Don’t get me wrong, I love Tiger Woods, he’s the reason I watch pro golf and the reason I got interested in golf. Maybe you feel the same way. Tiger represents all that’s great about pro athletes: persistency, focus and a willingness to work hard. He also has a beautiful wife, and two cute kids, I’ll stop here.
Okay, everything isn’t so rosy at home.
Supposedly he is surrounded by a force of “geniuses” whose primary job is to build, maintain and protect the brand called “Tiger Woods.” The question is, have they given him the right advice, did they act quickly enough or is Tiger just not paying attention? Does Tiger suffer from the “I know it all disease” off the greens? It wouldn’t surprise me. It isn’t that rare. I've known business owners that feel that because they're good at what they do, they must be good everywhere else, right? Movie stars know how to stop wars and have opinions on everything, though usually loaded with inaccuracies. I remember Tom Cruise wanting psychiatry outlawed.
The Tiger Camp issued a statement saying that they didn’t know how to deal with Tiger; the whole affair threw them for a loop. My suggestion to Tiger: fire them! Businesses don’t hire experts for the easy stuff. He should have called his mother; she would have told him what to do—tell the truth.
Everyone has the right to privacy; and what you do in your own home is pretty much your own business. If you want to drive your car into your sofa who would care? Well your dog might care. But if you’re going to drive your car into a fire hydrant and back into a tree, the game has changed. And if you’re the biggest man on the greens, everyone cares. Helloooo… Tiger’s fans care.
NBC cares. According to the Wall Street Journal, the TV ratings double when Mr. Wood’s plays. According to the Reuter’s blog, “Woods ratchets up television ratings whenever he competes and mentioning his name in a headline triggers massive interest by newspaper and online readers.”
(Don’t worry too much about the sponsors, if there’s an audience deficiency, the advertisers are somewhat protected and will receive advertising credits towards other media buys.)
There are lots of unanswered questions. Where was he going at 2am, and how did all those things get in the way of his car if he was just backing out of the drive way? And could they really cause facial lacerations, bleeding, etc.? Is cool Tiger so shook up that he can’t do what he does so well—play golf? We hope not. Why did this even make the papers in this unflattering form? How important is Tiger’s reputation? My mom used to say all you have is your reputation; maybe Marie should have been Tiger’s marketing advisor. This didn’t have to be a problem. Was it poor management, poor advice or just panic in Tiger’s mind? So is it our business? Well no and yes. Simply enough, he hit the fire hydrant and you heard the variation on the rest. It’s not our business because he’s just a human being. It is our business because he’s chosen to make it our business. Tiger represents the best of what he does, the gold standard.
His life is no longer private; he has chosen to disclose the most intimate aspects. My advice: share the solution, his fans will stand by. His personal business is his business but it quickly became ours. Eventually we probably would have found out what happened. Okay so eventually we would forget most of it.
Okay so Tiger isn’t infallible, he’s real, and being real he becomes even more important to our society, if he “bellies up to the bar” as they say.
There are some important lessons for all of us concerned about our brands. Building a brand is hard; destroying a brand is a lot easier. So protecting your brand is important and takes a lot of work.
Tell the truth. Not telling the truth creates problems that don’t exist. Consult your confidants, your family, and your business associates before you issue any statements. When in doubt, call your lawyer. By the way, that was my ex-husband’s remedy for most events but I just figured it was because he was a lawyer. My ex-husband was right too. Remember you have loyal fans that wish you well, buy your products and sometimes wish they were you. By the way, we want our heroes to be good because we want to be like them.
Live by your ethics, breaching your ethics will always cause you and your loved ones pain. If your fans question your ethics your business will lose credibility.
Turn lemons into lemonade; look at the glass as half full, not half empty. These are wise words to live by.
Now that we know, share the solution.
A business owner told me his employee was drunk at a local bar and when the business owner confronted him the employee told him it was none of his business. He was drinking on his own time. Was it his business? You bet it was. But maybe he should have first discussed it with his lawyer before confronting his employee. You and your business are always on display. Several years ago I was traveling with an associate who decided to spout off about how stupid a prominent official was; of course his next-door-neighbor was sitting behind us.
I think Tiger and his marketing gurus should read the Velveteen Rabbit; have you read it? It’s a kid’s book written for adults. Maybe it will help them put a plan together. Here is a passage: If you want, you can have Meryl Streep read it, just click here.
"The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.
But the Skin Horse only smiled.
It looks like our Tiger is about to become real. I wish him the best.