Tiger in the Tank
I'd always admired golfing great Tiger Woods for three reasons: (1) his brilliance on the golf course, (2) his impeccable elegance, and (3) his tightly controlled and shadowy personal life about which I was delighted to know nothing beyond the fact that he lived in Florida and owned a megayacht.
Initial reports out of Florida on Friday, Nov. 27, by the usually reliable Associated Press described Woods as being seriously injured in a car accident. As so often happens, the pathetic, aggressive media—more anxious to get it out than get it right—got it dead wrong. He had minor facial lacerations and was released from the hospital later that day.
"Media is the plural of mediocre," said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin.
When I read that the Woods’ Escalade sped out of the driveway in the wee hours of the a.m., hit a fire hydrant and ended up hugging a tree with Woods unhurt, I assumed it was some kind of domestic spat and thought no more about it. This was none of my business.
But quickly the story began to grow legs and snowball. The world watched transfixed as a reputation, a marriage and a billion-dollar enterprise imploded.
Being a businessperson, my thoughts were (and are) continually with Woods’ sponsors—Nike, Gatorade, Accenture, Gillette and the others—who were paying $105 million a year for pure excellence and got themselves a serial adulterer.
How should the Woods organization have dealt with them?
The PR Baseball Game
Public Relations is like baseball—all about control. To win, the team in the field must control the ball at all times, while batters and runners are out to totally disrupt that control.
To avoid having an minor embarrassment turn into a PR crisis, the object is to control the media until a new and more lurid event explodes and the sad sack Web, print and broadcast peeping Toms—cloaking themselves in the mantel of, ahem, "journalism"—roar off after the new story in a Keystone Kops-like chase to sell more Toyotas, tampons and toothpaste.