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Tiger: Hit it long, straight and follow crisis communication rule #1

Over this Thanksgiving weekend the Black Friday/CyberMonday news stories were drowned out by a minor story involving a visible and popular celebrity, Tiger Woods. There have already been more than 21,000 stories written on the topic as of this morning.

In today’s celebrity and athlete driven news culture this incident was going to garner headlines no matter what, but in my opinion Tiger has made two key communications failures with regards to this incident.

  • Failure #1: He forgot crisis communication rule #1: Tell the truth, tell it completely and tell it quickly. Do any of us know if what he has said so far is true? No. Only Tiger and Elin do. But he has rescheduled interviews with the local police multiple times. Each time he cancels is another news hook that keeps this story and speculation alive. Have the meeting. Postponing the police interview three times is not putting an issue to bed. Get the unpleasant news out of the way and move on. If you know unpleasant news is going to get out – being proactive shortens the cycle and gives you a chance to shape the agenda instead of ceding the initiative to others.
  • Failure #2: Response speed: He issued a statement approximately 40+ hours after the crash. This is a long time to wait in today’s news cycle and let the rumors he cautions against multiply and spread. Mike McDougall, VP of corporate communications and public affairs at Bausch & Lomb, recently commented to me that the 24 hour news cycle is now the 24 minute, or 24 second news cycle. Advil and other consumer companies have learned you need to respond quickly. Tiger (or his counsel) should have been out in front sooner. While a video podcast on YouTube (a la JetBlue) is probably not the way to go, a quicker response was essential.

To recap, all brands and organizations need to keep in mind key rules for crisis communications: Respond promptly, even if you do not want to. Respond quickly and accurately.

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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 19 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national treasurer for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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