In proof of the power of the media, Tiger Woods had a minor car accident a week ago, and it’s still headline news. Since his mysterious wreck out of his driveway, Woods has denied opportunities to speak to the police and, in my opinion, remained all too quiet about the situation until today.
I’m convinced very few people really care about this story anymore with the exception of PR pros, journalists and those directly involved, but I fit into one of those categories, so, I’m interested to an extent.
There’s very little advice I could think to offer Woods, but, when it comes to handling media, I have one rule of thumb: transparency.
Regardless of the situation, anytime someone asks me PR advice, I always say that transparency with the media is the best option. If you try to avoid them or ignore them, they’ll assume the worst, do some digging and fill in the blanks themselves, denying you any opportunity to put you ‘spin’ on what they find. And that’s exactly what happened to Woods. A minor wreck turned into Woods cheating on and being beat up by his wife with a golf club. Like most pro athletes before him and like all of us, Woods is not perfect, and I’m sure being attractive, famous and rich (rough life), he has women falling over him everywhere he goes. Let’s face it: His temptation to be unfaithful to his [gorgeous supermodel] wife is much greater than the temptations for most of the rest of us just because of the plethora of opportunity to do so.
I honestly believe that, had Woods been honest, at least to a point, with the media from the beginning, much, if not all, of the situation could have been avoided. A simple explanation for the cause of his wreck, which he still hasn’t given, could have avoided him being outed by someone besides the National Enquirer at a cheater.
While I understand that Woods is a human being and he, like the rest of us, deserves all the privacy we non-billionaire citizens are privileged to have to deal with our problems behind closed doors, Woods is a public figure. He knew the dangers of being in such a situation before he became famous and, with that, comes a responsibility of knowing how to properly handle media to keep your reputation under control and how to properly handle yourself to keep your name out of the headlines for non-golf matters. Woods has been perplexingly good at keeping his private life out of the spotlight for the most part throughout his career, but the fact that he’s surprised at the amount of coverage he’s getting is simply naive. He’s the first billion-dollar athlete. People will have questions.
I credit Woods for making a statement today, even if it was after malicious rumors (that are apparently, to some extent, true) and headlines were splattered across every major news outlet, but his apology was full of “ifs” and “buts,” which to me just proves insincerity. Rather than returning an attack to the media, Tiger should have simply said, “I made a mistake and was unfaithful to my wife, and the person I owe the biggest apology to is Elin.”
I could go on all day about the possible situations that could have kept Woods out of such an extensive spotlight, egged on by social media, blogging and the real-time reporting availability of today, but really only one thing could keep the world’s most famous athlete out of the infidelity spotlight: Step up, be a man and be faithful to your wife and children, regardless of the opportunities to do otherwise. You’re not perfect, Tiger; we know and accept that, but if you really want your private life out of the spotlight, don’t do things that call our attention to it.
Having rambled about all of that, what Tiger did wrong:
- PR-wise: Trying to completely avoid the media
- Personally: Cheated on his wife
- Favorite inappropriate joke about the situation: “Elin found out he’s not a Tiger; he’s a Cheetah.”
That is all.