the police because if they had suspected domestic violence, they would have been forced to arrest his wife. It's the law. Look it up.

I think PR pros who treat people like brands forget that their clients are first and foremost people. If you are not worried about the money, and Tiger has already ready made around a billion dollars for himself, you can afford to worry about your family. If I am Tiger Woods, I don’t publicly admit to an affair unless evidence forces me to do so. My wife knows that I cheated on her, but she doesn’t need the world to know it too. I think that was Tiger’s main objective. It would have been mine.

But, once the woman produced the tape, she let the cat out of the bag. You release a statement that you have had ready for this moment and you move on. That’s PR 101.

Again, I can’t believe the wall-to-wall coverage would have died down had he admitted to having an affair or two. And it certainly would have resumed once the tape and sex tests were made public.

Now, for an off-topic thought. You know who benefits most from all of this: Mike Huckabee. At any other time, the Seattle shooting would have been headlines across the nation, but a pure violence story was topped by a transnational story about sex, fame, money, a crash and violence. I wonder why.

And my last question, how much differently does this story play if it had been Elin who crashed the car and Tiger came to her “rescue” with a long iron? Would race have been an issue? Just asking.

No comments:

Follow me on Twitter @anthonyloftis