Sample Public Relations Paper on Tiger Woods

Introduction

Today’s society is conscious of public figures from a variety of fields; however, high-profile personalities are arguably the most scrutinized. Athletes hold a multifaceted social outlook that defines them as both celebrity and hero (Qualman 14). Often the society demands as well as expects them to live their lives in a manner that is concurrent with their professions; with significant discipline and dedication. However, in the era of ubiquitous and viral news coverage as cited by Moran who explains how hard it is for athletes to keep even the most innocent of human failures away from public prejudice (156). An athlete’s image or brand has evolved to become his or her most venerable procession a factor that Tiger woods found out in 2009. Tiger woods infidelity scandals saw a once revered athlete turn from hero to villain; however, much of the consequences he faced was as a result of poor image crisis mitigation a factor that is explained through this article.

Discussions

Background

At about 2:25 a.m. of November 27, 2009, Tiger Woods, one of the highest rated golfers in the history of the sport, was reported to have  crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree a few meters from his Florida mansion (Helling 78). It was also reported that his wife of three and a half years, Elin Nordegren, broke the rear window of the vehicle using a golf club used a golf club to and later pulled him out of the car. The initial reports indicated that Mr. Woods was ferried to Health Central Hospital in Ocoee, Florida but he was released a few hours later as his injuries were considered minor (Starn 245). However, a number or local news agencies reported that Mr. Woods’s wounds were not as minor as earlier reported; additionally alcohol was not a factor in the accident (246). From this point, it became apparent that Mr. Woods was a victim of an assault that may have been caused by his wife. The incident came two days after National Enquirer published a story alleging Tiger Woods was having an affair with New York nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel for over two years (242). This was the first sign of trouble for Mr. Woods considering that by December 2, Jaimee Grubbs, a Los Angeles cocktail waitress, surfaced with information and proof of a 30 months clandestine relationship with Tigger. In the weeks that followed it was reported that 12 women made public their involvement with the golfer (Helling, 80).

The top golfer’s image as a successful sportsman, responsible father, and husband was under attack at this point; however, Mr. Woods maintained silence. Two months later, on February 19, 2010, at a Florida golf club, Mr. Woods gave his first public acknowledgment of his secret affairs and action Blaney, Joseph and Scott indicated as a futile attempt on damage control (67).

Crisis Management (Image Repair prior to the crisis).

When analyzing Tiger Woods case it is evident that the public relations tea took a significantly long time to give a statement on what was happening. The first sign of trouble came Woods crashed his car and was physically confronted by his wife Elin outside their Orlando home. As cited by  Meng and Po-Lin the best time to face a PR crisis is by answering questions as they come up and not allow the public to’ fill in the blanks’ on what they may not know (pp. 56-57). Immediately, reports surfaced about a scuffled between Woods and his wife the PR team had the responsibility of drafting three types of messages; social media message, Controlled media message, and traditional News media. Sports figures have a multifaceted fan base that requires communication on different levels; social media messages on twitter or Facebook give a face to the crisis (Len-Ríos 191). Social media messages are more personal as followers feel that they are being provided with information on a personal basis, which aids in reduce the hostility of a crisis (192). On the other hand, controlled media messages particularly online press releases, press statements, and interviews offer a chance for the public to be involved in finding more information on the crisis. As indicated by (193), Controlled media messages are interactive the accused gets to fill in the unknown blanks that the public feels have not been well addressed. Lastly, traditional News media particularly Print news stories newspapers increase the reach of crisis mitigation imprinting a particular message on the issue at hand (193). Mr. Woods’s messages to the public came significantly late and were restrictive.

Table 1. Crisis mitigation messages Analysis between Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong

  Social media Traditional Controlled
Lance Armstrong 3,299 749 17
Tiger Woods 355 501 66

Sources: Author

The table above indicated the number of messages that were used by the public relations team during the Lance Armstrong doping scandal and Tiger woods infidelity scandal. It is evident that the Armstrong team was set to be open with the media and the public while Tiger’s team seemed to keep their client far from the public eye as much as possible. For instance, social media messages from the Armstrong team were provided 3,299 times most being replies to questions from fans and the media’ however, the Woods’s team only had 355 messages through similar platforms. It for this reason that the two teams achieved different results in mitigating the crisis at hand.

Crisis mitigation (during the Crisis)

On 25 November 2009, The National Enquirer posted an article indicating signs of infidelity on Mr. Woods’s part with New York nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel. Two days later, new of his car crash and altercation with his wife also became public. At this particular time, the public Mr. Woods public image was in question. In the era of social media and personal branding such bad imaging is a cause of concern as most commercial deals in particular product endorsements are at risk. Athlete such as Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Kobe Bryant, Maria Sharapova, and Tiger woods all faced sponsorship consolations during the time their scandals became major issues on mainstream media (Abrams et al. 14). Endorsements work on the basis of personal branding and athletes are considered responsible in relation to musicians or other entertaining personalities (Stocker 154). Subsequently, in the event of public relations scandal athletes are faced with significant losses due to consolation of endorsements. Initially, the Tiger woods team were obligated to distance their client with the brands that were endorsed to them in order to get their names from negative press. As cited by McCarthy Tigger woods Public relations team did not take into consideration the Athletes brand a factor that saw him take a financial loss of about 22 million by mid-year of 2010 after Gatorade, AT&T, Accenture and Gillette saw it fit to disenfranchise themselves with the athlete (52). In 2013, gaming company EA Sports announced its discontinuity with Tiger Woods brand in the PGA Tour game franchise.

Crisis mitigation (After the Crisis)

As of 2010, Mr. Woods publicly announce that he was undergoing therapy in regard to his sex addiction. This move by his public relations team was appropriate as it gave a platform for the public understand Mr. Woods’s actions were psychological. It also helps the athlete gain back the trust of the publics (Johnson 261).

Conclusion

In summary, Tiger Woods crisis is a classic example of what not to do when handling Image reputation crisis management. The golfer is currently struggling to get back his form on the grass a factor that has taken longer considering the stress he has had to contain with. This article highlights the best ways of how to deal with such a situation, through communication and image or brand analysis.

 

Work Cited

Abrams, Doug, Jay Coakley, Cheryl Cooky, Rylee Dionigi, Keith Harrison, Angela J. Hattery, Jackson Katz et al. Learning culture through sports: Perspectives on society and organized sports. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011.

Blaney, Joseph R., Lance Lippert, and Scott J. Smith, eds. Repairing the athlete’s image: Studies in sports image restoration. Lexington Books, 2012.

Helling, Steve. Tiger: The real story. Da Capo Press, 2010.

Johnson, Ashley. “Rebuilding a Professional Athlete’s Reputation After a Scandal: Refining Public Relations Techniques.” (2011). (Unpublished master’s thesis). California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=joursp

Len-Ríos, María E. “Image repair strategies, local news portrayals and crisis stage: A case study of Duke University’s lacrosse team crisis.” International Journal of Strategic Communication 4.4 (2010): 267-287.

McCarthy, Michael. “Financial impact for golf felt all around with Tiger Woods gone.” USA Today (2010). Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/golf/pga/2010-01-28-golf without-tiger_N.htm

Meng, Juan, and Po-Lin Pan. “Revisiting image-restoration strategies: An integrated case study of three athlete sex scandals in sports news.” International Journal of Sport Communication 6.1 (2013): 87-100.

Moran, Margaret. “Image Restoration in Political Sex Scandals: What To Do (And What Not To Do) When You’re Caught With Your Pants Down.” Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications 3.2 (2012).

Qualman, Erik. Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

Starn, Orin. The passion of Tiger Woods: An anthropologist reports on golf, race, and celebrity scandal. Duke University Press, 2011.

Stocker, Kurt P. “A strategic approach to crisis management.” The handbook of strategic public relations and integrated communications (1997): 189-203.