I've followed the Tiger Woods PR screw-up assiduously. Tiger would be well advised to consider other reputation managers in anticipation of his (I believe) undoubted future escapades. It's dismissive of legitimate public interest and also brand-damaging to wait more than three months after a misdemeanour to issue an appallingly over-orchestrated 'apology' in person.
The cardinal principles are, up front: 1. Concede the cock-up (if you'll excuse the unintentional pun), 2. Sincerely apologise and tell 'em what you're doing to remedy the situation right now. 3. Then tell 'em what you're doing to prevent a recurrence in the future.
The days of Tiger being able to hide behind 'but he's just a golfing machine' are gone. The new incarnation will have to be someone who engages a tad better with autograph-seekers and the public. Who exhibits better social and emotional intelligence. Who understands that he chooses a lifestyle in the public eye.
So don't be surprised when they get proprietary about your behaviour, Tiger.
What Tiger has inherited from Mom is some Asian inscrutability. So you're never quite sure what's going on behind the impassive facade. But sure as heck, the quarter hour mea culpa on international TV failed to convince me. The script was genius and worthy of an Oscar. But the delivery - clearly rehearsed again and again, was ersatz and non-authentic. The excessive lingering hold of the camera on 'I am so sorry' so many times, simply didn't wash. The simulated outrage at the invasion of his family's 'privacy' was read without the vocal modulation that would indicate genuine concern. His claim that sordid details are between himself and wife Elin alone is essentially telling everyone else to take a hike. Perhaps next time he'll anticipate that families get invaded and exposed when the hero stumbles or tumbles. It's a predictable knock-on effect.
A sincere apology should have been forthcoming three months earlier, in an open media conference. Take the questions on the chin. That demonstrates your bona fides. The control-freak manipulation of this event clearly shows the middle finger to interested parties. It's effectively saying: I'll go through the motions of an apology on my terms, in my own way and in circumstances dictated by me. Which means: I'm not really sorry. It would just be nice to get back the juggernaut financial benefits of Accenture and other sponsors and move on from this irritating blip on my career radar.
As I sat in the South African eTV studios to do an immediate postmortem of the 'apology' I was left with a sense that Cecil B De Mille or Franco Zeffirelli would have given this a ten for staging and drama. I have no doubt that the TV profile shot from three quarters of the way through was because Tiger's handlers realised he couldn't hold that beaten-dog look for too long. The schmaltzy ending of hugs - and heaven help us, the loud sniff from Tiger as he attempted a disconsolate and lonely exit from the rigorously protected farce - was a travesty.
Will the Tiger Woods brand survive this? Yes. It's a resilient brand. And the mal-management of the whole debacle may just inadvertently have given him the vulnerability he needed for the public to start forgiving him.
What this teaches us is that you don't really have to be sorry any longer. You just have to go through the motions of appearing to be so. Tony Blair's probably going to ask for shares in Tiger's spin machine. A saddening social evolution. There's a Hollywood career here if golf fails.