What Tiger Woods should have known about crisis and issues PR… by Aimee Postle

If you’ve not yet caught up then take a look at the BBC and track back through all of the links – sponsorship deals falling away, mistresses coming out of the woodwork and a fairly bizarre crash outside his house in Florida two weeks ago.

PR and communications professionals from throughout the world have commented on what Tiger – and his PR team – did wrong. In essence, he tried to bury his head in the sand and allowed rumour and gossip to fill the resulting void.

So, lessons for UK businesses…

A crisis situation can come from anywhere – it pays to be aware of the potential risk factors.

In Tiger’s case – it was inevitable that his infidelities would be leaked to the media. High profile celebrities are rewarded handsomely when successful but the flipside is the public scrutiny they come under for any minor indiscretion.

For Mattel in 2007, there was always a risk that they would have to recall products due to factors outside their control – suppliers, materials, etc. But, they couldn’t have known that they would have to go through three recalls in four weeks – 18.2 million toys.

If you are open and honest then you are more likely to be in control.

When you refuse to answer questions or make comment then you leave a void that needs to be filled. A drip feed of rumour and gossip – repeated announcements about Tiger’s latest infidelity – just prolong the story.

What Mattel did right was to take control of the story. CEO Bob Eckert gave live interviews to every media outlet that wanted one. The company apologised for any harm or inconvenience they may have caused and allowed third parties – such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission – to announce that no injuries were known to have been caused by the defects.

Finally, plan for the unexpected.

With many businesses shutting down for the Christmas period and team members going on holiday it is all too easy to think that everything will be fine ticking over. But, what happens if something goes wrong? Do you have a crisis and issues management plan in place for the holiday period? Do you know how to get hold of the people who will need to make decisions and comment?

It constantly amazes us how few companies we work with actually have formal crisis and issues management procedures, how few of them know who to call on and how to get hold of them in an emergency.

When we work with new clients, we like to set the house in order. That means getting contact details for all relevant decision makers and team members (phone, mobile, email) and agreeing on a formal sign-off procedure – for example, who needs to see a statement before it is issued?

And, those are just the basics.

Crisis and issues management planning will be different for every organisation – depending on risk factors, size of the organisation, management style, and so on. However, what all well thought through crisis plans will have in common are regular testing, a simple structure, and someone in control of making it happen.
So, who will be holding the fort for you this Christmas?

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One Response

  1. […] What Tiger Woods should have known about crisis and issues PR, 16 December 2009 […]

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