I’ll leave it to others to endlessly obsess over Tiger Wood’s infidelity, but what’s certainly instructive for the rest of us is how he dealt with it’s exposure. I’ve been saying for a long time that in the digital age, transparency is the currency of the realm. Google isn’t just about “search,” it’s about “reputation management.” The river of information that flows online is a flood. Over and over we’re discovering the viral nature of the web leads to the undoing of all kinds of people and organizations. In Tiger’s case, being
honest and open is the key to survival in an era of social networking. Asking for privacy – even for the right reasons – made Tiger look like he was hiding something, and everyone started talking. But had he been honest and open from the start – no matter how painful – he could have turned the tide of public opinion.
In the old days, when the world was controlled by traditional media, you could stonewall, demand privacy, and things would probably turn out alright. But in the digital era, you have to get in front of the problem, because it won’t go away. The viral nature of the web keeps the conversation going at exponential levels, and you can’t outrun it.
David Letterman got in front on his infidelity, and most people have already forgotten about it – in fact his ratings have actually gone up. Keep in mind I’m not talking about the morality of the issue here. That’s certainly important. However, regardless of right and wrong, technology has forever changed how we deal with PR disasters like this. The ubiquity of media has taught us that public figures don’t have the luxury of expecting privacy anymore. If you choose to take your life, ministry, or message public, then be prepared to deal with the consequences. And if something bad happens, it’s my advice to embrace it, and tell your story first. Because if you don’t, you’ll be at the mercy of all the others who will.