There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” And when it comes to corporate apologies, this saying has a lot of truth to it. Sure, you need to make sure your apology has the right words, but even the best-written apology will be a total flop if it’s not delivered properly.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Tiger Woods. His robotic, emotionless apology for his deviant behavior lasted nearly 14 minutes. By most accounts, it was as bad as apologies get. Viewers never felt connected with Woods because he was stiff and reading from a script. Simply put, the apology lacked authenticity.
The truth is the public is very forgiving. We’re a nation that likes to give people a second chance. We always have room for another comeback story. But people aren’t just going to forgive you without you first giving a truly sincere apology. If the public doesn’t believe you actually care, you won’t get the forgiveness.
So, how can you make sure your apology is delivered as best as possible?
Make sure you reach everyone affected – Your apology needs to be communicated to everyone who has been affected by your mistake. Just sending out a quick press release or email isn’t going to do the trick. You have to make the effort to really get your apology out there so everyone hears it.
Don’t deliver apologies through lawyers or spokespeople – If you don’t have the common courtesy to deliver the apology yourself, don’t even bother. The public will never take a written state read aloud by another party (lawyer, spokesperson, etc.) seriously, and it only makes you look even worse. If you want forgiveness, you have to go out there yourself and ask for it.
No ifs or buts allowed – Companies seem to have a problem with 100% committing to their apologies. It’s like every corporate apology has an asterisk on it with an “if” or a “but”. Now isn’t the time to be making excuses or giving half-hearted apologies. When you’re genuinely sorry, there are no excuses.
Apologize as soon as possible – The longer you wait to apologize, the worse things will get. The media will continue running with the story, and the public will just assume you aren’t truly sorry. You have to be proactive, and you have to get out there as quickly as possible to deliver your apology. Make sure you communicate what went wrong and how you’re handling it.
Ditch the script – This isn’t to say you should freestyle your apology. That would be a disaster. By all means, you need to prepare and have a message crafted. But you don’t want to sound like a robot reading your apology. Be willing to speak from the heart while staying on message.
What are some of the mistakes you see companies make when apologizing?