Sincerity is the best policy

.By: Donald Smith

This week in class we spoke on the art of apologizing, and how it is an important crisis communication strategy.

Huffington Post, “I’m Sorry”

First, why is it important to apologize? It is important because when someone admits they have done wrong it shows they respect and empathize with those who were wronged by their actions. Also, the apology acts as a bridge, allowing for relationships to be built again (Engel, 2002). This way both parties will begin interactions, and feel comfortable with one another again.

Now, apologies are crucial to public relations’ crisis communication because of what was stated above, maintaining relationships. The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” (Yann, 2016) However, when a company commits a wrong the balance is disturbed. Therefore, PR comes in to restore the balance through crisis communication strategies with apologies leading the way.

Although apologies are a great way to rebuild relationships, they can also destroy any hope of rebuilding relationships if executed poorly. The “make-it-or-break-it” point of an apology is the sincerity of it. A sincere apology lets publics know companies feel awful about what has occurred. Also, it has them focus on a company’s values rather than the mistakes. (Scott, 2016)

A classic example of a successful apology, because it followed this line of thinking, is Johnson and Johnson with the Tylenol poisonings of 1982. The company alerted and apologized to the mass public as well as removing all products from the shelves. Johnson and Johnson was sincere in its apology by showing more concern for the public health than its profits.

Now, an example of a failed apology, because it was not sincere, is BP and the oil spill of 2010. The CEO, Tony Hayward, stated: “We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused to their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.” Talk about having zero sincerity in an apology. This statement caused massive backlash and burnt many relationships BP had at the time.

So, when a company makes a mistake let them know to at least be sincere in their apology.

Also, here are some other resources on how to and not to construct an apology.

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