Few athletes have been able to cultivate Tiger Woods’ revered status as a global personality. With his immeasurable talent, Woods brilliantly created an iconic personal brand – one that attracted passionate fans and corporate sponsors wanting to align themselves with his image. Following his recent scandal, Tiger’s cataclysmic fall from grace will be the subject of public relations case studies for years to come.
The public has learned that this larger-than-life personality is not only human but tragically flawed. Now, the overriding question is whether he can ever rebuild his brand, public image, and reputation. The answer is yes, but could Woods’ handlers have invented such a PR debacle in the first place? Following are basic tenets of crisis communications that may have helped Tiger mitigate a flown-blown disaster.
1.Close, disclose, distribute. If the National Inquirer is going to publish a major scandal, get in front of it is before the newspaper hits the stand. This allows the celebrity to manage the crisis rather than have it “disclosed” bit by bit, day after day. By putting the story out there first, the celebrity can shape how future revelations are perceived (and believed).
2. Release a statement that takes responsibility for past discretions. Own up to your faults instead of chastising the media monster that you helped create for your lack of privacy. When fans feel betrayed, they want an apology, not excuses or admonitions. Give them one.
3. Take your knocks early and often. Let the story play out quickly. Say your piece and then go away.
So how does Tiger move on from here? Fortunately, the public has a short memory and extremely likes to see happy endings. Here’s how Tiger can reinvent himself:
1. Stay out of the limelight for at least six months. While golf lovers and TV ratings will miss having Tiger on the tour, it’s the smart move from a PR standpoint. It will give fans time to miss and forgive him.
2. Say you’re going to focus on your family – and do it. Stay out of the media spotlight until your life is back in order than resurface as a rehabilitated family man.
3. After a reasonable period of time (six months to a year), promote your charitable works. Tiger has a charitable foundation that focuses on educating children; he should dedicate his laser-like focus on making it an even bigger success. That way, he can start making news for his humanity instead of his celebrity.
4. Hope for another celebrity disaster. Cynical, yes, but the public loves scandals. Tiger’s debacle will begin to fade from memory once another celebrity meltdown emerges to satiate the unending appetite for gossip.
Celebrities – even the world’s greatest golfer – are human beings like the rest of us. They get in trouble when they became isolated from reality and forget who made them famous in the first place. The average Joe wants to believe in greatness. We expect decency, loyalty, morality and good judgment from those we have helped elevated to icon status. When that fails, we want them to be forthright and honest. It’s hard to repair a tarnished image, but it is possible with smart, strategic PR and a good sprinkling of humility.
Featured Image: tigerwoods.com