Defining Moments of 2010: February

The Defining Moments series looks back at the biggest events of 2010 to see what we can learn from them here at P&P, to work better in our calling, in 2011 and beyond.

By DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

January saw the nation of Haiti – and the world, in sympathy – reeling from a devastating earthquake.

In February, however, what were set reeling were some sponsorship deals and a whole lot of faith in one of our countrys best-known athletes, Tiger Woods.

After his extraordinary string of marital infidelities were brought to light and a decorous media silence for several months, he gave a press conference on February 19, 2010, admitting that hed cheated on his wife and apologizing to the world at large.

“I was unfaithful; I had affairs and I cheated, he said (redundantly), “What I did was unacceptable. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wifes family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me. I do plan to return to golf one day. I just dont know when that day will be. I dont rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful to the game.

And that concept – the idea of private behavior needing to match ones professional persona – is the crux of Februarys lesson.

In the wake of the scandal, Tiger lost over $20 million in endorsement deals from Gatorade, AT&T, Accenture and Gillette. Its easy to say, “Well, serves him right! But look more closely. His management company lost over $4 million, and there are probably quite a few people with impeccable marital fidelity who suffered from his fallout there alone. Shareholders of the companies involved in him may have lost a collective $5 to $12 billion, according to one study. But worst of all are the repercussions of his dive on the Tiger Woods Foundation, which has helped support 100 charities and hundreds of thousands of children over 15 years.

Heres what it comes down to.

Even when you think you have it all, you may be left with nothing at all if you arent honorable, if you dont have integrity, and if you arent transparent.

And no matter how famous the person or how big the organization, the transgressions of one person can always take it down. Plenty of heads of state have learned that, in addition to heads of corporations and foundations.

What does that mean for us?

  1. Think very, very carefully before you make your brand one individual. Tiger Woods was the de facto face of an entire sport – a $62-billion-a-year industry. But people change. People are human, not market research compilations, and they act that way, too.
  2. Never allow your employees to forget that theyre representing the brand. Even if you dont have one “face, everyone working on, for, or with you helps create the brand. Customer interactions mean more than ever in this age of Twitter and Facebook. People want to be raving fans of yours. All you have to do is make it possible!
  3. Its a lot easier to prevent than to clean up. Youll see this lesson come up again later in our “Defining Moments series, Im sure, but its so true that its worth repeating. Putting in the effort to keep things good is so much easier than trying to fix things once they all go south. In this case, Id certainly argue that it would have been easier to mind my vows than to try to juggle 15 mistresses out of the public eye as one of the most famous men alive. Itd sure have been easier to schedule in the short term! And obviously, it would have been much better, not just for Tiger and his family, but for the millions of people concerned in the long term.
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