This Time, Tiger Woods is Not Burning all That Bright*

Since Tiger Woods wrecked his SUV outside the gates of his Florida mansion, all forms of media have reached out to public relations professionals for commentary. The general consensus: The greatest golfer of our time — perhaps all time — and one of the most admired, accomplished, recognized and wealthy athletes on the globe knows how to win tournaments, but he doesn’t know how to manage a public relations crisis.

Experts with credentials that range from the White House on down pointed out that Woods blew it. Regardless of why he was cruising around his gated community (at an apparently high rate of speed) at 2:30 a.m. or thereabouts November 27, Woods should have stepped forward and provided an explanation. The truth behind his day-after-Thanksgiving escapade may be embarrassing, but classic crisis communications procedures maintain:

1. Tell the truth early. (Woods should have made an initial statement Saturday in person.)
2. Have the message delivered by the highest-level source. (Woods.)
3. Offer to provide further details. (Like his ability to play golf in future tournaments.)

Well, clearly Woods did not follow these time-honored procedures. Why? Perhaps he did not want to. Perhaps he did not believe he had to because he’s Tiger Woods.

One must believe that a man who’s been in the public spotlight for many years, one who’s earned millions and millions of dollars, would have been counseled on how to effectively proceed following his “accident.” Apparently, the greatest golfer in the world ignored advice from those around him.

The point here: public relations professionals give advice to clients during a crisis and in other situations where someone wants an answer. That advice is not always followed — for whatever reason.

*With all due respect to William Blake (1757-1827) the British poet who penned “The Tyger,” one of the greatest poems in the English language.

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A Salute to a True Professional During a True Crisis

For those in the public relations profession, managing communications during a crisis is the true test of one’s skill.

Like many Americans, I watched television accounts and online reports of the Thursday shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. Facts are scarce during any breaking news story of this type. Reporters want to know. Everything.

The first official report I witnessed was made by Lt. Gen. Robert Cone. This officer, to my knowledge and I might be mistaken, was the first military official to report on the shootings. He was calm and deliberate. He appeared credible. He was concise and respectful to those who had fallen.

I was in awe of this guy.

This type of crisis — immediate and unsuspected — is the most dreaded kind. You can’t prepare for it, like you could before a work stoppage.

But on this day of national tragedy, Lt. Gen. Cone made very proud to be in the public relations profession and to be an American.