Tiger Woods is freaking out.
Like Icarus, the Greek mythological character who although warned, flew too close to the sun and fell to his death, Tiger Woods's reputation, and everything he worked for, including his family, is precariously close to collapse.
Although I don't represent Tiger Woods, based on my 20+ years as a crisis and reputation advisor to the rich and famous, the frantic situation behind the scenes is probably pretty typical of a high-profile catastrophe, with a lot of money and reputations at stake.
Like a big chess game, Tiger's advisors are desperately trying to figure out their next several moves, and now with rumors of Tiger's wife, Elin Nordegren, moving out, reports that Elin's mother, Barbro Holmberg, was taken the hospital after a 911 call, and up to seven women coming forward, claiming affairs with Tiger Woods, this is no longer a PR mess, it's a grim train wreck of epic proportions.
What's happening behind the scenes?
Mayhem. The Woods family, friends and every person even remotely involved with Tiger Woods are operating on no sleep, confusion, and desperately trying to gain some form of solid footing. This side of the story is female-driven, with friends, family, assistants, teachers, and neighbors working to shelter Elin and the children from the media and curious.
Despite the business implications of this travesty, like a tornado hitting without warning, every aspect of Tiger Woods' family is in shambles. And making matters even more difficult, media hordes from all over the world have been given explicit instructions by their editors and producers: "Don't come back until you have the entire Tiger Woods' story from every angle!"
There are some people who will benefit from this crisis. I once heard an attorney tell my client, "Your crisis is my profit!"
While Tiger Woods may personally be trying to balance his family's emergency, his business advisors are trying to salvage his reputation and future earnings.
Until all the facts are clear, and every shoe falls, this is now an attorney-driven event.
Somewhere, probably in Florida at a nearby hotel, Tiger Woods' team has more than likely set up what's commonly called in our business as, The War Room. By now fully staffed with attorneys, communications professionals, trusted aids and friends, along with representatives from various business interests, assistants, and enough security to protect a foreign leader. The Tiger Woods' War Room is abundantly stocked with supplies including, food and drink, wide-screen TVs, and a cadre of Blackberry-toting, official looking people, all operating under one unspoken mantra: Save Tiger Woods.
Right now myriad attorneys for Tiger Woods are racking up huge billable hours to assess and protect their client's assets and reputation. Some attorneys are working directly for Tiger Woods's ETW (Eldrick Tiger Woods) Corp, while Tiger Wood's primary attorney, Orlando defense attorney, Mark NeJame, leads another group. IMG, Woods' international sports marketing company is also at work, along with another group of attorneys representing the many different companies that currently sponsor Tiger Woods. And on the domestic side, working on Elin's behalf, another set of attorneys are probably making sure she is legally protected from further fallout, too.
On the PR front, you won't hear a word from Tiger Woods for quite a while. The casualties continue piling up, the reputational risk assessment isn't complete, and there are still too many loose ends.
Up until now, Tiger Woods kept his everyday spokesperson, Glenn Greenspan, the head of communications at the Augusta National Golf Club, home to the Masters Tournament, to speak on his behalf. Without question, due to pressure from Tiger Wood's leadership team, management at IMG, all the attorneys, and probably the overwhelmed Mr. Greenspan himself, the Tiger Woods team is now in warrior mode, and need a bigger gun than Mr. Greenspan.
Every PR and crisis professional on the planet is trying to figure out how they can get their foot in the door, sending emails, faxes, text messages and Twitters to anyone connected to Tiger Woods. But it won't work.
Behind the scenes, there is more than likely a scramble to engage a large and well-resourced PR and crisis management firm, and every suggested firm is a referral from someone close and important to Tiger Woods. The PR firm winning this piece of business is already in the major leagues, will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, and will use this Tiger Woods engagement as their crown jewel for winning other business for years to come. As a betting man, and with no prior information or vested interest, the Tiger Woods team will probably choose either Hill & Knowlton, Burson Marsteller, or Washington-based Levick Communications.
What happens now?
Nothing publically, short of what people outside of Tiger Woods' camp reveal.
Internally, within Tiger Woods' family, Elin, along with a small entourage, and without a publicist or spokesperson, will more than likely travel with her children to a private spot, create the semblance of a normal life until the storm quiets down, and then may or may not choose to salvage her marriage.
For Tiger Woods, his chess game is in check. Whether he's in checkmate is too soon to tell.
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