The Role of Apologizing in Crisis Management

Public Relations Crisis

Saying “I’m sorry” after a terrible mishap in our private lives can seem like the most unpleasant experience. But saying sorry in the public arena? That’s even more nerve-wracking. An unsaid apology in the public sphere may not only spur hatred towards a public figure or brand, but it might also cost reputations and careers.

Even when the public doesn’t believe for a moment the figure or brand feels an inkling of remorse, they expect an apology anyway, and it better sound sincere. It’s the first step towards making amends – and a necessary one. But how and when the public figure or brand delivers the apology also has a lot to do with the effectiveness.

Should you Say Sorry?

Though the public might expect it and simmer down a bit, this isn’t always the best option. Sometimes a brand can and should choose to take the high road to support a cause or issue close to them; thus maintaining the respect of their core audience. Brands should weigh their options carefully before making a decision.

For instance, many people became offended by Beyonce’s politically charged performance at the Super Bowl. Offended parties staged protests and asked for the boycotting of her music. Even police officers – some of whom felt like the butt of the performance – considered not offering her protection at her shows. Beyoncé could have issued an apology to quell the controversy. Instead, she rode the waves, and some believe she was better for it.

What to do when you Need to Apologize

Still, not everyone has the luxury of musicians and other socialites who can sometimes thrive on controversy. Most public figures in organizations, corporations, and the government find it difficult to recover from controversy. As a result, they usually apologize even when the mistake made is not their fault or something they controlled.

Act Immediately

Not only should people in these positions apologize, but they should do so quickly. The longer they take to make an apology, the less sincere it appears to the public. No matter the tears or groveling, after a certain time has passed people naturally assume the apology came in response to pressure from the media, and not from real remorse.

Request Coaching from PR Specialists

Even apologies delivered on time can seem insincere. As a result, public figures and brands should consult with PR specialists for coaching even when an apology is genuine. Why? Because in high tension situations, even the most well-intentioned words can become misconstrued, and turned against the person saying them. Training by PR professionals ensures a clear message, and thus reduces the likelihood responses feeling insincere.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Words mean nothing without action. As a result, even the most sincere and well-received apology loses its effectiveness if the public figure or brand doesn’t then work assiduously to remedy the situation. This may involve severing ties with another brand or public figure, spending billions on a recall, or settling fines and lawsuits. Whatever is necessary, ensure it gets done.

Reputation comes First

Some companies delay the process to argue the cost. This may seem like a good idea at the time, but usually creates more reputation management issues for the company.

Remember, nothing is more valuable than reputation. Always make this a priority.

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