|December 8, 2009|
|Legal Trumps PR in Tiger Fiasco|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Although Tiger Woods is being tried in the Court of Public Opinion, he is mostly listening to the advice of those who practice in the Court of Law.|
The PR advice, as usual, is to come clean quickly with all the facts no matter how bad they may be. The Court of Public Opinion renders swift justice and does not wait around for briefs to be filed.
In this case, the truth is so awful — multiple sexcapades over many years with many partners — that heavy penalties must be paid.
To make amends for all the hundreds of millions that he took under false pretenses, Tiger should return whatever is left to his sponsors or to charities.
He has not only cheated his wife and sponsors who paid him $900 million of the $1 billion he has taken in, but has compromised President Obama.
The January Golf Digest features Obama and Woods on the cover lining up a putt with the headline: "10 Tips Obama Can Take from Tiger."
One of them is "The Danger of Looking Ridiculous." Woods advises Obama to keep his golf-playing habits to himself just like Woods keeps so much of his own life private. Woods does not, for instance, appear on "Dancing with the Stars."
"Tiger never does anything that would make himself look ridiculous," goes the advice which turns out to be ridiculous itself in the light of what started to come out Nov. 27.
Even phonier than the article are the three full pages of pictures of Obama and Woods that are actually the heads of the two men pasted on others' bodies. The pictures are as fake as can be but the only hint of that is the notation in small type that they are "photo illustrations."
Ideal PR: Confess and Pay Up
Tiger could have described his complete lack of discipline in sexual matters, admitted the many liaisons over the years, apologized for cheating his wife, fans and sponsors, and offered to donate what's left of his sponsorship income to charities, including one that helps those who have lost control of their sex drives. He should also submit to sexual behavior counseling.
None of the sponsors such as Nike and Gatorade would have let their names within ten miles of Tiger had there been any evidence of sexual misbehavior.
All the money in the world is not going to help Tiger now. We're sure he would rather be a penniless bum than carry the burden of the public knowing he defrauded so many millions of people for so long.
Us Magazine, which has been on top of this story, now saying that nine alleged paramours of Tiger have come forward, is calling this "the biggest sports scandal of all time."
Slate columnist Jack Shafer said Tiger's puff merchants had raised him to the status of "divinity" and no one should feel guilty for finding the Tiger saga "irresistible."
This story has "good legs" and will be fodder for many a late night talk show.
Law Is Not the Answer
The legal approach that is being used by the Tiger team is having disastrous results.
Tiger owes the public and sponsors big time and he must pay up. "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul" (Mark 8:36) is a Biblical saying that is apropos.
The Tiger incident shows the weakness of PR pros who advise Tiger. They have not been able to make their case for PR forcefully enough. This is true almost throughout the business and organizational world.
Lawyers are out-arguing PR pros. Even at the PR Society itself legal arguments are dominant.
Lawyers are trained to argue before a jury of twelve, or a single judge or a small panel of judges. They think in terms of plaintiffs and defendants, our side vs. their side. Critics or those seeking some kind of relief are seen as enemies out to destroy the client. They are seen as enemies who must be obliterated if possible. There is no limit to the nastiness of strategies or tricks.
Lawyers are used to having plenty of time to craft their arguments. Their stock in trade is to delay things as much as possible.
Legal cases are dragged on for years with the hope that participants will lose interest, forget things, or even die.
Clients are usually muzzled, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.
The stock advice to clients of Bob Shapiro, who helped get O.J. Simpson off in his first trial, is: "They talk, I walk."
Legal logic does not work with the public, i.e., the Tiger team saying that, under law, Tiger was not obliged to talk to local police or even allow them in his house.
PR's promise was that it would listen to the other side, make compromises, be a peacemaker.
Reports are that wife Elin had damaged the house and Tiger's lawyers did not want that to be seen. There is the unexplained $16,500 in damage done to a house near Turnberry last July where Woods was in a tournament.
Conspiracy of Silence
The conspiracy of silence surrounding Woods that involved hundreds of people including many in his entourage, other golf pros and the media shows that large numbers of people can be kept silent if the penalty for talking is severe. This happened with Enron and its wayward CPA firm, Arthur Andersen. Many thousands in the CPA firm and Enron knew about accounting abuses but kept silent for years. When the truth came out, the 70,000-employee AA went poof.
The New York Post (Dec. 2) accused the National Enquirer of sitting on the Tiger story for two years in return for having him featured on the cover of sister publication Men's Fitness magazine in August 2007.
The Post quoted former magazine editor Neal Boulton as saying that. It also quoted David Pecker of parent company American Media as saying such a claim was "absolutely not true."
Americans got most of their news and the sharpest opinions on the Tiger incident from the websites of TMZ, National Enquirer, Us magazine, Slate, etc.
Grupp Urges Transparency
Bob Grupp, president and CEO of the Institute for PR, said claims by the Tiger team that he has certain rights of "privacy" in the matter of his SUV crash are not going to wash.
The Tiger brand is "too big" for such claims, he said. If you're going to be that big, you must also be "transparent," he added.
The advice of Grupp and many others is that Tiger had to put all or most of the facts on the table "quickly."
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