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The Tiger Woods Fiasco in a Social Media World

Wow, what a bad time to be Tiger Woods.

It’s only been 13 days since Tiger’s now infamous SUV crash into his neighbor’s tree and fire hydrant at 2:25 a.m. on that Friday morning after Thanksgiving but it probably feels like 13 years to him given the 24 x 7 non-stop media and paparazzi frenzy that has been covering his every move since then. And, each time a new news tidbit appears like his mother-in-law’s recent hospitalization for stomach pains due to her worry about the situation, the entire story is re-hashed with a vengeance.

While I think Tiger’s alleged affairs and sordid dalliances show extremely bad taste, bad judgment and a total lack of integrity or commitment to his marriage vows, the purpose of this post is not to bash Tiger Woods. Instead, I’d like to examine how people’s trust in your brand – whether personal or corporate – can vanish even faster than ever before due to the intense, fast-paced and unfettered communication enabled by social media tools. Within minutes of the news breaking about Tiger Woods, there were blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, and other instantaneous communications with the latest updates on the gossip/news appearing via social media faster than traditional media of print and broadcast could run with the story (ABC News Video).  Unfortunately for Tiger, it appears that he was not only a bad driver that night but he and his communications team were asleep at the wheel when it comes to how to manage a crisis communication situation in a changed world. The old rules don’t apply any more.

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Hiding being the shield of “it’s my private life, stay out,” is not going to work for a celebrity like Tiger. And as his sponsors start dropping him I’m sure he’ll realize what a failed strategy that represents. It’s obvious that Tiger needs a new playbook for the new reality of social media. For example, posting a vanilla statement on his website five long days after the car accident (Tiger Woods’ Website) isn’t going to cut it either. Tiger also needs some advice on how to work to repair his personal brand in the wake of this fiasco.

Here are some tips that may help him or others who have suffered damage to their personal or corporate brands:

10 Tips for Reviving a Battered Personal Brand

1. Look in the Mirror: Take a good, honest look at yourself or your company and think about the mistakes that you’ve made. Determine how you can move forward to fix these mistakes and live your life and conduct business with integrity.

2. Do the Right Thing: Commit to doing the right thing and change your behavior or your company’s behavior. This may be tough but must be done or you will have no hope in reviving your brand and earning back the trust that you’ve lost.

3. Be Honest: Come clean about the situation and provide honest, consistent responses to the news or questions that you are asked. A timely response means within 1 hour, even if it’s just to buy some time for a more thoughtful response.

4. Have a Plan: Immediately activate your crisis communication plan and mobilize your crisis team. If you don’t have a plan, get one. Make sure you’ve thought through not only the initial reaction but also the follow up steps you can take.

5. Respond Rapidly: Respond to allegations and news items quickly and thoroughly. Try to nip gossip in the bud with your truthful response before misinformation spreads. Use all of the social media tools available to communicate your honest response as quickly as possible to quell the tide of more negative coverage.

6. Monitor Everything: Monitor all online and offline communication about you/your company and respond appropriately. People really do want to hear your side of stories and little falsehoods can quickly escalate if left unchecked.

7. Get Good Counsel: If you don’t have a crisis team, get one. A smart, seasoned PR team would be a good first start.

8. Ask Forgiveness: Sometimes all people want to hear is that you are truly sorry and that it won’t happen again.

9. Pay Your Dues: If you or your company hurt someone or something, pay for it. Fix it from a financial perspective.

10. Make a Fresh Start: Think about how you want yourself or your company to be remembered. What is your mission in life? (No jokes please about what Tiger’s apparent mission was when he was chasing those women.) Seriously, what positive impact do you want to make on the world? Think about this and crystallize your resolve to do it. Focus on your family, honor your commitments, contribute to a charitable cause, live a life with passion and purpose. Make a fresh start and people will slowly regain their confidence in your approach. Over time, they will regain trust in your brand. But keep in mind this could take a few years.

The above tips are time-proven and will do the trick in most cases. They do assume that the wrong-doer really does want to make a change and regain public trust. But what if that’s just not in the cards? In those cases, maybe you’ll want to take some pages from Karl Rove’s playbook and start obscuring the facts, or maybe do things to evoke public sympathy — OK, you know I’m being sarcastic here. In Tiger’s case, maybe he could start uncovering dirty dalliances by Phil Mikelson and other tour pros to draw attention away from himself. Dr. Drew also opened a big sympathy card by asserting that Tiger is addicted to sex. That’s it, he has an illness. What a cop out strategy that is! Tiger just needs to “man up” and admit that he was unfaithful, apologize to everyone, and sincerely commit to changing his ways and making a fresh start.

So, what are your thoughts about the Tiger Woods fiasco? Do you have other tips for him about how to repair his personal brand? Do you think that Tiger is really serious about rebuilding his image?

BTW: For me, the one good outcome related to all of this hoopla is that as I was skimming the post-a-minute blog rolls, I did see several heartfelt posts from men saying how much they loved their wives and that they would never cheat on their spouses because of the marriage commitment they shared. These nice guys were trying to make the point that there still are a few great, honorable men with integrity out there in the world. That was reassuring to read and I know it is true. These men may not get widespread public recognition for the dedicated and honorable lives they are leading but they are the very best of men in my eyes.

Megan McKenzie

Author: Megan McKenzie

Megan McKenzie provides strategic leadership to McKenzie Worldwide and the agency’s work with technology companies in enterprise, consumer, wireless, networking, & cybersecurity.

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