Video: Can Woods repair battered image?

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    >>> back at 8:09 with the latest on tiger woods ' admitted transgressions and personal failings. following his release of that carefully worded statement, a woman who denied having a relationship with the golfer earlier this week has now called a news conference for this afternoon, where she is expected to change her story. what will this all do to tiger woods ' public image ? janice mihn is the former editor of " us weekly ." steve adubato is the author of "what were they thinking?" good morning to you both.

    >> good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> you might be asking that question of tiger woods , what was he thinking? a couple days ago, his lawyers said this is over. this is the cover of thursday morning's "new york post," a doctored photo of tiger woods with band-aids all over his face, missing teeth and his wife is holding a wedge and it says "tiger admits i'm a cheetah." this story is not going away, is it?

    >> the interesting thing is there are a lot of women out there, and judging by the caliber of women we've seen so far, these are women who, this is their moment, this is their 15 minutes , and they are going to start going now. and i mean, a press conference, and you know, posing in like slinky dresses and giving your stories away. this is, you know, they're done with tiger woods . onto the next step for them.

    >> but i think the point is, also, that eventually all this stuff comes out, doesn't it?

    >> yeah, a couple things. first of all, i want to clarify -- we'll talk about tiger woods and how he handled it, but my wife said it would be a driver and not a wedge.

    >> that she would use on you.

    >> hypothetically. but the point is this -- tiger woods , greatest golfer of all time, great fun as a duffer myself, one of the worst communicators under pressure. why? first of all, you do not wait more than 24 hours to make the first statement. i don't care what your advisers tell you. you know it's the right thing to do and you do it publicly. scratches on your face. this man won a major golf tournament on a busted leg. he should have appeared publicly --

    >> in front of the cameras.

    >> yes. i'm not saying a press conference. i'm saying go on video, have people see you and speak yourself and do not attack other people with these malicious rumors, if you in fact know that the truth is much more embarrassing than we think it is.

    >> well, so, yesterday, though, in the statement, at least he admits to transgressions. at least that's a step --

    >> i disagree. i think he's actually handled it well. i think that this is a man who, i think sports figures in particular, by men -- and that's the audience who's following tiger woods -- they forgive a million sins. look who plays in professional sports , you know, wife beaters, dogfighter guys, michael vick . it's, you know --

    >> excuse me, respectfully, we are talking here about someone who has not -- no disrespect to michael vick . he's just trying to get back in the nfl. we're talking about a guy who made hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements. he made $7.7 million on the golf course , 15 times more in endorsements. his brand is very different than the average athlete.

    >> but you know, how damaged is his brand?

    >> short-term, big, long-term, i say no.

    >> i think he's going to be fine. i think last night, even when i was watching some of the male pundits on tv, cable news, they've forgiven him. they were talking about what happens when he comes out to play his first tournament. he'll be seen as heroic.

    >> he's already the laughing stock in many ways. they have spirit airlines and obviously the guys he does endorsements for, they hope this goes away. spirit airlines , this is a sale they're having " eye of the tiger sale!" they're having a heydey with this. is this going to be essentially part of our pop culture ?

    >> yeah, it is already. and here's the thing -- i want to try to separate what's going on with tiger woods and his marriage and relationship and what he did or didn't do. he has to deal with that and i respect his privacy. again, his yacht is called "privacy." it's kind of funny, tiger. you make that kind of money, privacy doesn't come your way. i'm interested in how he handled it once the incident happened, and i am saying in that regard he has failed time after time , made it worse than it otherwise would have been.

    >> so, what does he do now, then? what would be the smartest thing for him to do?

    >> what should he do and what will he do, two different things. what he should do is not wait until the next tournament, and who knows when that will be that he plays. he should hold a press conference, make a statement and answer questions within a tight parameter of what his lawyers and pr people tell him, but be more forthright and candid and own it himself. don't blame anyone else . don't blame the media. don't say you've invaded my privacy. take it on yourself.

    >> okay, here's the million-dollar question, will he hold a press conference or have a one-on-one interview with somebody?

    >> absolutely not. to me, there's no reason to do that. the fans are ready to forgive him already, i think. all he has to do is go out and win a tournament and people will think, he can persevere through anything. i think the more he speaks at this point, the more he validates the story.

    >> doesn't it -- excuse me -- if he came in and talked to meredith or matt and had a candid conversation and he came across and we believed him to be truly contrite as opposed to website comments -- i'm telling you, it would go much further than any of these other things that he's done to date. it would be smarter and stronger, but my instinct is he believes he knows best. on the golf course , he does. in the court of public opinion , he doesn't.

    >> janice mihn, steve adubato , thank you so much.

    >> thank you.

    >> thank you.

    >> you're such shy folks.

    >>> up next, thinking out of

By Media analyst
msnbc.com
updated 12/3/2009 2:55:26 PM ET 2009-12-03T19:55:26
COMMENTARY

In golf, a lot of hackers, like myself, give ourselves and those we play with a “mulligan.” Simply put, this is a chance to hit again off the first tee if your shot has gone astray. But when communicating under pressure, you rarely, if ever, get a mulligan. You have to get it right the first time. 

Recently, the worlds of golf and communication crashed into each other in connection with one of the most outrageous and embarrassing public scandals to hit in a long time. That’s right; I’m talking about Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer of all time, but, as we’ve seen, one of the weakest communicators when trapped. 

Tiger Woods deserves some privacy, even though he is the most recognizable sports figure of our time.  I have no interest in discussing or judging any aspect of Tiger’s private life. The part I am interested in is the way Tiger communicated from the moment this incident became public. 

What he never seemed to understand was that stonewalling, hiding, being defensive and just hoping things would go away was a dumb communication plan. It never works. The idea that Tiger Woods and his “people” wouldn’t let police officials talk to him and his wife after this incident speaks volumes. By doing that (three times) Woods communicated that he had something to hide, whether he actually did or did not. 

The fact that for the first 24 hours he said nothing and then put out his first statement online was also weak. People need to see and hear you. If his injuries were not major, then Tiger Woods was more than tough enough to communicate on video. (I’m not even talking about answering questions.) We are talking about a guy who won a major golf tournament on a busted leg. No one questions Tiger’s toughness on the golf course, but in this instance, as a communicator he shanked it big time. 

Further, his initial online statement was weak at best; “I’m human and I’m not perfect…This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way.”  He went on to talk about the many “false, unfounded and malicious rumors” about him and his family. 

It all sounds fine, but the problem with this communication approach was that it was disingenuous. Again, I don’t care what Tiger did outside his marriage. That is not my business and not yours. But Tiger had to know that there were at least two women who were in a position to tell a very different story in a very public way. 

Look, the Tiger Woods “brand” was going to take a hit either way in all this. It was embarrassing. His well-crafted image of not just being a nearly perfect golfer, but a near flawless human being, was going to be shot with some pretty big holes. But who is perfect? 

What Tiger Woods and those advising him didn’t understand was that it made a lot more sense for him to speak in the first 24 hours on video, cuts and scratches and all, and look right into the camera and say; “I screwed up. I made mistakes. I alone am responsible for this incident and I apologize to my wife, my fans, my sponsors and others who expected more from me.” If he had done that immediately, he could have minimized some of the initial damage as well as the severity and duration of the hit. Most of us can empathize when people screw up, because we screw up. 

There are some simple rules when communicating in a crisis like this. Communicate fast, within the first 24 hours, clearly, candidly and without attacking anyone else. Do it in person. Take full responsibility and don’t scapegoat or blame anyone else. And, especially if you are Tiger Woods, hiding communicates the worst message of all. 

Steve Adubato, Ph.D., is an MSNBC analyst focusing on national politics and media issues.  Write to Steve Adubato at steve.adubato@stand-deliver.com

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