Make Your Apology Mean Something

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    Don’t slack on this essential crisis management step

    Crisis management has really come a long way in a short time. It wasn’t more than a few years ago that the standard corporate reaction to “at fault” crises was to zip your lips and lawyer up. Now, it’s pretty well accepted that one of the most important aspects of resolving a crisis is admitting your faults and delivering a meaningful apology.

    Although author Chris Mittelstaedt used the quite-unlikely scenario of an escaped circus elephant destroying a citizen’s rose bushes in the following quote from an Inc. article, his suggestions are very much on point. How do you avoid having your apology feel like a vague corporate brush off? Read on…

    Get specific about your actions. Affirm your commitment to a long-term positive outcome.

    Immediately: Replacement of rosebushes. I would like to bring in a rosebush specialist to meet with you tomorrow and work with you on choosing replacement bushes to be installed next week. Our team of gophers are experts in digging and planting, and we are asking our ladybug department to stay behind for an extra week to make sure that no aphids take root after our planting.

    End of the month: Follow-up. At the end of the month, after the bushes have had time to root down and become adjusted to your soil, I would like to send in a team of sparrows to conduct aerial viewings and to test the pliability of the rose stems as a final inspection. Once this is approved, please let us know that all is well in your garden.

    Long-term commitment to customer happiness: If in the future you have issues with your roses, I would be happy to follow up with one of our experts to see how we can help make sure that your plants stay healthy.

    Take a close look at those steps, because they go far beyond what pretty much anyone out there is doing. It doesn’t stop at “we’re sorry,” it doesn’t even stop at how they’ll set things right. When an organization goes out of its way to literally ensure that the crisis it caused will never create further stress for you, how could you stay mad? You won’t, and that’s the whole point. Give your apologies meaning, and even when you do mess up, you’ll leave people talking about how great your organization really is.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]