Tag Archives: apology

The Art of an Apology Tested in the Past Week

sorry_desuIt’s been a week of very public apologies: Pepsi, United Airlines and White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Without getting into the merits of each crisis communication instance, since we have already worn a path around the water cooler, in general there are some best practices to make an effective apology that will at least take a bit of the sting out of a negative situation.

Immediacy: When something goes wrong and your reputation is at stake, the sooner you apologize, the better. This can be difficult, without knowing all the facts and when dealing with legal issues. But, an immediate apology that expresses remorse, admits responsibility, makes amends and promises that it won’t happen again should still feel real without having completed a full investigation.

Use Social Media: Either through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube — apologize on a platform that your target audiences are following. Read more after the jump…

Why Swallowing Your Pride Never Seems To Go Completely Out of Style

(Photo: Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News)

(Photo: Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News)

It seems that with each passing day, the era for digging in your heels, drawing lines in the sand and shouting “how dare you?!” becomes more and more pronounced. I was reminded of that last month as I watched a very public and painful saga play out between former coworkers.

It all started when former FOX31 Denver investigative reporter Heidi Hemmat took to her personal blog on Thanksgiving day to air grievances with her former employer. Mind you, these grievances were at the very least deemed worthy of headlines locally (see: Denver Post), nationally (see: New York Post) and internationally (see: The Daily Mail).

Hemmat said she received death threats from a man who had not only been put out of business but convicted of fraud on the basis of her reporting. These were threats, Hemmat claimed, that had been substantiated by the man’s psychiatrist. If nothing else, I remember hearing about these threats shortly after Hemmat became aware of them, as I was working for the Denver TV station as its digital content editor at the time.

Read more after the jump…

The Art of the Non-Apology Apology

sorryThe non-apology apology. You might not have known that such a term exists, but most people have experienced it, and companies are regularly using it.

Wikipedia even has an entry for it: “A non-apology apology is a statement that has the form of an apology but does not express the expected contrition. It is common in both politics and public relations.” Ouch, public relations.

As public relations practitioners, we’ve all had the opportunity to craft apologies on behalf of our clients. There’s a balance of demonstrating sincerity and contrition, without completely admitting guilt and wrongdoing (or the apology might not be approved by legal). In the case of a Scottish brewer, they recently took the non-apology to a whole new level.

BrewDog published a blog post, titled #SorryNotSorry directed to the U.K. industry standards group called the Portman Group. The the group banned the brewers’ Dead Pony Club ale, saying that the packaging would lead to “antisocial behavior and binge drinking.”

Read more after the jump…

Outlook Apology is a Template for Crisis Response

outlook-helpLosing access to email for 20 minutes—let alone three days—would test anyone’s patience in today’s super dialed-in world.

But that’s exactly the crisis that persisted recently for Microsoft when its Outlook.com email service crashed. Following the crash, the company said it had resolved the issues for customers, some of whom had been without email for three days.

Though the company failed in technical areas, it succeeded in how it communicated the issue with its customers.

Microsoft’s apology was effective for a variety of reasons. Find out why with the full article on Ragan’s PR Daily.


Time for issues management? Here are 4 tips for navigating the news cycle

The general public likes nothing better than seeing an infallible politician falling on his sword, admitting wrongdoing, and making the rest of us feel better about our shortcomings.

Rep. Anthony Weiner

Until Monday’s mea culpa from New York Rep. Anthony Weiner about his breach in judgment about sending Twitpics of himself in his drawers to women, he was reviled. Clearly, the public knew he was hiding something, and the issue boiled into a salacious media frenzy, one with no hope of subsiding.

His tearful apology, though painful to watch, may have been the only tactic left to save Weiner’s political career. To a certain extent, he now has bought a tiny bit of public sympathy. Is it enough to get his mayoral campaign back on track? Unlikely, but at least he has a chance, and he has shortened the shelf life for jokes at his expense in late-night talk-show monologues.

What can we take away from this latest political gaffe? Here are some options to try to get in front of the news cycle for those who are facing potentially embarrassing news.

1. Own up to it. If the American public understands one thing, it is that people are not perfect. Like parents, they get mad at first, hope that you have learned a lesson, forgive you, and then move on. In some cases, they become more protective of you because you have opened your soul to them.

2. Don’t engage. The less back and forth you provide, the less the media have to report. Beware, though, as this works much better if there is little or no truth to the reports. If it is true, and there is a good chance that it will be revealed, ignore this tip and see tip No. 1.

3. Make light of the situation, if appropriate. As with contrition, the public likes humor. It shows humility and a sense of not taking yourself too seriously.

4. Address the issue in private,
and let others report the resolution to the world. In Weiner’s case, he could have contacted each of the recipients of the Twitpics and apologized to them privately. They could then offer a third-party report to the media. It would show he was motivated to apologize because he was wrong, not because he got caught.

(This post also appears on PRDaily.)

It’s not their fault, but companies still have to apologize for massive data breach

It was the data breach heard around the world.

Millions of people’s email information was stolen in a massive security breach after hackers made their way into email marketing firm Epsilon Data Management’s systems. They only got names and email addresses – but just enough information to use to trick people with “phishing emails.”

It has been a test in reputation management for some of the biggest and most public companies, including Best Buy, Citi Bank, Verizon and Target. While they didn’t really do anything wrong, they are still faced with answering to their customers. Passing the buck doesn’t really work in this instance, after all, they hired the company that lost the information.

The swank Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company sent an email to its customers informing them of the breach, saying very contritely: “We take your privacy very seriously. The Ritz-Carlton has a long-standing commitment to protecting the privacy of the personal information that our guests entrust to us. We regret this has taken place and apologize for any inconvenience.”
They also created a FAQ page to further address concerns by their customers. Aside from the FAQ, most of the companies used a similarly worded response.

For Epsilon’s part, it offered an apology from its president Bryan J. Kennedy: “We apologize for the inconvenience that this matter has caused consumers and for the potential unsolicited emails that may occur as a result of this incident. We are taking immediate action to develop corrective measures intended to restore client confidence in our business and in turn regain their customers’ confidence.”

Even Epsilon’s parent company, Alliance Data, offered a statement from its CEO Ed Hefferman: “We fully recognize the impact this has had on our clients and their customers, and on behalf of the entire Alliance Data organization, we sincerely apologize.”

Epsilon’s first release came out last Friday, and was a paltry 61 words, saying a “subset” of customers’ data was exposed. Thankfully, a more complete release came out on Wednesday that was about 550 words and fortunately did not use the term “subset.”

Waiting didn’t seem to hurt ADS’s stock price. On Friday, it closed almost unchanged from a week ago, after slipping about $5 when the media caught wind of the story on Monday.

Unlike the Ritz, it did not include a FAQ, although that would have been helpful. And given the massive number of people affected, a separate web page addressing the issue would have made sense.
In this instance, the more information the better, with regard to repairing or preserving reputations.

~ Gil Rudawsky