Friday, February 19, 2010

What Tiger Woods Did Right and Wrong in His Apology Statement

Tiger Woods just finished delivering his apology statement, asking for forgiveness for his infidelities and letting down his family and fans. Generally, the content of the speech was good. He apologized thoroughly and took responsibility for his actions. He admitted fault and presented steps he is taking to reclaim his discipline and put his personal recovery above his professional career. He praised and protected his family and humbled himself.

But the speech was not perfect. Here are the areas where it could have been stronger:

1. Tiger Woods is known for being extremely media savvy and very controlled, even without prepared statements. In press conferences and interviews, he comes across as confident and comfortable. However, he sounds much less authentic reading from a tightly scripted speech.

2. Tiger's speech should have been about complete contrition and acceptance of blame. Totally. Completely. Instead, Tiger switched from the soft, humble tone and aggressively attacked and antagonized the media for following his family everywhere they go and demanding that they leave his family alone. Yes, it is horrible that paparazzi hound his wife, kids, and mother. Everyone agrees with that. But in throwing darts at the media, he went from apologetic to accusatory. In crisis management, trying to spread blame is a horrible strategy. Own it. Take responsibility. Share your plan for doing everything you can to ensure it never happens again. Period.

3. I was surprised that he didn't apologize to his mistresses. Yes, I know some might not agree and that many people blame the person a spouse cheats with more than the spouse - which I find mystifying - but those women were victims too. Tiger leveraged his power and influence to woo them. He lied to them. He used them and disposed of them as though they were worthless and only there for his entertainment.

4. After finishing his statement, Tiger hugged those sitting in the front row in the room, including his mom. This was a very strange ending and it looked and felt staged. News reports indicated that Elin refused to join him at the event, to her credit. So it just seemed like Tiger felt the need to show that he still has support from friends and family. It's probably not a big deal, but I think it would have been better if he just walked out of the room.

5. His first public statement should have come way earlier. Waiting this long just reinforces the perception that everything he does is controlled and calculated.

Having said all that, I think the speech was a good step toward salvaging his reputation. The American public has shown time and time again that the only thing we love more than tearing down a celebrity, is seeing him/her rise from the ashes like a Phoenix, cleansed and reborn as a new and better person. Tiger has that chance. Now we just have to see what he does with it.


Deborah Trivitt said...

I think this is a part of his 'therapy'. Blame the media. No one likes them anyway (except me, of course). Let's face it. If they hadn't been listening to the police scanners no one would have ever known! And as usual, he turned to PR counsel too late. We could have told him the rules applied to him, too. Darnit, Darby! When will the clients learn to follow the rules? Applogy accepted, now can we follow news that's REALLY important?

Shelley said...

Enjoyed reading your analysis of the statement. I am curious what you thought of the fact it was a statement instead of a press conference and the decision by the Golf Writers Association not to have reporters attend as such?

Dan Keeney, APR said...

I thought it was too long and the script killed any sense that it came from the heart. I haven't polled averge Jo types, but I suspect that everyone has a very high B.S. meter when it comes to prepared remarks and the assumption is that they are written by a PR person or lawyer. Make it short. Let the audience know that you know you've done damage and briefly explain what you are committed to doing to make things right. A great example is this from the then CEO of jetBlue:

darbyDarnit said...

Shelley, after this much time, I would have thought he would be prepared to take questions, especially given his media prowess. I'm not surprised he didn't hold it as a press conference, as he wants to control the environment as much as possible - but eventually he will face questions. He is only prolonging the inevitable. It is preferable to get it all out quickly so you can move forward. As it stands, he is allowing it to drag out.

darbyDarnit said...

Dan, I wholeheartedly agree. After this much time has passed since the various incidents, I think he probably decided to he needed to cover a ton of ground. And it was way too much. Too many themes, too much said. And it wasn't communicated well.

glmalcolm said...

I agree he was late with the live statement, but it also seemed just like the written statement he released shortly after the incident. I'm glad Elin wasn't there. It bodes better for both of them that she wasn't "The Good Stoic Wife" and if she had been there, I would have thought it over-the-top and based on amateurish PR advice. Basically, though, I think Tiger should return to the golf circuit. If it were anyone else, they would have to return to work.
I don't agree with his apologizing to the other women. On the contrary, they should be apologizing to the world for disrespecting his marriage. Just because he's famous? Pulease!