Tiger’s Path to Recovery

Tiger has apologized and asked for forgiveness. Will you forgive Tiger?

A few months ago I blogged about Tiger “doubling down” on his personal and professional crisis by not being honest, open, and transparent. I was watching closely today to see if he would be able to pull out of his steep dive and begin to right his course.

I was asked to join Terri DeBoer and Rachel Ruiz on the set of WOOD TV8’s “eightWest” morning talk show to provide live commentary about Tiger’s address to the nation. Not only was Tiger’s address nearly unprecedented, since media were not permitted any questions, but it also was an atypical morning for eightWest, normally taped a few hours before its broadcast at 11 a.m. Thank you to everyone at WOOD TV8 for your professionalism and the opportunity to chat with Rachel and Terri.

Last night, preparing for my stint as analyst, I thought about what I wanted to hear from Tiger and created my checklist. Of course, everyone wanted to hear he was sorry.  I wanted to see emotion from Tiger, who normally can be quite stoic. I wanted to hear him express concern for Elin and his children. I wanted him to acknowledge that he was viewed as a role model, and that he had failed in that regard. I wanted to hear him apologize to his fans and to golf and to his sponsors.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

I think Tiger was prepped well by his handlers to hit all of these marks. He did show some emotion at the beginning, and the embrace of his mother at the end was nice. Although he was a little stoic for the latter tw0-thirds of his speech, you could tell he was uncomfortable. With good reason.  He was standing in front of tens of millions of people admitting infidelity, poor judgment, broken values.

My wife sometimes says you have to “own” your decisions — good or bad. I think Tiger owned his decisions today. He placed blame only on himself. He had made the bad decisions. He was wrong. He had gone against the values he’d been taught.

Elin, he said, had been nothing but graceful in her handling of the situation and deserved praise, not blame. He acknowledged he also had let down his family, friends, “business partners,” fans, and children who had viewed him as a role model. He acknowledged he had broken the rules, somehow thinking he was above them.

And he asked for our help, to “find room in your heart to someday believe in me again.”

It is an important first step in the right direction. I don’t agree with those who believe he should have allowed media to ask questions. He actually provided a lot of information and answered most questions that should have been asked. If there were questions beyond what he shared, they would either have been inappropriate or not questions Tiger desired to answer.

As a public person who has received truckloads of cash to endorse products (of estimated $110 million he earned in 2008, only $6 million were golf earnings, according to Forbes), the public does have a right to know when that person isn’t what he says he is. It’s kind of a truth in advertising thing. You can’t be held up as a shining symbol of dependability and success when, in actuality, you are cheating (by taking steroids, or taking shortcuts, or taking liberties that are not generally accepted).

BUT, that does not mean Tiger has to answer every question the media asks. He does not have to share his conversations with Elin or details of his affairs. His PR people probably scoured the web and prepared him well to address the biggest and most pertinent concerns out there.  And the media will still get their opportunity to ask Tiger questions, but at this time he is a recovering addict and is not ready to have that kind of dialog.

The brand of Tiger may never recover the full value it once enjoyed, but I believe he’s on the right path.  If he returns to his winning form on the links and avoids future salacious sandtraps, he will be forgiven. He just needed to ask for it.  And now he has.

Conner @ 16

Conner, my oldest son, is 16 today.

My oldest son, Conner, turned 16 today. Happy Birthday son!  I remember driving my wife to the hospital that night so many years ago.  The Lillehammer Olympics had started a few days earlier, just as the Vancouver games started a few days ago this year. The gold medal that year went to my wife, delivering all 9 lb 14 oz. of my boy. The famous quote from my mother in law, as Conner fully emerged: “He’s HUGE.”

Conner @ 16
Conner @ 16

He’s not so huge today, physically, although his personality most certainly is larger than life. A natural musician, a runner, a good student, an awesome friend, a follower of Christ, and a young man with a huge heart for others. Conner will always be the one who empathizes with others’ joys and pains. When people celebrate, Conner celebrates the loudest! When they are grieving, he comes alongside and sheds tears of sympathy.

This young man will go on to do great things. As I write this, he’s out running with high school cross country teammates.  This past year he knocked three minutes off his personal best times and I’m sure his dedication to the sport will be rewarded again next season. He spends hours learning new music on his guitar, piano, and drums. His birthday present, a new acoustic guitar, will be well-played.   Happy Birthday Conner!  You’re a great kid, and a wonderful son!

Are you at your Town Hall meeting?

I did a guest post at Jen Fong’s blog about the need for companies to jump into the online dialog about their brands.

I blogged about the need for companies and brands to check out what’s being said about them over at Jen Fong’s blog.  Essentially, the point I’m making is that companies and other organizations would make a special effort to prepare for and attend town hall meetings where they were being discussed.  The same needs to be true and, unbelievably, there are still company executives holding back from diving into the dialog about their brands.

Jen is a great social media resource, especially to the direct selling industry.  Last year I was on a panel with her at the Direct Selling Association’s national conference. She also was super active in round table sessions about web reputation that I led at the conference. When I first left Amway last September, she was one of the first to talk to me about being in business for myself, and I am very grateful for the advice and help she’s provided since then!

Check out my post at Jen’s blog and, while you’re there, check out the rest of the great content she and guest bloggers have created!

Speak to your TRUE fans. They’ll do the rest.

Marketers using social media need to figure out social first.

When surveying the social media scene, it’s disheartening to see so many “experts” preaching ways to get more followers (with the end goal, I presume, of increasing the value of each individual’s “brand” and “reach”). Marketers are looking for ways to “use” social media to get their messages out and the easiest way for them to do that is to simply have a lot of followers.

What I don’t see a lot of them doing, however, is providing added value that would make them worth following. Sure, they promise a few lucky winners a free iPod or iTouch or iPad or iTunes gift card (why not a free Blackberry?), but the result of that is a lot of dropped followers once the contest is over. I would love to see a good campaign where people follow a brand because of the value of their content alone.

I know that there are many local examples, such as the famed “cookies are out of the oven” or “here’s our special brew of the day” tweets, but I’m not sure a BIG brand has yet found a way to be a “must-follow” tweeter because of their “must-have” content. Sure, that’s more expensive then a free iPod every month.

But maybe it’s OK to not have 10,000 followers.  Maybe it’s alright to just have a couple hundred key followers who will spread your content far and wide when you do have something sensational to share.  It is social *networking* after all. I appreciate viral campaigns that people spread because they’re just so cool or because the informations is just so vital. There are benefits to the brand marketer when their message spreads through the network rather than having the message arrive on the audiences’ virtual doorstep via their own direct tweets.

People listen to other people they know and trust and respect.  They do not value as much the marketing messages that come directly from the brands themselves. It’s advertising, after all, and Yankelovich studies have shown that 60% of American consumers don’t believe companies tell the truth in advertising. On the other hand, Nielsen reports that 78% of social media users find consumer recommendations credible, and MarketingSherpa says 84% trust user reviews more than “expert” reviews.  

When something arrives in my Twitter stream or Facebook homepage or via another social media platform from someone I know saying “this is cool,” I check it out. When it comes from a brand I am likely to skip over it, knowing that the brand itself is not an unbiased party when talking about its own products.  

When a brand selling coffee, provides lots of useful information about brewing and beans and baristas to coffee aficionados, they are providing a service. When said aficionados ask questions and the coffee brand responds with useful answers, they’re being good social media citizens. This earns them the right with their audience to slip in a marketing message now and again. This strategy might not get them ALL coffee drinkers as a direct audience (i.e., they won’t have a million coffee drinkers as “followers,” although they might have 1,000 aficionados).  However, when the aficionados re-tweet or forward information from the brand to *their* followers, the brand now has earned the benefits that come with third party endorsements, which are much more powerful.

That said, I do enter some of the contests now and again.  I doubt I’ll win an iPad as a result. But maybe. I do know that the brand that made me follow them in order to be eligible to win is unlikely to get a long-term follower out of me as a result. I haven’t seen one of the contest tweeters yet provide enough content to keep me interested.

I’m much more interested in the real people having a real dialog about what they (and I) love (even if that means I have to follow some of their silly foursquare meanderings). So, I follow people who love GR (because I do). I follow people who love PR (because I do). I might even follow some people who love hockey (because I do).  I don’t follow people who cram the same message into my feed day after day, because they’re not honoring the social agreement — this is a two-way dialog, after all!

Crisis response = minutes, not hours

Crisis communication response times are now measured in minutes, not hours (certainly not weeks)

In the media training I helped lead last week we discussed the slow response of certain business leaders in the wake of crises affecting their brands. With social media, what once was just a little slow would today be considered glacial. 

One case study we discussed was the emergency landing by Captain “Sully” of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River a little more than a year ago.  The successful emergency landing on the river, famously captured on a cell phone camera, occurred at 3:30 p.m.  The evacuation onto the wings of the Airbus A320 happened quickly, and within minutes nearby commercial ferries were taking on the passengers. Capt. Sully, who first walked through the plane twice to ensure all passengers had been evacuated, emerged as America’s newest hero.

At 4:55 p.m., fire crews began to stand down.  All the cable news channels had extensively covered the situation. Many interviews of experts and witnesses and analysts had been conducted. By that time, there was little that the American public didn’t know about what had happened. A jet airliner landing on the river in NYC?! Post 9/11, the media are super-prepared to be all over a situation like this.

At 5:07 p.m., US Airways CEO Doug Parker issued a statement during a news conference at the airline’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, confirmed that there had been an accident. He didn’t really say much more than that.  He didn’t use the opportunity to praise Captain Sully, with whom he had already spoken on the phone.  He didn’t say, “We’re thrilled that the expertise of our flight staff prevented this from being a much more dire situation.”  After all, all 155 occupants of the ditched jet survived!  By the time he stood at the podium, he knew his airline had just been presented the biggest gift ever — an accident that couldn’t be avoided, but only minor injuries and some property loss.

Now, 90 minutes isn’t that much time, especially if a number of meetings and discussions had to occur before the hastily assembled news conference.  That said, more information needed to come from Mr. Parker and, more important, some emotion. People know that some accidents are going to happen and are unavoidable. But, people want to see a human reaction to crises … not some “don’t-say-too-much-for-fear-of-lawsuit” statement.

For weeks, the crisis at Toyota has been building.  A little less sensational, but affecting many more people. Quality issues have now resulted in the recall of 9 million cars worldwide. Again, people don’t expect mechanical things to be perfect, but they do expect the manufacturers of mechanical things to not only fix the problem, but to publicly acknowledge the errors and demonstrate some *human* remorse.  Not just a statement. Not just a policy. Not just a fix.  They want to see real people saying real things about real situations.

Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda (grandson of company founder), was part of a hastily arranged news conference Friday night (earlier today) and apologized, taking personal responsibility for the problems. “I deeply regret that I caused concern among so many people,” he said. “We will do our utmost to regain the trust of our customers.”  He acknowledged this is a crisis (Really? You didn’t know that earlier?) and he also apologized to shareholders for the 20% drop in company stock.

That he is apologizing and taking this seriously is great.  That it’s happening a few weeks after the news first broke is not so great.  And while I believe shareholders are indeed an important audience, an apology to them should be done through a shareholder-only communication. Doing so in the news conference only indicates that the only reason Mr. Toyoda is up there is because the crisis is affecting financials, rather than the fact that his faulty cars are affecting people.

I appreciate good brakes. This morning, while I was taking a left out of a parking lot, some oncoming cars were stopped to allow me through.  Little did I know, however, that another car was barreling down the left turn lane.  The driver/cell phone talker, however, did have good enough sense and brakes to come to a skidding stop as I inched across the lane. Thank you for good brakes to unknown car maker (I don’t remember what make of car it was … it could have been a Toyota!).  

I want Toyota to say, “We’re sorry that a faulty process has led to this. We will do our utmost to ensure this doesn’t happen again and to make sure every Toyota owner has complete confidence in their car’s mechanical abilities!” I don’t own a Toyota personally, but I believe I drive next to many of them every day. 

And I want them to say these things early in the game and not weeks later when their stock is crashing. That’s all I want.

Decay and Renewal

What’s old can be new again. Time to scrape off the decay and regear and repurpose.

This week I’ve had plenty of time to think. Think about what I’m doing and want to do. Think about where I’m at and how I got here. Think about the new chapters that are yet to be written in my life. Think about those around me and what’s going on in their minds.

I had a meeting with the head of a company based just off Chicago Drive and, when the meeting was done, I took Chicago into downtown. The thoroughfare that is Chicago Drive was once a main route in and out of Grand Rapids, before they built I-196 tracing the same route. It was a highway of industry. Today, I saw lots of decay.  Padnos, one of the businesses on Chicago, thrives on the scraps of decay, converting “things” back into their raw materials, to be used again in new “things.”  The buildings I passed by had seen better days, but are still put to good use by businesses providing valuable and necessary services. Not fancy, but honest and hardworking. 

On the radio, listening to WYCE, I heard a soulful rendition of the hymn “Amazing Grace” sung to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun,” the ballad popularized by The Animals in the ’60s. The bluesy rendition made me think of renewal from multiple perspectives. From a faith-based perspective. From an artistic perspective, bringing new meaning to two different songs by combining the lyrics of one with the tune of the other. All while driving through streets in various stages of renewal … some refurbishing and repurposing old buildings, others tearing down and starting over.

I took a right on Wealthy Street and made my way to The Sparrows (aka, my “office” away from home), a coffee shop in an old building with plenty of character. Along the way to Sparrows, I thought about “Wealthy” Street and what a grand thing it must have been to say “I live on Wealthy Street” in years gone by. 

A hundred years ago, Wealthy was the route taken by a street car system, bringing GR’s well-heeled populace out to Ramona Park on Reed’s Lake in East Grand Rapids. Closer to downtown, Wealthy was an artery through beautiful homes built for the owners and executives of furniture companies, banks, and other important businesses in West Michigan’s regional center.

A little further down Wealthy, at a midpoint between GR and EGR, immigrant dutch built their homes. The area immediately surrounding The Sparrows, where I’m sitting right now, was where the smaller homes were built for workers in the greenhouses. As the dutch became more established, they built their middle class neighborhoods in the many blocks south and north of Wealthy, and they built their CRC and RCA churches and the created Calvin College.  The brick streets that had been common in their homeland became a quaint feature of their new home. 

Inevitably, the decay came. It always does. As their homes and business fronts and brick streets aged, many that lived on these streets headed for (literally) greener pastures on the edges of Grand Rapids. In many cases, their churches followed them a few years later. Calvin left too, having outgrown its hemmed-in campus on Franklin Street.  It found the space it needed to expand on Knollcrest Farms.

In more recent years, this area was better known as the stomping grounds for The Wealthy Street Boys, a gang known for drugs and killings. When I was in college, I lived a few blocks from Wealthy, and the Boys threw a brick through the back window of a roommate’s car. The neighbor told me they must have thought it was his because he was a member of the rival Gangster Disciples.

I lived there because I was a college student and it was cheap. Others lived there because they were poor, and it was cheap. People just abandoned certain neighborhoods where crime was too rampant, with those remaining behind the ones who had no other options.

Efforts are being made to restore the vitality of these old neighborhoods. The Wealthy Theater renovation and the launch of new stores and restaurants have helped revive interest in restoring neighborhoods, similar to how the Van Andel Arena spurred redevelopment efforts south of what was considered the “safe” parts of downtown a decade ago.  Many of the houses are quite sound and, restored, very beautiful. As the “disposable” mentality shifts to one that places great value on recycling and reuse, these neighborhoods, too, will rebound.

What’s old can become new again.

And that’s something I need to remember for me. And maybe you need to remember that for you too. The shell of you grows older and the need for what you do (or did) might lessen. Or maybe others with different value systems just move on, seeking some greener pasture and leaving you behind.  You can be renewed and start over.  That is what I’m in the process of doing, and I hope to help others do the same.