What Tiger’s Silence Should Teach You About Social Media
What Tiger’s Silence Should Teach You About Social Media
by

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 the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
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  • 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…)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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…

  • 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

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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!

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • Amen

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Thanks Mike! Appreciate the comment.

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

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

  • Thanks George. Sorry this conversation has derailed from the original
    point so badly. But my reactions are these:

    1. Tiger Woods is very much a brand. Yes, there's a person behind that
    brand, but he falls into the public domain just like a politician,
    etc., and is, thus, as much a brand as Nike, McDonalds, etc. I get
    your point and yes, he's got personal things to deal with also, but
    his image and his profitability are very much on the line here and he
    should protect them as such.
    2. My suggestions are listed in the comments. I think a quick
    statement offering a hint of disclosure and a public ask for privacy,
    rather than the “no comment … not gonna comment” vibe his lawyer-ed
    statement seemed to display only worsens the situation.

    Appreciate your point of view. Just don't agree 100-percent. Thanks
    for the feedback, though.

  • Thanks, Stu. I don't disagree, but I do think social media is an
    essential part of every brand's communications strategy. At a minimum,
    you should at least be monitoring and aware of what people are saying
    about you. To fail to do so is to miss golden opportunities to fix the
    bad or fan the flames of the good. I agree that doing it for the sake
    of doing it is a flawed reaction to the hype, but developing a
    strategic reason for involvement and sticking to an actionable plan
    that helps your business is applicable all around. I haven't found a
    reason yet for a brand to not be involved.

  • Thanks Jeannie. Agree and love the thoughts you've added.

  • Yeah! What she said. Thanks Misty.

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  • Hi Jason:
    A couple of problems I have with this example. Tiger isn't a brand – he's a person. Right now, he's got larger issues than dealing with sniping Tweeters and bloggers. He may be in trouble with the law, his wife, his family, his friends, his conscience, etc… Point is Tiger is trying to deal with his life. Brand protection is exactly top of mind for him.

    So why would he start participating in this conversation? What do you suggest? That he start responding in the comments section of blogs? Tweets to his fans? A YouTube video with his response? That's ridiculous and not going to happen – nor should we expect it to.

    You're also assuming that even participating at its lowest level – a statement – would end the speculation when, in fact, it would probably add fuel to it.

    This isn't the same thing as “United Breaks Guitars” or the Domino's Pizza YouTube video. It's a personal matter that has spilled over into the public.

    My two cents.

  • Hi Jason:
    A couple of problems I have with this example. Tiger isn't a brand – he's a person. Right now, he's got larger issues than dealing with sniping Tweeters and bloggers. He may be in trouble with the law, his wife, his family, his friends, his conscience, etc… Point is Tiger is trying to deal with his life. Brand protection is exactly top of mind for him.

    So why would he start participating in this conversation? What do you suggest? That he start responding in the comments section of blogs? Tweets to his fans? A YouTube video with his response? That's ridiculous and not going to happen – nor should we expect it to.

    You're also assuming that even participating at its lowest level – a statement – would end the speculation when, in fact, it would probably add fuel to it.

    This isn't the same thing as “United Breaks Guitars” or the Domino's Pizza YouTube video. It's a personal matter that has spilled over into the public.

    My two cents.

    • Thanks George. Sorry this conversation has derailed from the original
      point so badly. But my reactions are these:

      1. Tiger Woods is very much a brand. Yes, there's a person behind that
      brand, but he falls into the public domain just like a politician,
      etc., and is, thus, as much a brand as Nike, McDonalds, etc. I get
      your point and yes, he's got personal things to deal with also, but
      his image and his profitability are very much on the line here and he
      should protect them as such.
      2. My suggestions are listed in the comments. I think a quick
      statement offering a hint of disclosure and a public ask for privacy,
      rather than the “no comment … not gonna comment” vibe his lawyer-ed
      statement seemed to display only worsens the situation.

      Appreciate your point of view. Just don't agree 100-percent. Thanks
      for the feedback, though.

      • 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…

        • 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

          • 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.

          • 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

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • I totally agree and love this analogy. I also agree that not everything is for public consumption, but addressing what's already happened (in the way you did in the comments below) is reasonable. Bottom line is that when there is a void of communication/information, it's human nature to fill in the blank with bad stuff. Just ask anyone what they think when their boss goes into an office with another head honcho and shuts the door. The rumor mill starts quickly, even if those 2 executives are actually planning how to hand out bonuses. “They're laying us off, right!?”

  • I totally agree and love this analogy. I also agree that not everything is for public consumption, but addressing what's already happened (in the way you did in the comments below) is reasonable. Bottom line is that when there is a void of communication/information, it's human nature to fill in the blank with bad stuff. Just ask anyone what they think when their boss goes into an office with another head honcho and shuts the door. The rumor mill starts quickly, even if those 2 executives are actually planning how to hand out bonuses. “They're laying us off, right!?”

    • Thanks Jeannie. Agree and love the thoughts you've added.

  • Missy Kruse, APR

    This is basic crisis communications, the same premise PR professionals use. Say something ASAP, even if it's vague. Tiger waited. Now he needs to be 'transparent'. Even if he sugarcoats it a bit.

  • Missy Kruse, APR

    This is basic crisis communications, the same premise PR professionals use. Say something ASAP, even if it's vague. Tiger waited. Now he needs to be 'transparent'. Even if he sugarcoats it a bit.

  • Len –

    Regarding point #1…I agree that the “more you give, the more they'll want.” BUT, if Tiger (or a brand or a company or another person) were to immediately acknowledge that something did in fact happen, provide a brief statement about it, and move on, this would not be an issue.

    See Jason's previous comment about how Letterman handled the situation. Not responding at all – IMHO – is the worst thing a person (or brand or company, etc) can do. The book Groundswell discusses this at length. One of my favorite social media reads.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • Stu

    My point is that people won't automatically start to think a brand is hiding something if they don't participate in social media. Social media allows consumers to voice their opinions. If a brand successfully communicates to its audience through other, more traditional, channels, it may even find itself with a few advocates out there. I'm sure there are Tiger Woods fans leaping to his defence somewhere.
    I'm not saying social media is without its benefits, but it's not an essential part of every brand's communications strategy. Doing it for the sake of doing it is a flawed reaction to the hype.

  • I think in an ideal world, note 1 does make sense. But I think that in Tiger's case talking is kind of like negotiating with terrorists (yes an extreme comparison). The more you give them, the more they will want to take from you. In other words of Tiger goes and talks a bit about what happened, people will just dig deeper until they uncover what he doesn't want them to know. Every word he says will be scrutinized until the media gets what it wants. If their ultimate goal is to uncover a private situation, why should he help them or us (fans)? They're not going to play nice just because he does.

  • Two notes of pushback for you, Len:

    1. Not talking lets people make up stuff about you. (See Craig's
    comment below and my response.)
    2. The focus of the comments seem to be around Tiger. It was used as
    an example and not meant to hijack the point, which I think we agree on.

  • Two notes of pushback for you, Len:

    1. Not talking lets people make up stuff about you. (See Craig's
    comment below and my response.)
    2. The focus of the comments seem to be around Tiger. It was used as
    an example and not meant to hijack the point, which I think we agree on.

  • Two notes of pushback for you, Len:

    1. Not talking lets people make up stuff about you. (See Craig's
    comment below and my response.)
    2. The focus of the comments seem to be around Tiger. It was used as
    an example and not meant to hijack the point, which I think we agree on.

  • Jason,

    Most people share your opinion. I think that opinion is wrong in this case. Unlike me, you, or even Seth Godin, when Tiger says 1 word, that gets republished millions of times. Not only that, fans and critics will never be satisfied with his participation and they will make up excuses to fill the gaps ANYWAYS. The amount of content being created around “TigerWoops” as I call it is astounding and he will only fuel it by talking. I'm all about conversation, but when you are in the world-class-athlete-billionaire category, I think not talking is the smartest thing to do.

  • Jason,

    Most people share your opinion. I think that opinion is wrong in this case. Unlike me, you, or even Seth Godin, when Tiger says 1 word, that gets republished millions of times. Not only that, fans and critics will never be satisfied with his participation and they will make up excuses to fill the gaps ANYWAYS. The amount of content being created around “TigerWoops” as I call it is astounding and he will only fuel it by talking. I'm all about conversation, but when you are in the world-class-athlete-billionaire category, I think not talking is the smartest thing to do.

  • Jason,

    Most people share your opinion. I think that opinion is wrong in this case. Unlike me, you, or even Seth Godin, when Tiger says 1 word, that gets republished millions of times. Not only that, fans and critics will never be satisfied with his participation and they will make up excuses to fill the gaps ANYWAYS. The amount of content being created around “TigerWoops” as I call it is astounding and he will only fuel it by talking. I'm all about conversation, but when you are in the world-class-athlete-billionaire category, I think not talking is the smartest thing to do.

    • Two notes of pushback for you, Len:

      1. Not talking lets people make up stuff about you. (See Craig's
      comment below and my response.)
      2. The focus of the comments seem to be around Tiger. It was used as
      an example and not meant to hijack the point, which I think we agree on.

      • I think in an ideal world, note 1 does make sense. But I think that in Tiger's case talking is kind of like negotiating with terrorists (yes an extreme comparison). The more you give them, the more they will want to take from you. In other words of Tiger goes and talks a bit about what happened, people will just dig deeper until they uncover what he doesn't want them to know. Every word he says will be scrutinized until the media gets what it wants. If their ultimate goal is to uncover a private situation, why should he help them or us (fans)? They're not going to play nice just because he does.

        • Len –

          Regarding point #1…I agree that the “more you give, the more they'll want.” BUT, if Tiger (or a brand or a company or another person) were to immediately acknowledge that something did in fact happen, provide a brief statement about it, and move on, this would not be an issue.

          See Jason's previous comment about how Letterman handled the situation. Not responding at all – IMHO – is the worst thing a person (or brand or company, etc) can do. The book Groundswell discusses this at length. One of my favorite social media reads.

          DJ Waldow
          Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
          @djwaldow

  • Yeah, Craig. This is why Tiger should say something. If he'd come out
    and said, “I left the house after an argument with my wife, which is
    private. I misjudged the turn and hit a fire hydrant, overcorrected
    and hit a tree. The injury dazed me and I needed to be taken to the
    hospital. Everything else is of a private matter and irrelevant to
    those outside my family. Thank you for respecting my privacy,” then
    you wouldn't have speculated about all that stuff. It's just
    transparency, versus non. And he may have messed this one up.

  • Dang. @jasonwhat just beat me to it. I was going to say the same thing. You just proved Jason (Falls) point!

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • Craig, I think your wild speculation just proved Jason's point.

  • Normally I agree with you Jason but in this case no. He is Tiger Woods, arguably the most recognizable person on the planet. People are going to say things regardless of what he says and since alcohol was not involved (from what reports say) this goes deeper than just an accident, and clearly they are quiet for a reason. The reason most likely is it wasn't just an accident, but Tiger was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and his wife found out. Her hitting the car with the golf club was not her rescuing Tiger, but her being pissed off and trying to cause as much damage as possible. Tiger won't press charges cause it would make him look terrible and the wife keeps quiet for her own reason (money). There is more behind this than what was stated, and in this case as sometimes there should be, less is more, and for them not to speak they will determine what they will do next.

  • Normally I agree with you Jason but in this case no. He is Tiger Woods, arguably the most recognizable person on the planet. People are going to say things regardless of what he says and since alcohol was not involved (from what reports say) this goes deeper than just an accident, and clearly they are quiet for a reason. The reason most likely is it wasn't just an accident, but Tiger was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and his wife found out. Her hitting the car with the golf club was not her rescuing Tiger, but her being pissed off and trying to cause as much damage as possible. Tiger won't press charges cause it would make him look terrible and the wife keeps quiet for her own reason (money). There is more behind this than what was stated, and in this case as sometimes there should be, less is more, and for them not to speak they will determine what they will do next.

    • Craig, I think your wild speculation just proved Jason's point.

      • Dang. @jasonwhat just beat me to it. I was going to say the same thing. You just proved Jason (Falls) point!

        DJ Waldow
        Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
        @djwaldow

    • Dang. @jasonwhat just beat me to it. I was going to say the same thing. You just proved Jason (Falls) point!

      DJ Waldow
      Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
      @djwaldow

    • Yeah, Craig. This is why Tiger should say something. If he'd come out
      and said, “I left the house after an argument with my wife, which is
      private. I misjudged the turn and hit a fire hydrant, overcorrected
      and hit a tree. The injury dazed me and I needed to be taken to the
      hospital. Everything else is of a private matter and irrelevant to
      those outside my family. Thank you for respecting my privacy,” then
      you wouldn't have speculated about all that stuff. It's just
      transparency, versus non. And he may have messed this one up.

      • 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.

  • Stu, I think you are confusing “participating in the conversation,” with participating in EVERY conversation. Jason isn't saying the brand must individually respond to everything said about them by every user on every social network, but they MUST participate in the overall conversation. Silence means others are dictating the narrative. That is often bad news for a brand.

  • Well put, Rab. Thanks for that. I think the proper time to respond is
    as soon as humanly possible. The longer you wait, the more people
    assume you're consulting attorneys, agents, etc., which deteriorates
    trust.

  • Thanks, D.J. Appreciate the comment.

  • Rab

    The statement seemed genuine to me but obviously a sort of forced reaction to the news and media speculation. I wonder what is the appropriate amount of time to allow for a response? There is consideration for personal brand vs corporate brand. In the case of Tiger, obviously both are at play as an athlete and celebrity. In the case of the public eye, perception is reality.

  • Rab

    The statement seemed genuine to me but obviously a sort of forced reaction to the news and media speculation. I wonder what is the appropriate amount of time to allow for a response? There is consideration for personal brand vs corporate brand. In the case of Tiger, obviously both are at play as an athlete and celebrity. In the case of the public eye, perception is reality.

    • Well put, Rab. Thanks for that. I think the proper time to respond is
      as soon as humanly possible. The longer you wait, the more people
      assume you're consulting attorneys, agents, etc., which deteriorates
      trust.

  • Stu

    Yeah I'm sure they would like to participate in offline conversations, but the sheer number of them, as online, would make it difficult to take part in them all. You are always going to leave someone out. If those left out know you have been responding to others but not them, the negative feeling generated will be worse than if you hadn't responded to anyone.

  • Digging it Jason. Digging it. Funny how most things tie back to social media, huh? The first thing I thought of when I heard “Tigergate” (immediately after, “wow…hope he's okay”) was “I wonder how he'll respond.” I agree that he is not obligated to reply. He does not *owe* us a reply. However, silence can be a killer. We've all speculated, formed our own opinions, and had many a conversation WITHOUT Tiger. As you said, “But an enormous amount of goodwill can be lost if you're ignoring your audience and allowing other people to determine your perception.”

    Thanks for making me think on a Monday.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • Digging it Jason. Digging it. Funny how most things tie back to social media, huh? The first thing I thought of when I heard “Tigergate” (immediately after, “wow…hope he's okay”) was “I wonder how he'll respond.” I agree that he is not obligated to reply. He does not *owe* us a reply. However, silence can be a killer. We've all speculated, formed our own opinions, and had many a conversation WITHOUT Tiger. As you said, “But an enormous amount of goodwill can be lost if you're ignoring your audience and allowing other people to determine your perception.”

    Thanks for making me think on a Monday.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • Fair enough. Thanks, David.

  • thanks and keep up the great work. perspective is everything. the “social media” advocate that you are, all of this would make perfect sense. to me, it is not a matter of silence or not, it's a matter of who's driving the bus. a brand is not obligated to respond to every whim of society. it will certainly and ultimately be held responsible for truths and non-truths alike, but a brand should and will always be in control of its degree of involvement. sorry, have to catch a plane. peace.

  • But don't you think brands would want (or should) participate in the
    offline conversations if given the chance? Online conversations are
    public, traceable and indexed. It makes it easier for companies to
    have a stake in their own game. Why wouldn't they?

  • Thanks, Chuck. No, Tiger has no obligation to respond to us. Nor does
    company X. But an enormous amount of goodwill can be lost if you're
    ignoring your audience and allowing other people to determine your
    perception. Tiger can't control what we say about him or this
    incident, but he can keep a claim in the race if he's a bit more
    transparent than he has been.

    Again, the point is for companies and brands, not Tiger. The Tiger
    incident is full of exceptions to the rule (a person, not a brand;
    theoretically in the privacy of one's home; no criminal charges, etc.)
    but Brand Tiger has an obligation to fans, investors, sponsors, etc.,
    and the “mind your business” approach isn't very human. Still, the
    intention was to remind companies that the conversation can take bad
    turns if you're not participating in them.

  • Thanks David. Certainly individual brands require slightly different
    care than company ones, but in this case, the point is no different:
    Silence allows the conversation to get out of hand. Case in point:
    David Letterman's affairs. He came out publicly and curbed the rumor
    mills before they began. He admitted what happened, asked the public
    to respect his privacy and it was, for the most part, done. By only
    saying, “This is a private matter,” and not addressing or explaining
    the incident, plus refusing to speak to police, Tiger (or Brand Tiger
    if you will) is doing much more harm than good. The post is less about
    Tiger, though, and more of an illustration of why it's important to
    monitor and participate in the online conversations for your company.
    Not doing so hurts you more than not. Thanks for the push back, though.

  • Jason –

    The interwebs are becoming littered with this kind of “case study.” Brand experiences crisis. Said crisis explodes on social media. Brand doesn't engage until the story has spread like wildfire. Brand finally engages and somewhat squelches the negative conversations. Reality is that there will always be brands that are “forced” into participating in social media because of a crisis. Would it be better if they were listening and trying to mitigate before the crisis turned into a wildfire? Sure, but we know that's not likely to happen…at least not soon.

    Now, onto the Tiger Woods situation specifically. Perhaps it's just me, but when I heard this news my first reaction was…”huh, interesting” and that was all. What was more interesting to me was if this particular incident would cause any sort of damage to the Tiger “brand.” My gut reaction is that, long-term, this is going to be a small blip on the radar and do no real damage to his brand. The guy has built a tremendous amount of goodwill, and the golf community is going to do everything they can to shield him from the incident.

    One other point specific to social media and Tiger…we can talk to ourselves all we want about how Tiger has responded (or not as the case may be), but is he under any obligation to respond to any of us? Replace Tiger with XYZ Corp…are they under any obligation to respond? Depends? Curious to hear what you have to say…

  • Jason –

    The interwebs are becoming littered with this kind of “case study.” Brand experiences crisis. Said crisis explodes on social media. Brand doesn't engage until the story has spread like wildfire. Brand finally engages and somewhat squelches the negative conversations. Reality is that there will always be brands that are “forced” into participating in social media because of a crisis. Would it be better if they were listening and trying to mitigate before the crisis turned into a wildfire? Sure, but we know that's not likely to happen…at least not soon.

    Now, onto the Tiger Woods situation specifically. Perhaps it's just me, but when I heard this news my first reaction was…”huh, interesting” and that was all. What was more interesting to me was if this particular incident would cause any sort of damage to the Tiger “brand.” My gut reaction is that, long-term, this is going to be a small blip on the radar and do no real damage to his brand. The guy has built a tremendous amount of goodwill, and the golf community is going to do everything they can to shield him from the incident.

    One other point specific to social media and Tiger…we can talk to ourselves all we want about how Tiger has responded (or not as the case may be), but is he under any obligation to respond to any of us? Replace Tiger with XYZ Corp…are they under any obligation to respond? Depends? Curious to hear what you have to say…

    • Thanks, Chuck. No, Tiger has no obligation to respond to us. Nor does
      company X. But an enormous amount of goodwill can be lost if you're
      ignoring your audience and allowing other people to determine your
      perception. Tiger can't control what we say about him or this
      incident, but he can keep a claim in the race if he's a bit more
      transparent than he has been.

      Again, the point is for companies and brands, not Tiger. The Tiger
      incident is full of exceptions to the rule (a person, not a brand;
      theoretically in the privacy of one's home; no criminal charges, etc.)
      but Brand Tiger has an obligation to fans, investors, sponsors, etc.,
      and the “mind your business” approach isn't very human. Still, the
      intention was to remind companies that the conversation can take bad
      turns if you're not participating in them.

  • sorry jason, i would have to disagree. it becomes a little more complex when your “brand” is your physical self and “globally” recognized, but is the exception rather the rule. just as the tiger wood's brand will survive this non critical “event” strong brands will always prove resilient to social chaos. if we learn he was beating his wife and she fought him off with a golf club, that would certainly become critical.

  • sorry jason, i would have to disagree. it becomes a little more complex when your “brand” is your physical self and “globally” recognized, but is the exception rather the rule. just as the tiger wood's brand will survive this non critical “event” strong brands will always prove resilient to social chaos. if we learn he was beating his wife and she fought him off with a golf club, that would certainly become critical.

    • Thanks David. Certainly individual brands require slightly different
      care than company ones, but in this case, the point is no different:
      Silence allows the conversation to get out of hand. Case in point:
      David Letterman's affairs. He came out publicly and curbed the rumor
      mills before they began. He admitted what happened, asked the public
      to respect his privacy and it was, for the most part, done. By only
      saying, “This is a private matter,” and not addressing or explaining
      the incident, plus refusing to speak to police, Tiger (or Brand Tiger
      if you will) is doing much more harm than good. The post is less about
      Tiger, though, and more of an illustration of why it's important to
      monitor and participate in the online conversations for your company.
      Not doing so hurts you more than not. Thanks for the push back, though.

      • thanks and keep up the great work. perspective is everything. the “social media” advocate that you are, all of this would make perfect sense. to me, it is not a matter of silence or not, it's a matter of who's driving the bus. a brand is not obligated to respond to every whim of society. it will certainly and ultimately be held responsible for truths and non-truths alike, but a brand should and will always be in control of its degree of involvement. sorry, have to catch a plane. peace.

  • Stu

    People have conversations about brands offline all the time that brands have no way of participating in. In those situations, people are influenced by communications from the brand in other media, their adverts and website etc. So I don't think it's disastrous if brands don't participate in social media, it's something that's good to do rather than an essential surely?

  • Stu

    People have conversations about brands offline all the time that brands have no way of participating in. In those situations, people are influenced by communications from the brand in other media, their adverts and website etc. So I don't think it's disastrous if brands don't participate in social media, it's something that's good to do rather than an essential surely?

    • But don't you think brands would want (or should) participate in the
      offline conversations if given the chance? Online conversations are
      public, traceable and indexed. It makes it easier for companies to
      have a stake in their own game. Why wouldn't they?

      • Stu

        Yeah I'm sure they would like to participate in offline conversations, but the sheer number of them, as online, would make it difficult to take part in them all. You are always going to leave someone out. If those left out know you have been responding to others but not them, the negative feeling generated will be worse than if you hadn't responded to anyone.

        • Stu, I think you are confusing “participating in the conversation,” with participating in EVERY conversation. Jason isn't saying the brand must individually respond to everything said about them by every user on every social network, but they MUST participate in the overall conversation. Silence means others are dictating the narrative. That is often bad news for a brand.

          • Stu

            My point is that people won't automatically start to think a brand is hiding something if they don't participate in social media. Social media allows consumers to voice their opinions. If a brand successfully communicates to its audience through other, more traditional, channels, it may even find itself with a few advocates out there. I'm sure there are Tiger Woods fans leaping to his defence somewhere.
            I'm not saying social media is without its benefits, but it's not an essential part of every brand's communications strategy. Doing it for the sake of doing it is a flawed reaction to the hype.

          • Thanks, Stu. I don't disagree, but I do think social media is an
            essential part of every brand's communications strategy. At a minimum,
            you should at least be monitoring and aware of what people are saying
            about you. To fail to do so is to miss golden opportunities to fix the
            bad or fan the flames of the good. I agree that doing it for the sake
            of doing it is a flawed reaction to the hype, but developing a
            strategic reason for involvement and sticking to an actionable plan
            that helps your business is applicable all around. I haven't found a
            reason yet for a brand to not be involved.

  • Thanks Pete. That was my hope for it.

  • This article nicely captures a key risk of failing to engage your audience through social media.

  • This article nicely captures a key risk of failing to engage your audience through social media.

    • Thanks Pete. That was my hope for it.

  • And if his wife was twiting at the same time?

  • And if his wife was twiting at the same time?