How Apologies Can Make or Break a PR Crisis
A PR crisis can strike at any time, and when it does, it’s important for companies to act quickly and decisively to address the issue. One key component of any crisis response strategy is a sincere and effective apology. Companies should avoid being vague, as the cast member of Vanderpump Rules Tom Sandoval did in his recent PR crisis. The majority of his message was asking fans of the show not to take their anger out on him or his friend.
Importance of an apology
Apologies are an essential part of crisis management PR. An effective apology can show accountability, sympathy and a drive to fix the problem. This can help lessen reputational damage or even influence the situation in a positive way. A sincere and thorough apology helps regain trust from customers, staff and stakeholders. However, a careless apology can cause more problems than it solves, appearing insincere and damaging attempts at rebuilding relationships. Companies need to create clear and genuine apologies to optimize their success.
Creating a successful apology
In PR crisis management, an apology is essential: acknowledging the issue and demonstrating that the company takes it seriously. The apology should be clear, specific and show empathy for those affected by the issue. It’s important to use language that conveys genuine concern, avoiding defense or dismissal of responsibility. Companies should take ownership of their actions, regardless of any mistakes made.
Companies should avoid making excuses or blaming others, as it can seem insincere or defensive. A successful apology should show that the company is taking ownership of the situation and outline a plan to prevent future issues. Providing a concrete solution or plan of action also demonstrates a commitment to resolving the issue.
Businesses must also make clear what steps they’ll take and provide a timeline when possible. It is crucial that companies should follow through on any promises made. If the apology includes a plan of action, businesses must execute it to completion and keep customers / stakeholders informed of progress. This shows commitment to resolving the issue and rebuilds trust.
Examples of successful apologies
In 2018, Starbucks faced a PR crisis when two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia location for sitting in the store without making a purchase. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a sincere and thoughtful apology. He acknowledged the issue and expressed empathy for those affected. He also outlined specific steps the company would take to address the issue, including mandatory unconscious bias training for all employees. In 2017, United Airlines faced backlash after a video of a passenger being removed from an overbooked flight went viral. United CEO Oscar Munoz initially issued a defensive and dismissive response. Later, he issued a more sincere apology that acknowledged the issue. He expressed empathy for the passenger and other customers and outlined steps the company would take to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.