A Public (or Stakeholder) Apology Is Worth 1000 Words of Spin and Artful Dodging. It is Best Practice Strategic Crisis Communications
Our Managing Director, Sam Elam, talks to Channel 7 about the power of an apology, following Eddie McGuire’s attempts and others’ success:
Sorry seems to be the hardest word.
Is it because people and companies are scared of litigation? Is it because they don’t believe they are wrong (even when the rest of the world does)? Is it arrogance?
It can be a best practice strategy for an organisation or company to be on the front foot in times of a crisis.
It can turn a shocking situation into one that is managed strategically and with genuine heart. It can turn a negative into a positive, or at least a neutral.
People and all stakeholders – especially those directly affected – are human beings and want their leaders to be. It is human nature. We expect it.
It doesn’t need to adversely affect litigation and good lawyers know how to minimise the impact of this. It is a question of reputation and the power of negative media on reputations.
Recently, we have seen some great high-profile apologies. For example, Gladys Berejiklian in relation to the Ruby Princess cruise ship-related COVID infections and deaths:
And then there are others, such as Eddie McGuire and the Collingwood Football Club.
Such a missed opportunity to apologise upfront and own the high ground in being the first club in the league to instigate and formally investigate racism issues in their own backyard. McGuire was genuine in his concern for his players but he had the wrong words and messages upfront and he was crucified for that. The right key messages are so important. And so is sincerity.
To make matters (and the headlines) worse, McGuire read an apology the next day:
A read apology is not a real apology. If someone read an apology to you, would you believe it?
It was a gaffe that became a runaway train and ended his 23 years of great work at Collingwood. He fell on a sword that could have had the opposite effect and bathed him and the Club in glory. We felt for him.
The power of the media! Be prepared for crisis communications and how to apologise while minimising legal risk. It is skill based and needs to be learnt.
We have many high profile organisations as clients who make it a priority to be prepared and to have spokespeople who are well trained for fast and skilled responses.
Is your organisation prepared?