Ever since the Tiger Woods story broke, we’ve been watching it from a communications perspective: How Tiger communicates, what he says when, and whether or not he’s handling this crisis right. We blogged about it last week (you can see that post here).
And, since it broke, we’ve also noticed something really eerie: for someone who talks to the press a lot, who relies on his public image for income (endorsements, public appearances, things outside of golf) — Tiger Woods has really bungled this crisis.
Then there’s David Letterman.
Remember his admission of guilt — for what would appear to be similar “transgressions” — on his TV show?
We reached out to some of our smart contacts in the Communications world to ask why David Letterman emerged from his story relatively unscathed — and Tiger’s story appears to keep going and going, putting his endorsement deals and his status as the first “Billion-Dollar Athlete” in serious jeopardy.
An About-Face of Character?
“My initial thoughts are that Letterman has been known to be an @ss throughout the years. Recently his rants on Sarah Palin showed him to be ‘not very nice’ as far as continuing to pick on someone who lost. Not good form for the most part. (But now that Palin is back in the spotlight I think she’s fair game). And previously with Bush, Misc. sports stars, some movie stars. But more notably he was called out years ago for his philandering. I believe his wife now was his live in girlfriend for about 10 years. And he had multiple girlfriends at the same time. So Letterman’s character is ‘old news.’
Now Woods is a different story, he’s been projecting this squeaky clean image all these years. Great relationship with his dad and mom. Wasn’t photographed at strip clubs, buying drugs, or even having temper tantrums. And then all of a sudden this accident and some ‘weird’ parts to the story. Then Woods went into hiding. Not a good idea since reporters can smell the ‘weird’ and want to reconcile the weird part of the story to reality. Woods who is likely at base character a nice guy did what nice guys do, they try to stay out of the spotlight when they do something embarrassing and see that they went off the path and want to get back on the correct path.
The difference between the two: Letterman came right out and said it to America and that took the initial sting out of the issue. Reporters don’t have the ‘scoop’ and now can only report, not ‘find.’ Woods gave the sharks what they live for, the scoop. Not only that Woods is not talking, Letterman talked to whoever wanted to talk about it.
Letterman: ‘I’m an @ss, what are you going to do about it’
Avoid the Phrase “No Comment” at All Costs
“When we take clients through media training, one of the first rules we teach is to never say ‘no comment.’ The idea is that ‘no comment’ is essentially an admission of guilt. Whether or not it really is, ‘no comment’ can leave people feeling like they are uninformed, misinformed or that a concern is being disregarded. As the investigation into the accident heats up, what was concern for Tiger seems to be shifting to a feeling of what is Tiger not telling us?”
Get Out in Front, NOW.
“David Letterman got out in front of his ‘situation,’ he told people what happened, what he did, and he made it a non-story. Media talked it about it maybe two days and then got bored with the story because there wasnâ€™t any dirt to dig up. With Tiger, just like what you blogged about last week, if heâ€™d gotten out in front of the story (even 24 hours later) and was honest, no one would be digging up all of his mistresses.
This is crisis PR 101. Describe the situation, be honest, apologize, say what youâ€™re going to do to fix it, and live your life. When it becomes a story is when you lie, when you avert questions, and when there clearly is something people want to find out to bring you down.”