How to Say Sorry: Framework for Creating a Corporate Apology

I’m sorry. Seems simple, doesn’t it? How have two words become so divisive, so maligned and so suspect in the last year? Those two words are used to begin the journey towards repairing broken trust. In the time of a crisis, how do you develop a meaningful apology to rebuild connections and confidence in a brand? Take a page out of Psychologist Harriet Lerner’s book, “Why Won’t You Apologize?” – a favorite of mine – and first breakdown what an authentic, impactful apology looks like.

Failure to effectively address issues could result in unrepairable brand damage. Here, we’ve outlined a proposed framework for creating an impactful apology:

Take responsibility and show remorse

Do not deflect and keep the focus on the actions or incidents the company is responsible for. Adidas’ apology for their 2017 email marketing issue is a good example of how to take full responsibility. Their response was heartfelt, direct and honest. While backlash was immediate, so was their response – acting swiftly during the time of a crisis is paramount.

Corroborate wrong doing

This may be the most important piece to a genuine apology. Facing the issue straight on with factual elements and a truthful response is key to beginning to rebuild potential lost trust or damage.

Offer restitution

What are you doing to repair and amend? Paint a clear picture on how your company is going to take action. Is it reexamining food safety procedures? Offering support to consumers affected by a data breach? Make sure the public is aware of your next step. Recently, KFC took a bold and unique approach to its chicken shortage with their apology.

When was the last time you reexamined your crisis strategy? It might be time for a refresh to ensure you’re prepared the next time an issue arises and an updated crisis playbook is needed.

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