Posts by SamNorth:
- Permanently stop measuring communications effectiveness by the much derided ‘Advertising Equivalent Value’ (AVE) in 2012 and evaluate the newly proposed ‘Value Metrics’ guidelines developed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications;
- Bolster our strategy, planning, creative and insights capabilities by a further 15% in the coming year by redefining and reinvesting in existing roles. As the only Australian PR agency with a Strategy and Planning Director and a dedicated strategic communications research and insights brand Ogilvy PR will also begin the search for a creative director this year;
- Apply a unique 360 degrees communications filter to all briefs to further capitalise on a future where employee empowerment is paramount and digital engagement is an integral part of every consultant’s skill set; and
- Embark on an ambitious in-house training program aimed at giving consultants a better hands-on understanding of the operational demands of business and clients.
The second annual report, by executive search firm Salt & Shein, resulted from on-line surveys in December of 324 mainly-Sydney-based in-house corporate affairs professionals. There were plenty of interesting findings but what surprised me were the responses to a couple of questions.
The first was when people were asked to nominate the most significant issue they thought they would have to deal with as a communicator in 2013 and beyond. The clear leader in the concern stakes was social media, which, when variations on it were added, came to 36 per cent of responses. To give some idea of the gap, the second biggest coming concern was dealing with flat or reduced budgets and resources, and that came in at 8 per cent.
In response to another question, an overwhelming 75 per cent said they believed that the role of social media had become more important over the past year. Nothing too surprising in those findings, except when you compare those concerns with company action.
Despite the communications experts’ fears, just over 50 per cent reported that their organisations had committed no dedicated resources to social and digital media, a similar figure to last year. Of the 44 per cent who said they did have social media resources, the average team consisted of 1-2 staff.
The phrase ‘accident waiting to happen’ springs to mind.
As it seems that everyone wants to comment on the Federal Government’s proposed media laws, let me throw my opinion into the mix. Before coming to PR around four years ago, I spent 35 years as a journalist and for four of those years I was a Fairfax representative on the Australian Press Council.
My thoughts from that time are that virtually everyone – including News and Fairfax – agrees that the media needs some regulation. However, self-regulation doesn’t work. The media in Britain – despite a succession of increasingly dire warnings from governments of all persuasions – has shown that the media can’t control itself. While the situation here is nowhere near as bad, doesn’t anyone remember the axiom about horses and stable doors?
What seems to be forgotten amid all the over-the-top rhetoric about “Stalinist” government control is that the biggest beef the public have with the current Australian Press Council is that the APC is under the control of the media, who pay for it and who have shown in the recent past that they are quite happy to use their financial muscle to regulate its composition where necessary.
The government already pays for judges and magistrates, just as it would pay for a person to oversight the existing media regulators. Is anyone suggesting that their actions are directed by the government’s cheque?
By Sam North.
The problem, said Wayne Burns, was the legitimacy gap, and with that he encapsulated the reason companies need to embrace corporate social responsibility.
Burns, a director at the Allen Consulting Group, was talking at the latest in the Ogilvy On... series of breakfast events, which are organised by Ogilvy Public Relations Australia and are designed to enable a discussion of topical issues.
The latest, held in Sydney’s CBD on Tuesday, explored the world of corporate social marketing and asked whether there was a role for corporations in making the world a better place.
Moderated by Tony Jones, the host of ABC television’s Q&A and Lateline programs, the breakfast featured a panel discussion which included Burns, Carey Badcoe, the chief executive of the Australian Business and Community Network, Greg Bourne, the acting chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Tim O’Leary, Telstra’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Michael Traill, Chief Executive of Social Ventures Australia, and Tom Beall, the US-based Managing Director of Ogilvy’s social marketing practice – OgilvyEngage.
Burns was asked about the legitimacy gap, which he defined as the gap between a corporation’s actions and how the public actually view them.
International research, he said, had shown that 61% of Australians “have little or no trust in corporations. That’s a big legitimacy gap and that’s all about a social licence to operate.”
Companies might be complying with legislation, but “no company complies its way to greatness and credibility.”
“Closing that gap is all about operating sustainably and in a socially responsible manner.”
So, Jones asked, how do you change that?
By actions, not words, said Burns. “It’s about how you run the company; about the impact you have every day on the environment, society, and your employees.”
Traill pointed out that there were not only moral imperatives to corporate social responsibility but clear commercial benefits.
“The best and brightest talent, which is what companies say they want to get hold of, are arriving on the job market saying: ‘I want a career; I want a reasonable package’, but in the top three or four questions is: “What is this organisation doing that will get me engaged with the community?”
If a company can deliver that to staff, then that gives them a competitive advantage.
Traill said the international accounting firm PWC conducted a study which looked at the costs of replacing employees and at the reason’s people left a job “and PWC found that being able to engage with the community was a significant reason for people to stay around.”
“I think the boardrooms of Australia are still inhabited by old males, who if you talk to them about CSR say: ‘Well, it’s all about shareholder value, old chap. You only have to focus on returns.”
A former executive at Macquarie Bank, Traill said corporates that embrace CSR will end up outperforming those that did not.
It was a point of view echoed by Bourne, who was asked about the adoption of climate change strategies by business.
“It’s about your strategic horizon,” he said. “If your strategic horizon is 10, 20 or 30 years and you want to be a sustainable company in whatever the world is going to be like out there, you think these things through.
“I know a lot of companies, certainly at the top end of town but others as well, who know roughly where we’re going to be and they are dis-investing in things that will not be successful in 30 years and they’re investing in things that will be successful in 30 years. At the same time they’re making sure that they can still pay their shareholders dividends every quarter, so you don’t forget today but you do think about the future.
“However, when I see a lot of other companies who are basically taking a political opportunity to try and overturn a tax, to try and overturn a system, what I see is a tactical response and what it makes me think about is will I invest in this company or not: it’s not thinking 30 years ahead, it’s thinking two years ahead, or maybe one year ahead to be quite honest to the next election.”
Bourne described the current political and media environment as toxic and said that stopped a lot of companies from talking about what they are doing to plan for climate change.
“Which doesn’t mean they’re not doing stuff behind the scenes, they are. The people who are thinking about this long term are almost saying: ‘Let the politics get past and then we will be able to go forward. The work we are doing behind the scenes is getting us so far ahead of our competitors…’’’
For Badcoe and her program of getting business to engage with public schools around Australia, the non-involvement of CEOs was “a deal-breaker.”
“Businesses can only be involved if the CEO is personally involved,” she said. The program was designed for company’s which were looking for opportunities to increase staff awareness of conditions in the wider community. It involves business people mentoring, coaching and working one-on-one with students from high need high schools.
The business people and the students form long-term partnerships and one company’s public relations team helped a school with a poor reputation develop a communications and media strategy to change that perception.
Badcoe said companies were now getting to see the immense talent going to waste through lack of opportunity and were getting excited about utilising talent, with PWC now running employment programs and intern programs to work specifically with students.
The program already has 300 schools and around 3000 business mentors. Feedback is regularly sought and Badcoe said that of the 3000 mentors “every one says they value the opportunity the company has given them; they talk about the opportunity and they are proud of the opportunity and the work they are doing..”
O’Leary, while agreeing that the buy-in from senior executives was important, said that at NAB the drive to be carbon neutral had come from a group of committed to staff who had convinced the executives of the benefits.
He said that within most corporations there was “very much a sense of: ‘How do we act responsibly in the communities in which we work and in which we live?’”
The real challenge for most companies was finding out how they can help in the community while still driving commercial value. He instanced Telstra opening up maintenance contracts for its 1000 plus unmanned network sites throughout Australia to people with a mild disability. It was a highly successful commercial arrangement that had the added benefit of providing employment for people who might otherwise have not been in work. Similarly beneficial was the company’s program to train elderly Australians in the use of devices like smart phones and iPads – “it’s good for them and good for Telstra at the same time.”
Beall said that in the US, Ogilvy was seeing an increasing number of companies who want to make a difference. “At Ogilvy we subscribe to something that we call ‘the big ideal’ which is that our role in working with a company is to not only help them find, but to pursue, a bigger purpose.”
As usual with such things, it was a long and tortuous process from proposal in 1942 to establishment in 1976, with the publishers – The Age excepted – kicking and screaming all the way.
In 1975, a discussion paper found a press council was ”desirable and practicable” and added five other options for debate.
Two days later, Moss Cass, the minister for the media, said: ”Events in the past 48 hours have convinced me that there is an urgent need for media reform in Australia … my proposal for an Australian Press Council has been subjected to bizarre distortion and hysterical overreaction. I can’t quite believe it.”
The anecdote is apposite today.
Any industry, especially one so prone to navel-gazing as the media, benefits from being examined by an informed, unbiased outsider. Finkelstein has done just that.
As a former journalist of 35 years, including four on the Australian Press Council, I have watched with interest the ”hysterical overreaction” to his measured report.
Brett McCarthy, the editor of The West Australian: ”I don’t believe you can have a body funded by the government without that body coming under some degree of control by that government … A free press in this country would be lost.”
Kim Williams, the chief executive of News Limited: ”The spectre of a government-funded overseer of a free press in an open and forward-looking democracy cannot be tolerated.”
The chief executive Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald, Greg Hywood, says he sees no evidence in the report of a problem to be solved – despite the low public standing of journalists. ”Making an argument that the media is unpopular is irrelevant,” Hywood says. ”We are not here to be popular.”
Politicians facing a relentless array of media-commissioned polls will be interested to see that argument carried through.
Consider the Australian Press Council, the model the publishers initially fought against and now so passionately defend – and pay for.
Finkelstein says his proposed News Media Council ”is not about increasing the power of government or about imposing some form of censorship. It is about making the news media more accountable to those covered in the news, and to the public generally.”
”Those covered in the news” have long wondered how they can they get a fair hearing when the body considering their complaint depends on the press for its very existence.
The proprietors have tried to influence the Press Council: News Ltd pulled out for a period in 1980 after taking umbrage over an adjudication; Fairfax didn’t join until 1982; in 2009 Fairfax and News got together to substantially cut funding. Some noted the cuts forced the council to abandon its advocacy work – an activity unpopular with the two big media players.
As a member of the council, I found while most journalists took a complaint seriously, some had a remarkably cavalier attitude, probably helped by the fact that the worst the council could do was issue a negative adjudication to run at some stage and some place in their newspaper. Editors seemed to see adverse rulings as an unfortunate but necessary hazard. The Herald had a policy of publishing the adjudications in a reasonably prominent position but this was certainly not the case with many other publications.
Working with corporations since leaving journalism, I have been surprised at three things: the general acceptance that the media will get it wrong; the fear that the media will extract retribution should anyone complain; and the almost total lack of awareness of the Press Council.
Finkelstein has shown naivety in saying complaints could be finalised within days. Some benefit greatly from appearances by the complainant and the journalist, which take time. He has also erred in not allowing for an appeals process and recommending the regulator direct placement of its adjudications. For the council to agree with each publisher on a prominent page and a certain type size would be enough.
But with an image problem and falling circulation, I would have thought any measure which increases the standing of the media in the public eye would be worth consideration – even a News Media Council.
By Sam North.
Ogilvy Public Relations’ Australian operation has turned 10 and while most birthdays are a reason to reflect on the past, we decided to celebrate the occasion by looking forward to the next decade.
In partnership with the Australian chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Ogilvy PR commissioned research asking PR professionals their thoughts on the industry in 2021: What would our role be? What would be the industry’s biggest threat? How would we measure success?
Eighteen qualitative interviews were conducted with leading industry opinion leaders to help inform the quantitative study questionnaire. That questionnaire was answered by 300 Australian PR communications professionals during July.
Some of the findings were in accord with our expectations, others surprised us. A summary of the key findings can be found here and if anyone requires a full copy of the research results they can contact Katherine Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
But research should lead to something so we set about deciding just what we could do to ensure that Ogilvy PR maintains its position of professional and intellectual leadership in Australia for the next decade and beyond.
So we pledged to:
In company with IABC, we announced our plans and unveiled the research at two major events.
The first, in Sydney in front of a gathering of around 70 existing and prospective clients and industry professionals, featured a lively panel discussion moderated by Ogilvy PR Australia’s CEO Kieran Moore. Panellists were Nick Baker, the executive general manager of marketing for Tourism Australia, Ogilvy PR’s regional CEO and President Steve Dahllof, Leanne Joyce, IABC board member and group manager – communications with AusTrade, Professor Jim Macnamara, the deputy dean from University of Technology Sydney’s faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Tam Sandeman, the managing director of Impact Employee Communications, Ogilvy PR’s internal communications company.
A Melbourne event the following day attracted a crowd of around 90 people, with Steve Dahllof reprising his Sydney appearance on a panel which included renowned futurist James Cowley, Andrew Maiden, Telstra’s executive director – communications, Jacqui Moore, the group general manager marketing for Country Road, and Tony O’Dea, the manager – campaigns and research for the Victorian Department of Justice. Sarah Wilson, the prominent journalist and blogger, beautifully handled a last-minute transition from panellist to moderator when Q&A’s Tony Jones was an 11th hour scratching due to ill-health.
The research findings and Ogilvy’s response garnered plenty of media coverage, with The Australian and a number of industry publications covering the issue. In fact, a week after the announcement the article was still tracking as the ‘most read’ article on www.campaignaisa.com
Research, action, reaction . . . it makes a good campaign template and puts the fizz of the future into a birthday bash.
With the latest and most disastrous Nielsen poll leading that day’s Sydney Morning Herald it was perhaps inevitable that Tony Jones started by repeating Graham Richardson’s quote that the forthcoming State election would be ‘a slaughter of unimaginable proportions’ for the Labor Party.
Jones, the host of ABC TV’s Q&A program, was talking this week at the latest in a series of panel discussions on topical issues hosted by Ogilvy Public Relations. This time the topic was ‘Ogilvy On… NSW’ and around 90 invited guests gathered for breakfast at leading Sydney restaurant The Establishment to hear the panel’s views on next month’s election and its aftermath.
“So”, Jones asked Sean Nicholls, the Herald’s State Political Editor, “is Richo right? Will it be a slaughter of unimaginable proportion?”
“Yes,” was Nicholls’s succinct response, adding that the Nielsen pollster had pointed out that to get such dire results (Labor with a primary vote of just 22 per cent) was unprecedented this close to an election.
That set the tone for much of the discussion about the ALP.
Annabel Crabb, the Chief Political Writer for ABC Online, likened the State Government’s current standing to “the last days of Rome” and said that Monday’s Valentine Day’s announcement of free marriage certificates had her thinking: “Just go now”.
Neil Lawrence, the man responsible the successful Kevin ’07 campaign and the Executive Creative Director of the STW Group, confirmed that he was also predicting disaster and quoted from the final line of a Frank Hardy novel, the Outcasts of Foolgarah: “The air was thick and black with chickens coming home to roost.”
It fell to the former Treasurer in the Iemma Labor government, Michael Costa, to give at least a glimmer of hope to his erstwhile colleagues. While agreeing that the Keneally Government would lose the election, Costa said he was “not convinced about the polls”, which he said would tighten in the lead up to the election, and believed the ALP primary vote would be in the low to mid 30s.
That gave some solace to Gladys Berejiklian, the Shadow Minister for Transport, who was clearly uncomfortable with incessant talk about record landslides and slaughters of unimaginable proportions.
Pointing out that the Coalition had not unseated a sitting government in NSW since 1988, and before that in 1965, Berejiklian predicted that the polls would narrow. “We can’t afford to, and won’t, take the result for granted,” she said.
Berejiklian said a Coalition government would concentrate on “making NSW No 1 again”. “We are languishing behind other States,” she said, naming issues like the economy, infrastructure and health reform as issues on which an incoming government would concentrate.
However, Simon Sheikh, the National Director of the political activist group GetUp!, had some sobering news for Berejiklian: in his opinion the budget limitations meant that unless there was a complete renegotiation of Commonwealth/State relations then the State’s budget would be unsustainable in 30 years.
That was a theme seized on by Costa, who said that regardless of who was in Government the growth in health and education would absorb the entire NSW budget in the next 30 years. “The state system is broke,” he said.
Patricia Forsythe, the Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber, said her organisation – and business in general – was expecting an in-coming O’Farrell government to focus on jobs. “Business is looking for a sense of certainty,” she said, adding that the cancellation of projects in the past had led to huge damage to the State’s reputation with business.
Forsythe said business wanted to see a clear plan for the next 20 years, with a pipeline of projects that would bring certainty to the economy.
Nicholls said that public sector expenses had “exploded” but the Coalition did not want to talk about public sector job cuts. Berejiklian said the growth in public sector expenses could be addressed by cutting government waste and said there were no planned cuts to the public service.
Crabb said that at both a Federal and State level neither side of politics wanted to talk about hard decisions.
And so it went: lively, opinionated, informative and fun. Just another ‘Ogilvy On…’ event.
The latest Nielsen Australian Online Landscape Review for December 2010 shows that 14,330,878 Australians were active online during the month, an increase of just 1 per cent on December 2009. The time spent per person was just over forty hours and 20 minutes, once again a small increase of 3 per cent on the previous year.
Nielsen data for the past three years shows a remarkably similar story. From January 2008 until June 2009 the active online usage hovered on or around the 12 million users each month. July 2009 saw a change in methodology and a spike in usage to just over 14 million, and that’s remained pretty steady ever since.
Likewise the time spent per month. In March 2008 it was just over 20 hours, creeping to tick over 24 hours in June 2009. The methodology change almost doubled that figure to around 40.5 hours in July 2009 and despite peaks (43 hours) and troughs (35 hours) the graph has remained fairly constant.
Last December the heaviest traffic was between 4-5pm, which was a slight spike in a heavy block of usage between 3-6pm. This may reflect the kids getting home from school and/or office boredom.
Wednesday and Thursday, with 78 per cent of the online community active, were the busiest days, followed by Friday (77%), Monday (75%) and Tuesday (73%). Saturday (70%) and Sunday (69%) prove that weekends remain days of comparative rest.
Any thoughts that the internet is a predominantly male domain are dispelled by the 49.2 per cent female and 50.8 per cent male split, with female users dominating in the 18-34 age group (1,762,000 males to 1,975,000 females).
The top 15 sites throw up few surprises, with Google, NineMSN, Facebook, Microsoft and YouTube filling the top five spots. The one brand to make a big move was the department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts – the only government department in the top 15 – which came in 14th with a unique audience for the month of 3,889,000, an 9.1% increase on the previous month’s visitors. I suspect that’s a result of interest in the Murray Darling Basin decision which came out in December rather than a sudden upsurge of interest in arts or heritage.
So what does it all mean? Nothing earth-shattering, but after the exponential growth of online usage over the past 15 years it does indicate a maturing of the online space. And it’s a maturing at a very high level – it might be a plateau, but it is a pretty substantial plateau: 14.3 million active online in December is a huge number, as is the 40 hour/month average usage time.
It’s the future, but it’s also now.
By Sam North.
Ogilvy PR Managing Director John Studdert set the scene and jogged a few memories with his opening remarks: “Life. Be In it; Slip, Slop, Slap; Click, clack, front and back; Arrive alive – don’t drink and drive . . . these are all memorable campaigns that raised awareness, shaped or changed opinion and impacted our behaviour.”
Studdert was speaking at the third in a continuing series of Ogilvy PR breakfast events designed to inform and stimulate a select group of guests.
This week’s topic was Ogilvy On…Profit vs Public Good with the subject being the value of social marketing.
Held in Sydney’s Establishment Ballroom, the 80 invited guests were treated to a lively panel debate, moderated in his usual entertaining, forthright style by Tony Jones, the host of ABC TV’s Q&A program.
On the panel were Peter Ritchie, the former chief executive and chairman of McDonald’s Australia, Dr Christine Bennett, the chief medical officer and director of healthcare leadership at Bupa Australia Group, Tim Gartrell, the CEO of newly launched not-for-profit group GenerationOne which aims to alleviate indigenous disadvantage, Tony Thirlwell, the CEO of the Heart Foundation of NSW, the NSW Shadow Treasurer Mike Baird, Tom Beall, the managing director of Ogilvy PR Worldwide’s global social marketing practice, and Greg Sam, the joint managing director of Parker & Partners, Australia’s leading bi-partisan public affairs company and a member of the Ogilvy group.
The discussion started with a debate about the definition of social marketing. Most thought it boiled down to promoting change for social and public good, without profit being a motive. Beall, while agreeing with that definition, recalled that 25 years ago when he was invited to join Ogilvy from the public sector to set up the social marketing practice in Washington he was assured that he would be “working on the side of the angels”. Ritchie, however, saw it as an organisation adopting a continuing positive social role within its community so that the organisation actually lived that role and came to be seen in a positive light.
Thirlwell related the concern within some parts of the Heart Foundation when they allowed McDonald’s to carry the foundation’s tick of approval on some of its products. Some were outraged at the charity being associated with a fast food outlet but Thirlwell said the reality was that an enormous number of people ate fast food on a regular basis so it made sense to try and encourage the industry to have healthy options on offer.
The talk around fast food led to a discussion of obesity levels, with Bennett, who also was chair of the Federal Government’s National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, pointing out that 50 per cent of our health burden relates to how we live our life.
The problem, of course, is how to change people’s behaviour. Gartrell said the difficulty GenerationOne faced was that there was widespread awareness of the disadvantages faced by Australia’s indigenous population – which meant that awareness campaigns were not needed – but attitudinal change by white Australians was essential before real change could occur.
Beall said the object of most social marketing campaigns was behavioural change and cited the Heart Truth campaign which he ran in the US. The campaign started seven years ago and its aim was to raise awareness of heart disease among American women.
At the time, even though heart disease was the No 1 killer of women, it was largely seen as a man’s disease.
The campaign, which is still running strong, has been shown to have raised both the awareness of heart disease and of the symptoms and has markedly decreased the female rates of death from the disease.
And, just in case you were thinking about it, the consensus was that fear campaigns generally don’t work.
After the panel session, Beall gave his top five tips for any organisation considering engaging in social marketing.
- Be audience-centric. Know who you are talking to.
- The importance of research. Research the market, but also know what other competitive forces are out there.
- Talk to other stakeholders. Extend your reach to other interested groups in the field and get them involved early on in the planning stages.
- Don’t depend on just one communication channel. Audiences hear messages in wide variety of places and media and it is important to have a presence in all those places.
- Assess what you are doing as it goes on and be open to change if the evidence suggest it’s not working as well as you thought it would.
On the day before Tuesday’s health debate I was giving media training to a client. Tony Abbott should have been there.
“Remember who your audience is,” the client was told. “There’s a huge difference between talking to A Current Affair and talking to the 7.30 Report.”
Abbott thought his audience was the political insiders being wined and dined at the National Press Club. His knee-raised, arms-splayed, loud-laughing, bad-joking, interjecting persona might have raised a cheer from the Liberal faithful in the room but that’s not who his real audience was. If you are talking to Tracey Grimshaw or Kerry O’Brien then you had better understand that while they are conducting the interview you are really giving answers to the hundreds of thousands of viewers out there.
Abbott forgot that and came across to the wider public as aggressive, undisciplined and (whisper it quiet) almost Lathamesque.
Our client was also told never to trash an opposition brand. He could say his product is better, faster, more efficient than other brands but he should never resort to saying another brand was no good and he should never ever ever attack another brand on a personal level.
Abbott had a duty to attack the government’s health plan, and because he has decided not to release the Coalition health plan until closer to the election it was difficult to attack in a constructive way by comparing it unfavourably to his own product. Yet he broke the golden rule when he went after Kevin Rudd on a personal level. Perhaps he was looking for the nightly news grab, but once again he misunderstood his audience.
Making jokes about Rudd being a boring speaker might be all well and good in Parliament – or at the National Press Club during a normal presentation – but personal attacks just don’t fly with anyone except the rapid supporters.
When Mark Latham spoke before the 2004 election of the Howard government being a “conga line of suckholes” Labor stalwarts cheered because he was “giving it” to the Coalition. Undecided voters – the ones he had to impress – wondered whether he had the gravitas to be Prime Minister. A couple of months later they decided, and Latham was no longer.
The Australian public want their leaders to be respectful. They have got to be able to envisage them at important occasions, see them at the White House or a world leader’s forum. They want them to fight, but by the rules of good behaviour.
The same is true of leading brands. We want them to be respectable, we want to be able to display them on important occasions and we want them to spruik their wares in an engaging, innovative and positive manner.
The guy I was training now understands that. Tony Abbott still needs to.
By Sam North.
The entirely predictable problems that stem from Tiger Woods’s decision not to confront the media during last month’s stage-managed mea culpa will be well to the fore at next month’s US Masters at Augusta.
In what was always going to be a PR disaster, Woods and his advisors opted for the golfer to read a statement of remorse in front of a handpicked audience, with no questions asked, when he made his first face-to-face utterances about the sex scandal that engulfed his world, and ours, late last year.
Wiser counsel would have had Woods subject himself to the sort of questions that Tracey Grimshaw put to rugby league’s Matthew Johns in the wake of his sex scandal last May. Grimshaw asked all the questions that people wanted answered, leaving viewers able to make up their own minds on the genuineness of Johns’s contrition and remorse. The general perception is that Johns passed that test and both he and the public now feel free to move on.
Woods, however, has still to answer the questions of why, and how could he, and what was he thinking of, and what about his wife and kids. The public still wants to know, and the journalists still want to not-so-politely enquire.
If Woods thinks that returning to competitive golf in the oh-so-regulated Masters means he will be able to duck such questions then I strongly suspect he has another thing coming. The Masters will no doubt try to weed out what they see as the trouble-making tabloid journalists, keeping the media to the golfing faithful. But while golf writers have traditionally shied away from asking questions about anything other than golf there is little doubt that respective editors will have stiffened their spines considerably with subtle lines like: ‘’If you don’t ask the right questions don’t bother reporting back for work the following week.’’
And if the Masters organisers, or Woods’s minders, try to ban any non-golfing questions then be prepared for a media walkout.
The questions will have to be answered, either at Augusta or the next tournament or the next, dragging out a matter that should have been settled months ago.
But that’s what happens when a crisis strategy is all about control, with barely a nod to candour.
By Sam North.