This post by Jill Schlesinger originally appeared on CBS' MoneyWatch.com.
With his mother seated in the front row, Tiger Woods approached the podium to rehabilitate his career. He said everything you would expect: "I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior ... I have let you down ... I have a lot to atone for ... I was wrong and I was foolish ... it's up to me to make amends." As he spoke, I watched with my colleagues and we agreed that it felt real, heartfelt and that Toyota could learn some lessons from Tiger.
Both Tiger and Toyota had been covering up for a long time and when they finally got caught, the PR fiasco only made matters worse. Tiger and Toyota must have the same advisers who encouraged them to stonewall the media and release lame statements about their deficiencies. While it appears that Tiger is ready to face the public with both amends and a plan, Toyota continues to be mired in its non-strategy.
Here's what I like about the Tiger speech: he accepted full responsibility for his actions and admitted that his superstar status made him feel entitled to act in a way that betrayed his wife and kids. He also presented a game plan: he would return to therapy and continue to get help in order to regain his balance. The details of his progress will be between him and his wife, which seems appropriate. Tiger said he will return to golf - maybe as soon as this year.
By laying out the next steps, Tiger may have changed the tenor of the conversation. When Toyota's president Toyoda testifies before Congress next week, he should do the something similar. He needs to explain how a company with a sterling reputation could have fallen in such a dramatic way. He then needs to lay out the plan for how the company will return to form.
The icing on the cake for Toyota is that it needs to make us feel confident in its product again. I was conducting an interview with the amazing behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational and asked him what he thought Toyota could do to reclaim the mantle of stellar service. He said cutting prices or offering incentives is not the way to go (darn it - remember that I can't wait to buy a Toyota!) Rather, Ariely suggest that Toyota should offer some kind of huge cash back if there were an accelerator problem or maybe offer an insurance policy to protect consumers from what they fear. That way, they would be projecting confidence in their product, backed up with a financial incentive, but not devaluing the brand.
The long journey back from a a defeat is arduous. While Tiger and Toyota started their downfalls in similar ways, today it looks like Tiger is cleaning up better.
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