a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tiger's 13 minutes of contrition won't be enough to buy him peace

Last Friday's statement of contrition by Tiger Woods is too bizarre to pass up. So please permit me a few observations and then I will declare this blog a Tiger-Free zone for at least a couple of months. Promise.

Tiger likely did his public image some good in his 13 minutes of contrition. But I couldn't help wondering what might have been had he owned up and apologized within a couple of days of when his ordeal began. He probably would have saved himself, his family, his sponsors and all of us a lot of grief.

The Tiger Woods affair(s) will likely be used for many years as a case study of what not to do in crisis communications. In contrast, David Letterman's up-front handling of a similarly sordid mea culpa will be remembered as an outstanding example of crisis communications and damage control.

This is because Letterman positioned himself in front of the story and therefore retained maximum control over what could have been a ruinous tale of sex and blackmail.

The Letterman story only lasted a few news cycles and it was soon business as usual on his late-night show.

Even though Wood finally came clean, he still managed to screw up a couple of things. He showed anger for a brief instance at the media for speculating on what happened. The media may have its faults but Tiger is hardly in a position to criticize.

Media, like nature, abhor a vacuum. This is why it is better to fill in the details quickly rather than goading the media into hunting for them.

But Woods doesn't appear to have learned this. Media weren't allowed to ask questions after he gave his statement. This is why the golf writers association boycotted his so-called press conference, and quite rightly.

Woods could have cleared up some lingering questions such as when he will be playing competitive golf again by taking a few questions from the media. The media will continue to pursue the Tiger Woods story.


If the Harper government iws counting on the Olympics for a bounce upward in the polls, it may be disappointed.

Media coverage of these Olympics, both internationally and domestically, has been less than flattering. Voters whose patriotic pride has been hurt tend to take out their frustrations on the government of the day.

This has been an accident and gaff-prone Olympics. Canada's rallying slogan of Own The Podium likely belongs in the hall of fame of dumb marketing slogans.

Own The Podium was the slogan for a program that plowed $117 million -- $65 million of it from you and me -- into athletes' training with the aim of winning more medals than any other country in the 2010 Olympics.

Those who drafted this initiative's mission statement likely wish they had left themselves some wiggle room. When Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, announced Monday what everybody already knew -- that Canada would not own the podium at these Olympics -- the media was quick to frame Canada's athletic program as a failure.

In reality, Canada's showing in this Olympics so far is quite respectable and may yet be among our best ever despite being branded as a colossal failure.

What would have been wrong with simply qualifying Own The Podium with a time frame of say eight years instead of just one Olympiad? We would have been making progress.

Managing expectations is a big part of the communications process. Sadly, many of our athletes likely would have done better if it hadn't been for a program with a boastful name and foolish mandate.

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