Don’t Be a Tiger when it comes to crisis management

December 1, 2009

If you’ve been involved in a crisis or major emergency involving public information, there is a very good chance you were a participant in or witness to a conversation something like this:

PIO: I know it is going to make us look bad, but we have to come out with it.
Response Leader or Executive: Just give them a simple statement saying we are sorry and we are fixing the problem.
PIO: But without providing any details we will just encourage more questions.
Leader: So? We don’t have to answer questions.
PIO: If we don’t we will look guilty.
Leader: And if we tell them what you suggest we tell them we will be guilty!
PIO: But it still is much better if bad news came from us rather than someone else.
Leader: What if the bad stuff doesn’t out at all? These satellite trucks and helicopters can’t hang around forever. If we’re lucky, some big news will hit and we’ll get bumped to the back page.
PIO: Excuse me, there’s no back page on the internet.

Well, I could go on. Tiger is not talking. Not to the police, not to his adoring fans, maybe not even to his wife, we don’t know. But the longer he doesn’t talk, the worse it looks for him. In the meantime, it’s a big story and that means lots of people are talking. The more Tiger is silent, the more the professional newsdiggers and now all the unprofessional and amateur newsdiggers are busily doing what they can to get the next scoop–miniscule or major.

One of the comments on Tiger’s website after he posted his hopelessly anemic statement said it very well:

Tiger, Not sure of the private nature of your conflict. Pretty sure of the public nature of why people want to hear from you on the issue. They want to believe in you. In a real sense, you’ve inherited Arnie’s Army et al and your supporters WANT to believe in you. My request, as a man who works with ex-addicts and ex-inmates in Idaho, is to come clean. Attorneys are important, honesty more so. It’s a heavy burden to carry the PR weight you carry, I am certain. It is a heavier burden to carry, when a person looks like they are shrugging away any other weight that conflicts withwell placed appearances. Be real. The world is looking for realness.

There is an obvious lesson for everyone in crisis management and particularly when you or your organization are responsible for the crisis–environmental spill, industrial accident, health or safety risk to the public. Tell the people what is going on. If you can’t say anything because you don’t have the information or are prevented by legal restrictions or something is being investigated, then say it. Tiger would be so much better off saying something like: I had that accident because (something stupid he did). I’m terribly sorry for the pain this causing my wife, family and my fans and supporters. I need some time alone with my family and to heal physically and emotionally from this event. I will be fully cooperating with all authorities and answering any questions they have (and then do it for goodness’ sake).

I hope for the very best for this incredible young man. It would be so sad to see one of the greatest athletes and talents of all time lose his career and the respect he deserves–particularly if it is mostly because of getting some terrible PR advice.

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One Response to “Don’t Be a Tiger when it comes to crisis management”

  1. Joe Ramallo Says:

    Tiger will be ok. He has built a tremendous, and perhaps unparralelled, reservoir of good will. There is no doubt he faced a very difficult dilemma as to whether to “come clean”. In the end, I believe he remained relatively silent and refused to speak to police because he faced the real possibility of putting his wife (and family) in jeapardy – as in – possibly in jail.

    I know this violates much of what we believe in, but in this case, he made the right call – one no doubt strongly recommended by his lawyer and one proven at least partially correct when the FHP announced today there was nothing further to investigate.

    Had he submitted to questioning – he would have been asked whether his wife hit him, and if she had and he answered honestly, she would have been arrested. If he lied, he’d have put himself in jeopardy.

    He decided the details of this incident should remain private and he’ll pay a price, but perhaps not as great as if he had disclosed the details, which which would have been leaked before he left the interview with FHP.

    The media has been reckless and irresponsible in its coverage and I don’t think he needs to play to their level – perhaps only because he IS Tiger Woods.

    The reporting on his alleged affairs has been absurd. Having said that, if any of it turns out to be true, he’ll pay dearly, but it won’t have much of anything to do with the incident this past weekend.

    He waited out the


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