Tiger Woods' Latest Publicity Effort Unlikely to Help Image

Golfer Tries to Get Ahead of Scandal's Anniversary

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As the one-year anniversary of his fateful accident approaches, the ever-reclusive Tiger Woods is popping up all over the place in an attempt to salvage his image.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods Credit: AP
But, public relations experts say, he's probably not doing himself any favors by trying to get out in front of what is likely to be a deluge of "one-year-ago-today" stories.

"There is a time when he has to get back to being a communicator -- he can't hide forever -- but based on the fact that it's right around the anniversary, I don't think it's wise," said Chris Rosica, CEO of Paramus, N.J.-based Rosica, a public relations specialty firm.

Mr. Woods was involved in a one-car, Thanksgiving-night fender bender last year that led to one of the most shocking brand image fallouts ever, as revelations of his numerous instances of marital infidelity and sexual proclivities came to light.

As the anniversary approaches, Mr. Woods has been quite the multimedia presence this week. He penned an op-ed piece for Newsweek titled "How I've Redefined Victory," did a half-hour interview with ESPN Radio's popular "Mike and Mike in the Morning" show, and restarted a dormant Twitter account that has accumulated nearly 230,000 followers in less than 48 hours.

"What's up everyone. Finally decided to try out twitter!" Mr. Woods tweeted on Nov. 17, his first tweet since the feed was opened on June 26, 2009.

"Twitter is a place he needs to be," says New York-based PR expert Doug Drotman, "but if you don't have a strong and provocative voice, you're just 'there,' and you're not going to be influential or taken seriously."

Like a comedian, not only is timing an issue but so is delivery. And many are already questioning Mr. Woods' sincerity. St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote that Mr. Woods' PR effort is the work of "a desperate salesman."

ESPN golf analyst Jason Sobel wrote on ESPN.com that "Woods once again furnished stiff answers straight out of an IMG how-to handbook to questions which should elicit more emotional responses. If there's anything the public still wants to hear from him, it's passion. ... Instead, he has offered all the emotion of a guy reading off cue cards."

On the ESPN radio interview, Mr. Woods said that if the accident didn't happen and the affairs didn't come to light, "I don't think I'd be blessed and balanced as I am now. ... I think I learned about being more in perspective about my life, who I was and where I needed to go."

"The paradigm in which people are looking at him, from the media and consumers alike, [is] shifting," Mr. Rosica said. "They're not taking everything he says as gospel. They're scrutinizing his words. ... How he interacts with the media, and therefore with the consumer through the media, definitely has to change drastically from what he put out there before."

Mr. Rosica said Mr. Woods should embrace Twitter to enable him to re-engage his fans.

"But it has to be authentic," he cautioned. "The one thing that he has to be careful about is that he doesn't use this as a self-promotional tool. ... He needs to offer some kind of value to people, or else it's going to be short-lived. I'm a wannabe golfer. I'm a student of the game. How about some golf tips, something like that?"

As for his life as an endorser, there is still a wait-and-see attitude. Mr. Woods lost $22 million in endorsement deals this year when he was dropped by Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture. He still has a contract with Nike, and, in fact, his first commercial after the accident was a controversial spot from Nike in April, right before Mr. Woods' first tournament back at The Masters.

In the spot, the camera slowly zooms in tight on Mr. Woods as a compilation from previous interviews with his deceased father serves as the voiceover. The commercial ends with Earl Woods saying, "Tiger, have you learned anything?"

The golfer addressed the spot in the ESPN radio interview, saying "I wasn't the person my mom and dad raised me to be. And I knew that. It was one of the reasons why I thought the commercial was a good one to run because I was moving forward and leaving that life behind."

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