By Jason Menard
Two weeks into Tiger Woods’ commitment to openness and fan interaction and it’s abundantly clear that honesty remains far from the best policy for the golfer and his public relations team.
If you’ve read any of my previous work relating to social media, you’ll know that I have a simple mantra — just because everyone can blog, tweet, or post on Facebook, doesn’t mean
The motivation behind anyone, or any business, jumping on the social media bandwagon should be an honest desire to connect. As a business, you get involved with social media to interact with your customers and your critics. Most importantly, you get involved to listen and learn.
And that one word that stands out above all? Honesty. That’s why Tiger Woods’ latest attempt to rebuild his tattered image is so misplaced.
Tiger recently quote-unquote wrote a piece in Newsweek entitled, “How I’ve Redefined Victory.” He followed that up with a commitment to update his Twitter account. Recent tweets have included such vital statements like “I just finished a pretty tough cardio session this morning because of all the apple and pumpkin pie,” and “Yep, it’s me. I think like this twitter thing. You guys are awesome. Thanks for all the love.”
Now, I’m not judging Tiger on this tweets – after all, he wouldn’t be the first person to fill up the Twitterverse with a bunch of inane comments about his dining habits, personal hygiene, and clothing options, “The best part about phone interviews is getting to wear shorts…”
The real problem? None of it sounds like Tiger. It’s not written like Tiger, despite the fact that I have no idea what Woods sounds like when Public Persona Tiger is turned off — if he ever is. Tiger’s long been the subject of gentle (and, more recently, not-so-gentle) teasing for his ability to churn out clichés without changing the inflection of his voice. If his game was once lauded for its mechanical precision and laser-like focus, so too was his social interaction similarly robotic in nature.
It’s coming across as forced and not just because it’s certainly not something Tiger would have ever done in the past, but by the very style of the writing. An intensely private man despite his global celebrity, Woods was never one to hang out on Oprah’s couch bearing his soul. He’s also been notoriously prickly on the PGA tour — not exactly embracing the fans who have propelled him into the marketing stratosphere.
The Newsweek article reads like a bad press release. It’s riddled with catch-phrases, biz-speak, and legalese. There’s nothing in it that sounds like an honest, hand-written mea culpa. It looks like it was written by a marketing department, which it no doubt was.
In addition, apparently Tiger’s Twitter education hasn’t included reading Tweets that he or his sycophants didn’t write themselves. There hasn’t been a lot of love towards Tiger on Twitter, but the truth doesn’t really seem to matter to Tiger. He’s “liking this Twitter thing’ and thanking us ‘for all the love.”
I’m not the first to comment on this, but I wanted to give Tiger a chance. After all, if you’re honestly interested in social media, you jump into it wholeheartedly – at least if you’re doing it as an extension (or, in this case, in an effort to polish) of a brand. Tiger is a brand. And Tiger’s commitment to Tweeting? Six Tweets since the grand launch on Nov. 17th. Three in the first two days, one on Nov. 20th, one on Nov. 26th, and one today. Hardly an honest display of his desire to connect with Joe and Jill Average fan.
You may remember the Nike ad where a solemn Tiger’s face fills the screen while the disembodied voice of his dead father offering advice to his young son as a voice-over. Of course, you’d have to have a good memory and be tremendously lucky to remember seeing it on TV, because it was pulled almost immediately following some skewering by the media.
Tiger’s PR team seems to be grasping at straws – throwing everything on the wall and hoping something sticks. But what they’re missing is the only thing that would actually work. Tiger being honest.
North Americans are tremendously forgiving of their athletes – many have forgiven Michael Vick for heinous crimes against defenseless animals, so how hard would it be for people to forgive Tiger for the same extramarital dalliances that they’ve forgiven so many other stars? All they need is an honest, “I’m sorry” – and a return to dominance wouldn’t hurt.
Instead, we get a Tweet-by-numbers campaign that rings hollow; a Newsweek article that was supposed to be a window into Tiger’s soul, but read like a press release; and creepy commercials that show a continued lack of judgment.
In fact, Tiger doesn’t even need to do any of this. The only people he owes anything to are his family and his sponsors (after all, he sold them on the family-man image, allowed them to trade upon it, then sullied it). If he doesn’t want to apologize to fans, that’s fine.
But if he truly wants to bridge the gap between himself and his formerly adoring public, then the real problem with Tiger’s swing-and-miss attempts at apologizing to his fans it that they all sound like they’re written by PR flacks trying to humanize Tiger. They’re attempting to craft a Tiger that people want to like, instead of letting Tiger be Tiger.
Simply put, you can’t fake honesty. For Tiger’s next attempt perhaps he should just stop trying so hard. Throw out strategies, ignore the routing process, and just speak from the heart. Instead of crafting something that sounds honest, just be honest.
But the truth is, tweet or no tweet, honesty is hard when it’s something you’ve never done.