Just past 2 a.m. ET on Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, arguably the world’s most famous athlete, Tiger Woods, was involved in a single-car accident outside his home near Orlando, Fla. Reports flew around later that day that he was seriously hurt. Then he was treated and released from a local hospital. Then his wife “saved” him. Then someone asked the police to delay an interview.

Two in the morning. Guy runs over a fire hydrant and hits a tree. He’s taken to a hospital with (allegedly) face lacerations and is semi-conscious, but was traveling under 33 miles per hour during the accident?

Tiger Woods
Image via Wikipedia

If it weren’t Tiger Woods, or for some of us, even if it were, we’d think one thing: Dude was drunk.

Woods finally made a statement on his website late yesterday, but it clarified nothing and even added to public speculation that something fishy was going on. News reports indicated Woods and his wife had refused to talk to police for a third straight day.

What does this have to do with social media?

When someone is saying something about your brand online, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, and you don’t participate in the conversation, you become Tiger Woods. People will create excuses or answers for you that are probably far worse than the truth. Your image will be tattered. Your connection with your customers will be weakened.

Tiger Woods’s image may recover. It may not. Make sure your brand is never in the same boat.

Listen to online conversations about you.

Participate in those conversations.

If you’re not there, people think you’re hiding something. And who wants to be that guy’s customer?

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/mlwebco Michael Locke

    Excellent point. Transparency via social outlets goes a long way. I'm always preaching that. ~ Mike

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Mike! Appreciate the comment.

  • http://twitter.com/mlwebco Michael Locke

    Excellent point. Transparency via social outlets goes a long way. I'm always preaching that. ~ Mike

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks Mike! Appreciate the comment.

  • http://geekmommy.net GeekMommy

    The days of “no comment” meaning that news media give up and go follow a story with interest are over.
    There are rabid bloggers on the internet who can *make* a story in the absence of any real information… and people who used to buy tabloids now stir it up on the Internet instead.

    Participate or live with the impression that other people create for you or your brand.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen

  • http://geekmommy.net Lucretia (GeekMommy) Pruitt

    The days of “no comment” meaning that news media give up and go follow a story with interest are over.
    There are rabid bloggers on the internet who can *make* a story in the absence of any real information… and people who used to buy tabloids now stir it up on the Internet instead.

    Participate or live with the impression that other people create for you or your brand.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Amen

  • http://geekmommy.net Lucretia (GeekMommy) Pruitt

    Tiger is totally a brand – that's why car companies, athletic equipment, and others all use him as a “spokesman” for their brands in TV and print.

    Michael Phelps learned that last year. When you are making tons of money by using your image to sell other peoples' products, you have to treat your image like a brand.

    Yes, there are the legal implications – but those don't preclude making sure that your brand – personal or corporate – is represented by you when it's being debated by everyone else.

  • http://twitter.com/kishau Kishau Rogers

    Jason, I kinda agree … and I kinda don't. LOL. I believe that transparency is important for brands, however Tiger is a person and is entitled to decide what elements of his life should remain private. It seems like a near impossible task for someone of his stature, but I can't blame him for trying. I think that his letter requesting privacy during this time was his attempt to tell the public that he and his wife would like to deal with whatever happened on their terms. I respect that. I think the media and the public should grow accustomed to waiting for the story to unfold. Information is flowing at a rapid rate 24/7/365 on the internet, appetites are insatiable and people are treating life like a Law & Order episode. Which opens the door for misinformation, speculation and witch hunts. Okay, that was dramatic, but you get my point. Great blog BTW! One of my favorites.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair points, Kishau. I certainly am not advocating for Tiger to unload
      all his personal stuff on us, but as a brand (and he is one) there is
      a minimal amount of forthcoming-ness the customers/fans expect. If
      Tiger had just given a cursory reason as to why he crashed (misjudged
      the turn, swerved to get away from the hydrant, hit the tree) and
      offered, “I was leaving at 2 a.m. for personal reasons that will
      remain such,” I think we all would have said, “Okay. Glad you're not
      hurt bad.” Instead, the silence and “statement” released on his
      website reek of cloak and dagger covering of asses. I don't care if
      any of the rumors of personal problems, drinking, etc., are true, I
      just want Tiger to say, “I'm fine. Personal issues will remain such. I
      wrecked. Here's why. I'm okay. Thank you.”

      Thank you for the comment and the compliments. I appreciate the
      feedback!

      • http://oldmedianewtricks.com Daniel_Honigman

        I wonder what his sponsors would do if he started unloading everything on us.

        One interesting note: The woman he's rumored to have been having an affair with, Rachel Uchitel, has hired Gloria Allred as her lawyer. She's known for her anti-defamation work, having represented Monica Lewinsky, etc.

        Actions speak louder than words, especially on the social web.

  • http://www.websmithgroup.com Kishau Rogers, Websmith Group

    Jason, I kinda agree … and I kinda don't. LOL. I believe that transparency is important for brands, however Tiger is a person and is entitled to decide what elements of his life should remain private. It seems like a near impossible task for someone of his stature, but I can't blame him for trying. I think that his letter requesting privacy during this time was his attempt to tell the public that he and his wife would like to deal with whatever happened on their terms. I respect that. I think the media and the public should grow accustomed to waiting for the story to unfold. Information is flowing at a rapid rate 24/7/365 on the internet, appetites are insatiable and people are treating life like a Law & Order episode. Which opens the door for misinformation, speculation and witch hunts. Okay, that was dramatic, but you get my point. Great blog BTW! One of my favorites.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Fair points, Kishau. I certainly am not advocating for Tiger to unload
    all his personal stuff on us, but as a brand (and he is one) there is
    a minimal amount of forthcoming-ness the customers/fans expect. If
    Tiger had just given a cursory reason as to why he crashed (misjudged
    the turn, swerved to get away from the hydrant, hit the tree) and
    offered, “I was leaving at 2 a.m. for personal reasons that will
    remain such,” I think we all would have said, “Okay. Glad you're not
    hurt bad.” Instead, the silence and “statement” released on his
    website reek of cloak and dagger covering of asses. I don't care if
    any of the rumors of personal problems, drinking, etc., are true, I
    just want Tiger to say, “I'm fine. Personal issues will remain such. I
    wrecked. Here's why. I'm okay. Thank you.”

    Thank you for the comment and the compliments. I appreciate the
    feedback!

  • mikepascucci

    This goes well beyond Social media as it entails Tiger and his personal life. You can say that Tiger Woods is a brand, and in most cases he is, but in this case he is not. He is an individual.

    Some things need to be disclosed, but matters that include family and children are not one of them. We know of the accident and we know that it is a personal matter. That is all that we need to know.

    If anything, I would fault the police department for not reporting it for 12 hours after the fact ;) Lets talk about that.

    Mike

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Or the fact that Tiger has refused to talk to the police? Not sure I'd
      blame police on this one, but thanks for the thoughts.

  • mikepascucci

    This goes well beyond Social media as it entails Tiger and his personal life. You can say that Tiger Woods is a brand, and in most cases he is, but in this case he is not. He is an individual.

    Some things need to be disclosed, but matters that include family and children are not one of them. We know of the accident and we know that it is a personal matter. That is all that we need to know.

    If anything, I would fault the police department for not reporting it for 12 hours after the fact ;) Lets talk about that.

    Mike

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Or the fact that Tiger has refused to talk to the police? Not sure I'd
    blame police on this one, but thanks for the thoughts.

  • http://hightalk.net/ George F. Snell III

    Hi Jason:
    You know how these things can derail! But I'm reacting to your view that Tiger should participate in the online conversations about this issue. That's where the disagreement comes in. I, too, think he should release a statement, but that isn't the same as participating on social networks. Tiger might be a “brand” in that he sells his image, but he's not a “brand” in the same way as a corporation. There's a big difference on how companies and individuals -especially celebrities – should react to a crisis.

    But I do agree with your observations about how companies need to listen and participate – I just don't think these analogy works very well. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving…

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    George:

    I'm not sure Jason was saying Tiger needs to “participate in the online conversations” as much as he needs to participate. Just participate. Acknowledge that the conversation is happening (both offline and online) regardless of whether or not he is participating. He can either guide/lead the discussion or avoid it. If he avoids it, he runs the risk of it taking on a life of it's own.

    Great discussion!

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • http://hightalk.net/ George F. Snell III

    Hi DJ:
    Indeed it is a good discussion.

    But I think you need to reread Jason's post. He is calling for participation – not just making a statement. In fact, he says that Tiger's initial statement wasn't enough and “clarified nothing.” Then he goes on to say: “When someone is saying something about your brand online, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, and you don’t participate in the conversation, you become Tiger Woods.”

    Now Jason might have clarified or changed his mind about that in the comments – I haven't read through them all. I'm just reacting to the original post. I still disagree that Tiger and Pepsi Cola (for example) are the same kinds of brands or the fact that Tiger should be leading the discussion online about his personal life – especially since he has no desire to do so.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    George –

    Right back at ya. I just re-read. You are correct. Jason is calling for participation. He even bolded these two statements. (My bad).

    “Listen to online conversations about you. Participate in those conversations.”

    However, I think there is a subtlety there. Tiger could have listened to online conversations and participated (read: responded) either online OR offline. I'm a huge advocate of social media. Ideally, if I were advising Tiger, I would have told him to participate both on and off line; however, if his world is offline, then participate there. His offline words will hopefully travel online where many of his fans are.

    Bottom line is that he needed to join the conversation.

    I agree with you that Tiger and Pepsi are not the *same* kinds of brands, but there is some similarity in the social media world. People talk and have opinions about (the good and bad) both Pepsi and Tiger. Both Pepsi and Tiger have evangelists and people who hate them. I do believe that it's in both of their best interests to lead the discussion. It doesn't have to be personal (in the case of Tiger), but it has to be something. It has to be believable. Again – he can choose to not participate, but he better be ready for the consequences as many will be (and already are) negative.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • http://hightalk.net/ George F. Snell III

    Hi DJ:
    I'm a big advocate for social media as well. But it isn't a cure-all for crisis communications. I'm curious as to why you'd advise Tiger to participate in online discussions that say he had an affair, was beaten by his wife, that his marriage is over, and that he may have been drunk when driving? How would that work exactly?

    Tiger is most likely being quiet because the truth is probably painful and rather embarrassing. It might also reveal a dark side to his character. How would participating – especially if the facts are all bad – going to help him?

    The assumption here is that being transparent and engaging online is always good. I think that's a bad assumption.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    This is exactly why I apologized earlier. The point is not that Tiger needs to comment on everything everywhere about this issue. The point of the post was that the silence hurts the brand in question (any brand in question). Participating in online conversations and responding (or making statements … you can respond one time in a blog post, etc.) as quickly and as transparently as possible as a company or brand is the point.

    Tiger was a metaphor.

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  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com Daniel_Honigman

    I wonder what his sponsors would do if he started unloading everything on us.

    One interesting note: The woman he's rumored to have been having an affair with, Rachel Uchitel, has hired Gloria Allred as her lawyer. She's known for her anti-defamation work, having represented Monica Lewinsky, etc.

    Actions speak louder than words, especially on the social web.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    George –

    Sorry for the confusion. I'm not suggesting that Tiger participate in all online conversations. What I'm saying is that by not engaging in the discussions that are happening around him, he leaves it up to the media, his fans, his haters, etc to come to their own conclusions. Your comments about “affair” or “drunk driving” or “beaten by his wife” prove that out.

    I agree w/ Jason that Tiger is just a metaphor.

    Is being transparent and engaging online always a good thing? I'm not sure I'd say always, but usually, yes. But remember that transparency has many flavors. I'm not advocating for Tiger to share with the world everything that is personal to him (nor am I suggesting that brands, companies or other people share to that level). But…silence and ignoring the conversation … in my opinion … is a poor strategy.

    DJ Waldow

  • http://wwww.blog.budgetpulse.com/ craig

    But it's more than that, and when turned into a domestic violence matter, cops and potential charges will have action taken like they are doing. Even if he came out and said that exactly, the truth still would come out and make him sound worse. So either he could flat out admit to his affair like Letterman (which he wouldn't do cause he's a control freak) or he tries to keep things private on his own. Either way tough situation.

  • http://twitter.com/patrickboegel Patrick

    One not so small difference between Tiger and Michael Phelps. Phelps occupation of choice mandates that he have sponsors. Tiger can just go out and play golf and win to make money. Professional athletes in sports that are high demand and high pay have a lot more personal wiggle room than fringe events that do not have a spectator and TV viewing audience that generate cash flow.

    Time and again athletes survive worse scenarios than it appears Tiger Woods is in, TMZ or not. A perfect example are New York Yankee teammates Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriquez. Their public profile perception could not be any more different, but at the end of the day, for the polished great image that Jeter has and lives up to, Alex Rodriquez still makes more money and garners plenty of endorsements, even with this personal life a giant tabloid and his steroid issue.

    Not saying that joining the conversation is irrelevant, but I am not sure it matters as much for each individual case. Tiger's personal perception might take a ding, but at the end of the day the people who are fans of his will watch him for the main reason they always have, he is an excellent golfer.

  • http://mikecampbellcpa.us Mike Campbell

    An ESPN commentator rightly pointed out that Tiger has earned most of his money from his image, not his golf. He stated that Tiger is the first billion dollar athlete, but has only earned $100MM from golf. The other earnings comes from endorsements based on his image.

    His public persona is very clean-cut and conventional. He consciously chose that image. That's why we did not suspect DWI. That's why this story has taken so much attention. The ESPN commentator compared and contrasted Tiger with Charles Barkley.

    Charles Barkley has a much different public image. One that is crass and outspoken. So when he 'screws up', we talk about it, laugh about it, and forget about it.

    I agree that Tiger deserves a personal life hidden from public scrutiny. However, when he wrecks his car in a neighbor's yard and the police get involved, it becomes part of his public persona.

    Your point is, therefore, very well taken. If he does not participate in the conversation, he will lose control of this image that he has worked so hard to create.

  • http://mikecampbellcpa.us Mike Campbell

    An ESPN commentator rightly pointed out that Tiger has earned most of his money from his image, not his golf. He stated that Tiger is the first billion dollar athlete, but has only earned $100MM from golf. The other earnings comes from endorsements based on his image.

    His public persona is very clean-cut and conventional. He consciously chose that image. That's why we did not suspect DWI. That's why this story has taken so much attention. The ESPN commentator compared and contrasted Tiger with Charles Barkley.

    Charles Barkley has a much different public image. One that is crass and outspoken. So when he 'screws up', we talk about it, laugh about it, and forget about it.

    I agree that Tiger deserves a personal life hidden from public scrutiny. However, when he wrecks his car in a neighbor's yard and the police get involved, it becomes part of his public persona.

    Your point is, therefore, very well taken. If he does not participate in the conversation, he will lose control of this image that he has worked so hard to create.

  • mikepascucci

    Tiger has not spoken out, and there will be no charges filed, should we still expect Tiger to say something?

    http://www.businessinsider.com/no-criminal-char…)

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