You’ve seen a lot of these lately, right? Whether it’s related to COVID or BLM/protests, our current environment seems ripe for many people, governments, and/or businesses to make very big public mistakes. Through my experiences I have found the public to be very forgiving, even in these hyper-sensitive social media driven times, as long as there is an adequate and resonating public apology. But what makes for an adequate public apology? Let’s explore the ingredients:
Simply put, you have to believe what you are saying. Saying “I’m sorry” is not enough unless you explain why. Your apology must be put into proper context and include depth or your response to the original mistake may make matters worse. What have you learned from this experience? And how will you make things right?
Many make the mistake of waiting too long before offering a public apology for a variety of reasons but the reality is, unless you respond in a timely fashion, any good will you offer may be seen as too late. Public mistakes spread like wildfire and when a mistake is made, it demands a quick and comprehensive retraction. The longer you wait, the more damage is done.
The public apologies which resonate best offer a detailed action plan. After you apologize for the mistake, you must offer an action plan as to what steps you are taking to ensure the mistake is not made again. This requires some examination first, as you likely will need to review organizational policies and legal ramifications first, but remember, don’t take too long! This is likely the most important ingredient of any public apology. Without an action plan, any attempt at a public apology will fall flat.
For more information related to effective public apologies and present day examples of good and bad apologies, see this article published on azcentral.com:
Rich Dubek is a two-time Emmy award winning TV news reporter with more than twenty five years of news media experience at the local and network level. He is President of the Dubek Media Group, specializing in expert media training messaging, and on-air coaching, and full service video production. The Dubek Media Group is based in Tempe, Arizona.