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Crisis Communication: What should Tiger Woods say?

By Suzanne Spurgeon  November 28, 2009

When does a minor traffic accident become major news? When the driver is one of the world's most famous athletes who is also the king of endorsements.  Tiger Woods is experiencing a communication crisis and to date, has not done much communicating.  After being released from the hospital, his spokesperson released a skimpy statement assuring everyone that Tiger is fine.  But more than a day has passed and no further explanation has been offered by Woods.  Unfortunately this leads to media speculation that may or may not be accurate.  Was he arguing with his wife and drove off in a frenzy, ending in the traffic accident?  Or was he racing to a drug store at 2AM in search of medicine for a sick child? Or???   There are many possible explanations.  By not providing one in a timely manner, the Woods story is growing.  Police want to question him and I'm sure the firms he reps have a few questions of their own.  Woods' wife told authorities she broke out a car window with a golf club to rescue her husband.  That does not sound "minor".  When it comes to Crisis Communication, the first hours are the most important. 

Whether you are a celebrity, a CEO or a small business owner, it is important to understand how media outlets operate.  When a story of this nature breaks during a traditionally slow news cycle (the holidays), it automatically gets more air time.  And, just because people are busying shopping and traveling, don't think they will miss the story.  Producers will treat it as a breaking story even on Monday.  After all, police still want to question Tiger.  And there's still the question of whether he will play in the tournament next week  And, once we hear the 911 tape, the story will really take on a life of its own.  The speculation will continue until the media gets what it wants; Tiger Woods giving a first hand account of the accident and the events leading up to it.  Woods and his wife may want to consider a joint interview with a "friendly" journalist.  Or at the very least, a statement that clears up the mystery. 



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