Tiger Woods needs to say more, PR pros advise

Posted: 7:02 pm Fri, February 19, 2010
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Golf pro Tiger Woods may have accepted full responsibility for his multiple extra-marital affairs, but public relations professionals say a few more things need to happen before he can fully win back the hearts and minds of his public.

 They take issue with the fact that, despite it being his first public appearance since the details of his affairs began unraveling, Woods is still refusing to take questions from the press.

“At some point he’s going to have to answer some questions if he wants to rebuild his brand,” said John Maroon, president of Maroon PR in Marriottsville. “At some point you have to get that over with and move on with your life and he could have done that [Friday].”

Woods, who has not been seen or heard from since late November, appeared Friday at the TPC Sawgrass golf course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. His event aired opposite the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, which started Wednesday in  Arizona. Accenture is one of the companies that dropped Woods as a sponsor.

Woods’ apology is still leaving sports fans lingering, Maroon said. And while that could neatly be solved by a sit-down interview with a reputable news organization, he and others say it’s unlikely that will happen.

Susan Goodell, senior director at Baltimore-based public relations firm Warschawski, said she was surprised Woods spoke about as much as he did: his return to golf, domestic violence, his renewed interest in his Buddhist faith, even thanking PGA players and Accenture for “understanding” why he chose to make his announcement Friday.

But she said by bringing up those topics while stating others were private (including his family, the affairs and the Nov. 27 car accident that spurred questions into Woods’ personal life), Woods’ carefully controlled statement acted as a cover-all.

“I suspect that the reason he went into such great detail in the statement is that he doesn’t intend to do much more,” Goodell said. “I think this is a first step so that he can point at it and say, … ‘I addressed it. There’s nothing more for me to say.’”

Meanwhile, questions about Woods’ consideration of his sponsors, the PGA Tour and the sport of golf will go unanswered indefinitely.

Maroon pointed to Major League Baseball pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, who were both outed in 2007 for using performance enhancing drugs. Clemens denied — and still does — using human growth hormone while Pettitte promptly admitted to it.

“One guy took questions and apologized profusely — no one thinks of Pettitte and steroids anymore,” Maroon said. “Meanwhile, the other guy denied, denied, denied, and in a lot of ways his image is still tarnished.”

But Woods does have a couple of outs left. One thing in his favor, Goodell said, is that his fame has risen above the level of needing the media’s approval.

She also noted that Woods’ sponsors seem to be accepting his statement. Just after Friday’s event, long-time sponsor Nike issued one of its own saying the company offered its “full support” to Woods and his family.

“What it did is give them cover,” Goodell said. “They can say he’s already spoken on the subject. Case closed.”

But the most effective way the golfer can move on from the criticism for still trying to do it his way is to get back on the course.


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