Our tips on saying sorry well

Any business, whatever its size or the sector it operates in, can get things wrong. Sometimes the error is down to internal processes. Often mistakes happen in conjunction with outside influences. Whatever the reason being able to act quickly to address problems is a key skill for today’s business leaders.

Apologies & Media Skills

Issuing an apology is common business practice but getting it absolutely right can be a little more difficult than many people expect. This is especially true if you are a CEO being interviewed by the media. Not getting the tone right could mean you sound as if you were forced into the apology or that you don’t think much of your customers or those criticising your company. Perception is often a big part of media appearances and they’re not always easy to control

If people don’t believe your corporate act of contrition or think it sounds insincere, you can end up adding fuel to the fire. And that can make your situation a lot worse.

Here are our top tips for getting your apology right first time:

Get it done quickly

The longer you leave any bad situation to drag on without doing something proactive, the worse it is generally going to get. When your company has made a mistake, issuing an apology as soon as possible gives you the chance to stop the media and your customers from ramping up the pressure.

The longer you leave it, the more likely people are going to think that you have been forced into an apology when it finally does come. Not only can that make things worse, but it will almost undoubtedly impact on your future credibility and reputation.

Being Sincere

If you haven’t had media training or don’t have the full facts at your fingertips, it’s easy to appear insincere when in front of the camera. Your attitude and the comments you make to the media will come under closer scrutiny than you can imagine and setting the right mood, so to speak, is going to be important.

Sincerity and clarity about the situation, your organisations role in the problem and what steps are being taken to address the problem are the key to ensuring you look serious and credible both to the media reporting on you and to you customers, staff and stakeholders all of whom will be expecting a positive resolution.

Keep Excuses to a minimum

While there may be a host of mitigating factors surrounding the problem that has led you to make an apology, explaining them all in a lengthy statement is often not the best route to a public apology. While it is important to understand what has gone wrong and how it has gone wrong to ensure it does not happen again, explanations and any excuses can be said later after the initial apology is delivered. Be succinct and honest with your apology and keep it as short as possible. Leave the excuses to one side until you have put the initial problem right.

Take Action

The big thing that people generally want to know is how you are going to put things right and solve the problem at hand. You need to restore the faith of your customers and the public in your product, service or organisation and that means giving some concrete steps on what you are doing about the issue. That means having a plan going forward – not just a few woolly ideas of what should be done but a coherent and achievable series of actions to rectify the situation.

Apologies aren’t entirely about damage limitation, though many businesses can see it from this fairly narrow focus. And saying your sorry isn’t always an admission of guilt. In a number of circumstances, however, it is expected and failure to deliver your act of contrition in the right manner can cause a bad situation to escalate further.

Our Media Training Packages can support businesses, organisations and leaders to ensure they have the right skills at the right time to ensure their organisation is heard and viewed in a fair way by the media and other stakeholders.