Last week, Tiger Woods apologized to his friends, family, fans and business partners at a nationally televised speech from Florida, expressing regret for his recent illicit behaviors. Few people will likely ever find themselves in his shoes, but there are several communications lessons that can be drawn from his speech, applicable to anyone trying to communicate effectively:
- Be authentic. In good times, and especially during the bad times, it is critical to be authentic in your communications. It’s tough to judge what was behind this particular speech, and whether it was truly a sincere effort, or one that was thrust upon Tiger by his advisors to help “make good” with the public. On paper, the speech reads as though it could have been heartfelt, but its delivery was less than stellar, and made me question his sincerity. Personal reactions to this speech aside, authenticity is the first rule of good PR, and effective communications more generally. The lesson: Make sure that your communications efforts are authentic, and true to the values of the organization you represent. That will come across in your presentation, and benefit you in the long-run.
- Practice Makes Perfect…but there is also an important balance to strike in terms of how one prepares. Tiger’s speech was a tough one, so being well prepared was essential. That said, I found it difficult to watch it without thinking about the many hours he and his team spent gearing up for this speech…but to no avail in terms of outcome. It felt far too orchestrated, to the point where even short pauses in speech looked like they had been strategically inserted for dramatic effect. This hampered the benefits of what could have been a good opportunity to help mend broken relationships. The lesson: Being prepared is critical to effective communications, particularly when going in front of the media. When prepping, it is just as important to focus on delivery as it is on content. Not everyone is a natural speaker, but by spending some time practicing delivery, you can increase your odds of effectively getting your message across.
- Consider the Cumulative Impact. In reality, the rebuilding process for Tiger – the man and the brand– is just beginning. No single speech or media interview could undo the damage created by his actions, and this speech was just a step in a much longer journey. Sure, I think it could have been done more effectively, but there will be other opportunities for him to get out there, and better tell his side of the story. Just as cumulative bad news adds up, the repair process will take time, consistent communications, and actions backing up his words. The lesson: Any communication, be it speech, interview, or conversation should be viewed as a building block. Over time, it is the cumulative impact of consistent communication that has the greatest impact.