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No doubt Tiger Woods is in quite a jam. Following a shady accident outside of his home Thanksgiving weekend, the golf pro has been met with an overabundance of negative press. First reports of his wife lashing out at him for alleged affairs and now at least 10 women have come out or been identified as alleged mistresses of Woods.
Things are sure stacking up poorly for arguably the most famous golfer of all time.
Upon initial on set of this story, a lot of public relations professionals jumped at the thought of how should Tiger handle it. But now, about a week and a half later, the situation has spiraled out of control, which begs the question: What should Tiger do now?
One of the most important elements of the Tiger Woods story that makes it difficult to handle is simply the Tiger brand. Millions on top of millions of dollars worth of endorsements and advertising contracts all based around the clean-cut brand image of Tiger Woods. Not to mention to potential damage on his family life and his marriage.
There is a lot at stake.
Because of these major factors, Woods might be beyond the point of simply pulling a David Letterman, coming clean and trying to stop the bleeding (though Oprah has reportedly called Woods and offered him the opportunity to tell his story on her show). Or is he?
For Woods it really boils down to two PR strategies he can use to try and save his image and the potential millions of dollars at stake. Come clean and tell all or stay quiet and hope it dies down.
Coming clean might possibly have the most negative ramifications in the short term. Whatever he admits will most likely not be positive at all. The media will have a field day, Woods will be on top of the hour of many national news shows, he will be the butt of most late-night show jokes and the embarrassment of the whole situation might just be enough to send the golfer into hiding (heck, he's already missed his own charity tournament).
But generally, crisis PR might suggest this strategy because while the initial bleeding is heavy, it can eventually be stopped. By addressing all of the rumors honestly, Tiger may have the opportunity to salvage some of the image that his made him the international celebrity we all loved (before Thanksgiving that is).
And with a good amount of time before the next major golf tournament, this strategy may give Woods time to clear his head and focus on his game so everything does not fall off the boat.
That, of course, is the most positive spin on what may happen. If he truly admits everything he ever did, major brands like Nike may pull their contracts for fear of having their brand associated with such terrible actions. His wife could leave him and he could delve into such a low point that his golf game could suffer, knocking him off the pedestal as one of the most untouchable athletes in the entire sports universe.
Keeping His Lips Sealed
Of course every dilemma has at least two sides, and this case is no different. The other crisis PR strategy might be to keep quiet, don't admit anything and hope it eventually dies down. Generally, this strategy may be best if there is a lot more negativity out there than is already being reported and the goal is to keep some of those things hush hush (though most PR practitioners will tell you it's best not to leave anything to chance in hope of it dying down and try to take it down as fast as possible).
However, the risk of this strategy can be great. It seems TMZ manages to find everything out, and if Tiger fails to come clean and we later find that he has illegitimate children or some other major development, his brand image could be tarnished beyond repair.
Yet there may be some merit here. Tiger is currently not facing any criminal charges of any kind, so there is no oath forcing him to come clean and tell the truth. If he wanted to simply deny, deny, deny could anyone truly prove what he did and did not do? I'm not saying Tiger Woods should lie, but the spectrum could go either way here. After years of living under an image as a good guy and a seemingly family-oriented man, the companies he works with may have developed some trust and faith in that and may be willing to believe his story.
This strategy is definitely the most risky though. In the short-term, the bleeding is slow but consistent. In the long-term the bleeding might stop or it might get cut open bigger than before and be enough to bring the man down. Rumors will definitely be flying!
Certainly there are a lot more complexities to this situation than I have acknowledged. But the principles of this dilemma can be a great lesson for any PR professional or business owner dealing with a tough, highly criticized decision.
So what do you think? What can Tiger do to try and salvage his image and simultaneously put an end to this situation? Is there anything he can do?