Sorry not sorry. The art of the good corporate apology.

All too often we end up reading the headlines and cringing as another organization or senior executive misses the mark entirely in responding to an issue. Half-hearted non-apologies that are tone-deaf or plain insulting to  customers, clients, and the general public simply don’t cut it.

Organizations or individuals who are at the centre of a controversy are often reluctant to apologize sincerely. Perhaps they (misguidedly) think it infers weakness. So instead, they choose to dodge the issue or offer platitudes that may sound like an apology, but lack substance, empathy, and action.

Apologies are important. They are essential to building trust and maintaining strong relationships with customers, stakeholders, and the public.

Given how accessible today’s brands are on social media, it’s more important than ever for organizations in crisis to own up to their mistakes, take responsibility, and commit to genuinely doing better. And yet, corporations and executives still get it wrong. Often.

Who among us doesn’t remember besieged BP chief executive Tony Hayward addressing the massive damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 with this gem: “there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I want my life back.”

This seriously ill-advised statement, made no doubt under significant stress and duress, did not buy him any sympathy in the public eye, and it was entirely avoidable.

An appropriate, authentic apology does not have to be complicated. But it does have to be real.

There are three basic principles that form the basis for any good response:

  1. Apologize and mean it: acknowledge what happened and express remorse.
  2. Be honest and take responsibility for your actions.
  3. Tell your audiences what you are going to do about it: how will you commit to change? What tangible actions will you take to investigate and do better?

Brands need to be prepared before a crisis strikes. Understanding the value of an honest, actionable response that acknowledges what went wrong and what you’re doing about it will help you navigate the unexpected while maintaining goodwill and credibility with your most important stakeholders.

Chandler Communications is available 27/7 to offer communications support and advice in a crisis or unexpected situation. Contact us today for a consultation.