One of the most powerful things an organization can do during a crisis is to apologize. But simply saying the words “I’m sorry” won’t cut it. The apology has to be executed in the right way, or else the company could suffer even more damage to its reputation. The “right” apology will differ in every crisis but there are some key tactics that should be applied no matter what the situation is.
- Candor – an acknowledgement of guilt
- Admitting that you made a mistake allows people to trust that your apology is sincere
- Empathy – a phrase of personal regret
- Show that you understand how your mistakes impacted others
- Explanation – explain why something took place
- Explain briefly in the apology why this situation took place, even if it starts with “we are investigating the situation.”
- Affirmation – what did the company learn from the situation / how it will influence future behavior
- In your apology, state how your company will move forward to prevent the same mistake from happening again
- Declaration – specific steps taken to address the issue and change policy
- Detail the steps your company will take to address the issue
- Contrition – continuing verbalization of regret
- Repetitiveness helps to reaffirm the sincerity of your apology
- Consultation – using a third party that can help resolve your image
- Bringing in a third party to consult with helps your credibility
- Commitment – set goals as an organization that you will stick with
- Reaffirm how serious your organization is about implementing change
- Restitution – make it clear that organization will pay the price
- Do everything you can to make it up to the people your mistake impacted
Apologies can be hard to write. When a company needs to apologize, they need to not only seem apologetic, but to actually be sorry, and be sincere in their efforts to change. An apology is a chance for the company or organization to move forward and to regain trust with its stakeholders.
Using these tactics will help guide you in any apology after a crisis– let’s just hope you never have to use them.