December 3, 2009
All day I have been providing multi-stream, multi-friend, media consultant commentary regarding the Tiger Woods’ School of Driving. As Water Cooler Chatter this has got to be one of the biggest stories of the year. Does anybody remember last week’s big story – Sara Palin’s self-fictionalization, or even what looked to be this week’s story – the White House party crashers?
Let’s set aside the speculation over what he was doing and with who. These are digressions from our lesson in media and crisis communications. The Orlando Sentinel, a real newspaper that remarkably still employs reporters, has followed the story extensively and this is where most of the info is coming from.
Nov. 27, 2009: The day of the crash many stories emphasized the “heroics” of his wife, Elin Nordegren, for bashing a window to “rescue” Tiger from the vehicle. The vehicle wasn’t burning. The crash was the result of an odd, meandering, low-speed drive. But, hey, everybody is called heroic these days. I thought it was just hype, but now it looks more like it could have been an intentional distraction.
Fast forward to today and Tiger’s infidelity apology, which answers one question, but doesn’t answer many others. Have a look at the news photos:
- No damage to the front windshield – so how did our driver, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, get cut and knocked out?
- Why did his wife break not one, but two rear seat windows, when Tiger was sitting in the driver’s seat – left front?
- Wouldn’t she first try the door, which appears undamaged, and then break one of the front windows?
- Which leads us back to Tiger’s facial cuts – if not from the windshield and not from the rear windows, from where?
Look at the photos of the house and driveway, and the map showing the path of Tiger’s Cadillac Escalade. At 30 mph, he slowly drove through hedges, over a curb, then a fire hydrant, and into a tree. This is not the path of a man going out for a drive, nor even the path of a really bad driver. This is the path of a driver who should not be anywhere near a car. Cops say alcohol wasn’t a factor, so what was a factor? Fear? If so, wouldn’t he drive a lot faster? Or was he semi-conscious from being hit in the head with a golf club?
According to the cops he was out for six minutes after he hit the tree. Looking at the map, we should be grateful that it was 2:30 a.m. otherwise there may have been pedestrians or cars in the Escalade’s path.
Making up a story makes your scandal more interesting, not less. What Tiger should have done was come straight with the story. That’s easier said than done, of course. When you have a scandal, the best thing you can do is tell your side of the story as accurately as you can. Making something up, as we have seen, is throwing blood in the water. The piranhas will come and leave only bones.
Tiger’s first statement should have been similar to this: “I had an accident after a serious argument with my wife. We are now sorting things out through counseling. In these kinds of situations the need for privacy is crucial….” This would have calmed the media monster, for a little while. However, he didn’t want to do that for two reasons – to hide his infidelity and protect his wife from suspicion of domestic abuse.