Apologies are Apologies for Common-Sense PR Practices

Superman is a D—I’ve grown tired of the apology as a standard element of a crisis public relations response.  The way I see it, there are only three times when an apology is effective:

1.  When the apology is sincere                              

2.  When the apology comes before being caught

3.  When you’re six

Most apologies we hear from public figures or corporations clearly are not sincere.  How often do we hear apologies that go something like, “I’m really, truly sorry that everyone took my remarks out of context, and that the media exploited those words to make me look bad.”

For an example of such an apology, check out Amanda Marcotte’s “apology” for alleged anti-Catholic comments she made on her blog.

Apologies given before the apologizer was caught don’t happen, except in personal relationships.  You know, they go something like, “sorry son, but I spent your college money on Elvis commemorative plates.  Here are the help-wanted ads.” 

Apologies are probably at their most authentic when you’re six.  “Six?” you ask.  “Why six?”  No particular reason, it just sounds cooler than saying “around six,” or “when you’re in elementary school.”

Anyway, when you’re six, you apologize because you really didn’t know any better.  How were you to know that by swinging the aluminum bat around the house with your eyes closed that you would hurt someone?  You were just having fun!

Apologies are, for the most part, for children, fools, and family members.  If you’re none of these, I don’t want to hear an apology.  I want an apologia!

     Apologia is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary as:

a defense especially of one’s opinions, position, or actions.

If you’re in any position of authority: a politician, CEO, etc., you’re there because you’ve (hopefully) demonstrated an ability to rationalize and use logic.  I don’t mind mistakes, we all make them.  It’s when they’re made because of selfish motives or irresponsible behavior, that’s when I become upset.

Give me an apologia! 

Tell me why you did it!  I’m willing to listen.  I know you’re the one in charge.  I know sometimes you have to make decisions based on a limited amount of information.  Just tell me about your justifications.

Most often though, PR crises exist because someone engaged in activity they can’t justify.  If you can’t justify your actions, well then, the apology is probably your last resort.   Just don’t give it to me, I’m not interested.  Fool.

(I apologize if your lack of a spine caused you to take offense at my last remark).

    

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6 Comments

Filed under Apology, PR, Public Relations

6 responses to “Apologies are Apologies for Common-Sense PR Practices

  1. I wrote about apologies too this week! It turns out that you and I are not the only people that believe apologies are not the best way to handle a crisis. Check my site out- there is a link to a study done that proves your point.

  2. You make a valid point in saying that it is hard to apologize when one cannot justify their actions. However one can apologize for their own ignorance in engaging in certain activities and provide a list of concrete steps that are being taken to prevent it from happening again.

    And if that apology is carefully crafted it can demonstrate sincerity… and sincerity seems to be your No.1 reason for an effective apology. ;-) The ‘spin doctors’ are failing if they can’t find the perfect apology for any given situation. Work harder people and figure it out!

  3. Peter, I understand your reasoning if the situation is an interpersonal one. However, from a public relations standpoint, do you really want your client to apologize for his or her own ignorance? You claim ignorance man, the dogs are gonna pounce.

    Pete’s got a Web site, http://www.perfectapology.com. Check it out. Good stuff.

  4. Eric,
    Glad you like the site. Thank you.
    One needs to consider each case but apologizing for ignorance should not be dismissed outright. It is disarming (and that can have a magical appeal).
    Yes, the dogs are gonna pounce but depending on the infraction they will do so anyway. So one needs to weigh the benefits of exposing our weaknesses. The consequences of remaining silent can sometimes alienate (and lose) many more admirers/customers than effectively appealing to people at a human level.
    Eating ‘perfectly’ prepared humble pie can sometimes turn dogs into puppies. Or, if they are relentless in their pursuit, expose them as rabid pitbulls.

  5. Peter,

    Like you suggest, I have observed situations where an apology could have turned dogs into puppies, but the apology was never given, and the dogs stayed dogs.

    In other situations, however, apologies have only made rabid pitbulls more rabid. The apology was a small biscuit that only made the pitbulls more hungry.

    To these pitbulls, the ones who would pounce for any reason on anything, I say if you must, give ‘em an apologia, defend yourself and your actions. Don’t feed ‘em an apology, the consequences can be just as bad or worse than remaining silent.

  6. Pingback: When Not to Say Sorry : Social Media Mafia

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