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Bad Timing in the PR World

kk+<VIA LOUDSPEAKER> International Olympic Committee, Vancouver Organizing Olympic Committee and Tiger Woods, please report to the first-floor classroom for PR 101…

I really wish I could say that people who work in my industry do it right because we had the best and the brightest teachers. Somewhere along the way, however, some didn’t learn basic public relations, didn’t listen or are allowing a misguided leader to dictate actions instead of what could be a better strategy for relating to the public.

Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, announced that the world’s most popular golfer will make his first public appearance since November when he makes a statement to a “small group of friends, colleagues and close associates” and three pool reporters on Friday at 11 a.m., EST from the PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

The key word is “statement,” as in Woods won’t take any questions. Almost as soon as the “appearance” was released to the media, speculation and chat about the strategy used by the Woods’ camp began to stream throughout social media. The consensus is not positive if the 2009 PGA Player of the Year is trying to make a second first impression.

“So Tiger’s not going to take questions? Why doesn’t he just tape his statement and put it on his website?” asked Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports reporter, Greg Bedard on his Twitter page. Followed by a later tweet, “The media should show some guts and not televise the infomercial.”

Not much differed in PR pros’ points of view. “Him not speaking in public is not what’s lost trust in millions of people,” said John Sternal. “Don’t waste time by saying the same thing you’ve already said.”

Keith Allison - 004“Whoever is making PR money off Tiger is robbing him blind,” said PR specialist, Toby Srebnik.

Earlier in my fiscal week, it was the IOC  and VANOC that drew my ire, not only for poor PR practices. The organizations classlessly blamed Georgian luger’s Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal run on the late athlete. The timing, even if the data is statistically supported, was distasteful.

Only hours after Kumaritashvili flew off the track to his death, organizers promptly erected higher walls, padded steel beams that surrounded the course and moved the starting points forward for all racers. Before the last nail was hammered into the new wall, the IOC read a joint statement from the International Luge Federation that blamed the tragedy on athlete error.

The day prior to his final run, the Georgian luger told his father that he was terrified of the track at the Whistler Sliding Center. He wasn’t the only one. Others expressed concern over the degree of difficulty and said that there wasn’t ample time to safely prepare for the course. Despite these concerns, governing bodies were quick to deflect blame to the dead athlete. It just didn’t sit well with many of us who train to communicate news and prepare for crises.

The Olympics PR problems didn’t start or end there. VANOC will reportedly have to refund up to $1.5 million for more than 20,000 tickets because rain caused potentially dangerous viewing conditions at the snowboard and freestyle ski venue. (I personally applaud this responsible, albeit expensive move.) That and the dozens of irritable tweets I read each day from people who resent NBC Sports’ tape-delay of events leads me to believe there was little thought about public sentiment. This has led to criticisms that could have been avoided.


Image by kk+

Image by Keith Allison

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3 Responses to Bad Timing in the PR World

  1. Wesley Mallette February 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    Hey Gail!

    Good piece here. I am actually starting to wonder if Tiger even has a solid PR team in place. Judging by the lack of strategy to date, agent seemingly controlling every move, his statement today (which was clearly not written by an expert), delivery, direction, etc., if he does have anyone on board, he’s either not listening to them or they are not at the level needed for reputation repair at this level. He needs a tremendous amount of coaching and it should have started a long time ago.

    And yes, it was a pretty classless move blaming Nodar Kumaritashvili for his own death in what ended up being his final luge run. All your points there are accurate. Horrible move and timing.

  2. Jlucas09 July 20, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Tiger should have been completely honest from the beginning and that would have helped a ton. He has down some good things as advised to by his PR team. As the Wellons blog points out, the media’s questions have been grenades that Tiger has not picked up. He is doing some things right.


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