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On Friday Tiger Woods apologized to the world for his extra-marital infidelities, of which the public was made aware about three months ago. During his speech he made it clear that he had let down his wife, children, mother, close friends and supporters through actions in his personal life and was immensely sorry. Woods took all the blame for the incident and pleaded to the media to leave his family alone while they deal with private matter. He also extinguished some of the rumors that had been brought up over the last few months. The 15-minute, rehearsed speech acknowledged that Woods would be continuing rehab and trying to make a return to his Buddhist values. A big concern of fans, sponsors and the golfing world was the timing of his return to the sport; he said he is still taking an indefinite hiatus, but does not rule out 2010 as a possibility for his return. Though many saw his Friday announcement, there remains a sense of insincerity about the whole ordeal.

CNN had an analyzation of Twitter posts both before and after Woods’ press conference, showing that ~20% of the conversations discussed his apology as a PR stunt. From the same article, Lauren Bloom said that the controlled environment of the apology made it “look more and more like an exercise in ‘let’s check the box and do what my PR people tell me to do.'” Arianna Huffington agreed with Bloom, stating, “You can just picture his handlers working on the statement and going down [the PR] checklist.” Newsweek similarly saw Woods’ speech as the “boilerplate-celebrity addict script.” And it’s tough to argue with their opinions. Woods indeed covered all his bases. Obviously, he didn’t discuss a number of points, which wouldn’t have happened in a less controlled environment. But with no one to rebut his statement, Woods’ strategy seemed lacking and has left many fans with a number of unanswered questions.

Beyond the atmosphere, the delivery of the message also caused some chatter. The LA Times cited a few reporters who thought Woods’ speech was very poor and ultimately a PR nightmare. Some people saw his statement as almost robotic, as he read the script, looking down every few words. And though apologizing is an important step both in the recovery process and also for PR, Woods’ conference may have just been too little, too late. It was the first time since November that the golfer has made a public appearance, leaving the world to wonder, as he takes his time in rehab (rehab for what, we don’t specifically know). It’s clear that Woods’ PR people played a big part in putting the message together, as he conveniently left out some of the most glaring questions that the public has brought up over the last few months. Justin Armsden thinks that before Woods can start renewing his reputation, he needs to have another press event in which he opens up to questions and doesn’t avoid talking about the issues.

I feel, as Woods stated, that the infidelities against his wife are personal matters that the public shouldn’t be too invested in. Having said that, the golfer should have been more transparent back in November when everything started unraveling. Waiting three months just makes the crisis even more of an issue. Though listing all the women with whom he cheated may not have been the best strategy, it definitely would have changed all the media attention his story received when woman after woman came forward to the press. Some of his mistresses are still milking the story for as much media attention as they can get, which was clearly their strategy from the beginning. It’s a sad situation that Woods has put himself in, but his public image could be much better already, had he handled the situation more promptly.

Karen Leland put together a few simple steps to handling a PR crisis on her blog, which Woods’ PR team may have had better luck following. How do you think Woods and his PR team should’ve responded (in terms of time and message)? Do you think his statement was a success or failure? And finally, what else can Woods do to speed up the recovery of his reputation?

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3 Comments

  1. I think that they apology came too late. Tiger’s choice to remain silent has definitely hurt his reputation. I don’t think he should’ve responded to each and every allegation, but he most certainly should have come forth with some sort of public apology before now.

    In my opinion, the statement that he made was unsuccessful in that it seemed like it was just something thrown together to appease the public. It was very staged and unsympathetic. I do realize that Tiger’s first responsibility is to his family and that the cheating is an internal matter that needs to be handled by the two of them, but I think he let a lot of people that looked up to him down. And, his refusal to acknowledge that is a let down in itself. In a sense, he’s ignoring one of his key publics/allies…the fans.

  2. When I first saw the video of Tiger Woods’ apology speech, I have to say, I was disappointed. I was led to believe that there was a strategy to his three months of lying low, and that this speech was going to put Woods’ life and reputation back on track. But I can’t help but believe that it only kept matters the same, or perhaps even made them worse.
    I truly believe Woods’ apology was sincere, partly because I think you’d have to be a monster not to be sorry for hurting your family, fans, career, sponsors, etc. Yet, I also believe that the speech was too scripted and controlled, and ultimately a wrong move. During the apology, it was almost as if his PR team told him, “read slowly, emphasize these words, and pause to give the camera a troubled look after every few words.” He seemed that he wasn’t in control of anything and allowed his PR team to take over the situation, which probably would have been the right thing to do had they taken a different approach. I wholeheartedly agree that it seemed as if his PR team took a PR checklist approach without really analyzing the situation or determining the outcomes.
    In addition to the ineffective, scripted apology, I also agree that it was too late. Woods and his PR team should have decided to address the public sooner, as everyone has been wondering what he was doing during those three months. And as much as I agree that this is a family matter, he still lives in the public eye and needs to gives a certain concentration to the public. Something he didn’t do by apologizing in such a controlled environment.
    Justin Armsden made a good suggestion on how to recover from the situation. I do believe it is important and necessary for Woods to answer the public’s questions in order to restore his reputation and life. An open press conference would be wise for Woods’ PR team to set up within the next few weeks. It will allow the public to see the human side to Woods that was lacking in his apology speech. Also I think his days of laying low are over and needs to be seen living again, with his wife and children, and getting actively back on track with golf.
    Overall, I believe Tiger Woods’ apology speech wasn’t as successful as it could have been. His crisis management team didn’t do their jobs correctly as I think many people agree that the situation was handled ineffectively. However, I think, in time, people will forget about how poorly handled the situation was and will become avid Tiger fans once again. But I would suggest that Woods finds a new PR team to aid him with his future.

  3. I am with you that the apologies are unnecessary, but I’m amazed by how many people I’ve heard say it needed to happen. Members of my family who I would have thought would have no investment in it were saying things like: “He promoted himself as a family man and good values person.”

    Really? He did? When? I am not particularly well-versed in his career, but I always thought he just played up his prowess more than anything. So maybe the media hype created the “family values” man we associate with Tiger because we expect everyone to have those? Or maybe we place them on sports stars and they don’t have to do anything on their own?

    I think the speech was really to his sponsors. His sponsors can now point to this when they decide to endorse him and say: “Hey, you can find the apology disingenuous, but we think he was serious, so we can get back on board with him.”


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