At this point, we've all heard about the car accident that the world's best golfer -- Tiger Woods -- was in. We all know that he hit a fire hydrant and a tree of some sort. His wife smashed out the back window with a golf club to get him out. When the police arrived, they found the guy with a lot of green jackets, laying in the middle of the street with scratches and cuts on his face and blood in his mouth. His wife was hovering over him. Regardless of the rumors of him being an unfaithful hubby, and what the real story is behind the story, here's what is going on in Tiger's camp from a communications perspective.
First off, his team of lawyers, PR folks, handlers and confidants are getting a full download. They need to get the entire story so they can start to formulate their communications strategy. At some point, one of his people will need to make a formal statement to the media -- more so than just a canned quote about Tiger being ok and thanking all is fans for the best wishes. They will have to answer some tough questions like what was he doing out at 2:30 am. Yes, the Tiger camp will be protected from answering anything in big detail because of the "under investigation" tag this story has been slapped with by the authorities. However, this story, regardless of how it got to this point, has notched a chip in the once solid reputation of Tiger Woods as a brand.
The guy is worth millions, if not billions. He has endorsements up the wahzoo. He is a fierce competitor and typically comes across as a focused, dedicated, young professional golfer who wants to be -- if not already -- the best golfer in the history of the game. Remember when Michael Jordan had his run in with the law as it related to gambling? Remember when his father was shot down and killed, with rumors being that it was mostly due to MJ's unpaid gambling debts?Those stories stuck with Michael Jordan, despite being a first ballot hall-of-famer. Those are sticky stories that will be on MJ's back for his entire life, and in some way, notched a chunk in his reputation bar. Same goes for Tiger Woods. Yes, this is a story that is still developing, but because of the cloak and dagger nature of how the story has unfolded, it's only going to get worse in terms of tarnishing Wood's reputation.
His team needs to get the full story and work up a slew of statements that address all the questions that will be fired at him from here on out. They need to determine which female anchor they want to sit down with and tell the story, i.e. Barbara Walters, Oprah, etc. The setting is simple -- Tiger and his wife talking about their life, their marital issues, this specific event, etc. -- all the while, holding hands, being lovey dovey, and showing the world that all is well in Tiger land (recall Mike Tyson and Robin Givens). Their might also be speaking engagements on martial issues, a blog posting from Tiger, etc., etc. The tactics are endless, but they will all point back to a big apology of some sort from Tiger. All these tactics will be put in place in hopes of them building back Tiger's reputation brick by brick.
Regardless how this all plays out or what the real story is, there is some classic PR and crisis communications maneuvering going as we Will the full story every be disseminated? Who knows. However, I for one, will be watching closely as to how it unfolds and how it impacts Tiger's reputation from both a fan and endorsement perspective.