One thing is certain; there are plenty of big egos in the PR business.

After all PR executives will be counseling heads of state and captains of industry this week, huddled against the backdrop of snow-covered peaks at the Global Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There is little of significance that can’t be done without solid good public relations counsel. If you don’t believe it; just ask us.

Okay, PR executives can’t walk on water. And they can’t part the Red Sea. Ditto for turning water into wine or allowing the blind to see again. But can they publicly rehabilitate Tiger Woods? Can they put John Edwards back on the right course? . . . Can we discuss walking on water again?

Sometimes PR pros have to admit that the dog just won’t hunt. Tiger Woods, who is spending quality time at a sex-rehab clinic in Mississippi, now stands at 19 known mistresses and counting.

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“He is beyond PR redemption,” said public relations maven Howard Rubenstein. “He is in public relations hell right now. There is not a PR man on Earth who can restore his image.”

How refreshing to hear this admission.

“Now my gut is that he’s got a life problem,” Howard Bragman, CEO of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations. “There are some major issues he has to confront.”

Ultimately, Woods can make a partial comeback based upon the fact that he is still the best golf pro on the planet. His first news conferences at a PGA event will be extremely difficult and will have to be carefully scripted, and he can get through them. However, the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. In fact, the bottle is nowhere to be found.

“He’s hemorrhaging; even a transfusion won’t help,” said Rubenstein. “He can never re-establish that perfect image of a happily married family man. Never. The best he can hope for is to re-establish his image as a golfing champion. If he wins consistently and doesn’t sink to 4 or 5, he’ll be applauded again – but just for golf. There will still be plenty of snickering behind his back.”

For John Edwards there is no Augusta. No Spyglass Hill. No Pebble Beach. No Torrey Pines, but there is Haiti. He was last seen in the Earthquake devastated Caribbean country trying to help the poor in rebuilding their lives. But can Edwards reverse his image? The answer is simply, no.

This is the ongoing saga with the ultimate “legs.” It never stops giving. After finally admitting that he is the father of Rielle Hunter’s little girl, Frances Quinn, he is faced with a tell-all book by the man enlisted to lie on his behalf, Andrew Young, and stories are surfacing about a potential Edwards-Hunter sex tape.


Kate Catlin of MMI Public Relations of Raleigh, NC, wrote an excellent piece about how Edwards violated all the rules of handling bad news.

They are essentially: 1.) Tell the truth (Edwards did not tell the truth and kept lying); 2.) Tell it All (Are we confident that we know the whole story, even now?); 3.) Tell it fast? (Two years will never fit anybody’s description of “fast”); 4.) Moving on (Haiti may not qualify).

“As the latest developments in the disaster that is John Edwards unfold, he continues to suffer from his poor crisis management over the last two years,” Catlin wrote.   “Because he refused to tell the truth, tell it all and tell it fast, the details keep trickling out, damaging his reputation all over again each time.”

Yep, yep and yep.

Tiger Woods and John Edwards are just two of the latest examples of cases where even the best PR talents are limited. There is no public rehabilitation of Mike Tyson, Tonya Harding. OJ Simpson or fill in the blank with your own example of a terminal public relations train wreck.

If those who command the public eye are prone to their own personal destruction, then that is the course they have chosen. They will ultimately be held accountable for their transgressions. As PR professionals we need to pick our battles and help those who want our assistance and deserve to be helped. They are not necessarily one and the same.