All PR pros need to learn what married men learn early on: the power of an apology.
Seriously, knowing how and when to apologize is a big issue in PR. Defending one’s actions or positions may gain acceptance in some cases, but if there is a perception of wrongheadedness or wrongdoing, the issues cannot be ignored.
Legal counsel may limit the scope of an apology, but when an organization’s reputation is at stake, efforts must be made to address the issues and reduce damage to that reputation.
When an error in judgment is obvious, the PR team has to take the ball and run with it. The organization’s leaders must be made aware of what’s being said in traditional media, social media, online forums, etc. By ignoring the prevailing buzz, an organization may appear to be aloof or, worse, uninformed.
If a decision is made to say, “We are sorry for what has occurred,” getting the message out in a timely manner is important. President Clinton’s apology for the Lewinsky affair (and his repeated denials) had less impact because he waited so long to make it. Many concerned parties are still waiting for more apologies to come from Penn State University for its apparent failure to properly handle the Jerry Sandusky situation.
As one who has been married a long time, I know when to stop defending my actions and offer apologies for whatever I may have done wrong. (Sometimes I don’t even realize that my actions are perceived as wrong until I am told so.)
None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes and do things we regret. Learning to say, “I’m sorry,” has helped my personal reputation management with my chief stakeholder (my bride).
Organizations and their leaders who commit missteps should be ready to take responsibility for their actions and learn how to say these two words: “We apologize.”