Don't be scared! Media Apology for Long-Term Reputation Management

In an age where social media dominates, it’s becoming increasingly common for corporate mishaps to go viral, and increasingly important for media spokespeople to manage the fallout effectively and authentically.
“Apologies, if not done effectively, can actually do more harm than good, to corporations dealing with reputation management or financial liability,” says crisis management training expert Sam Elam.
She says, what’s much more important and effective, is the organisation’s ability to reframe the media conversation through effective media skills, directing it to a more advantageous position.
Another brand expert, James Phillip cites an example of this style of issues and crisis management was in 2010, when Apple’s iPhone 4 had major issues with the antenna.
“Rather than allow Apple to suffer brand and financial damage because of “Antenna-gate”, Steve Jobs changed the conversation and re-positioned media attention to a more advantageous narrative.
“He provided a sort of quasi-apology, but the reframe to ‘ALL smartphones suffer from reception problems’, was far more advantageous for Apple than a contrite apology,” Phillips said.
Of course, we’re not all Steve Jobs, which is why media skills training and crisis management training are imperative in this day and age.
“Considering the potential for issues going viral due to social media, apologies must be well thought out in terms of timing and communication,” says Elam.
How the public react to apologies depends on who delivers the message and their specific interview skills and techniques.
“For example, in certain crises, if an apology is delivered by a media advisor rather than the CEO, it can make the apology seem more like “spin” rather than genuine,” Says PR expert Tania Willet.
Which is why company executives need to be well-versed in reputation management and take part in specialist media and communication training, to ensure they are able to effectively deliver the apologies needed with key messages – and look like they mean it.
“Once an apology comes across as insincere, it is very difficult to get that trust back through later communications, which can result in snowballing the crisis rather than managing it.”
According to Willett, some common mistakes made during corporate apologies are:
– Not communicating the apology in a genuine and timely manner
– Apologising but then in the same statement shifting the blame
– Using the wrong position/title spokesperson to deliver the apology for that specific crisis
– Not being clear about what the company is actually apologising for
Undergoing media skills training and having well-crafted interview skills is crucial to ensure media spokespeople make the right statement, at the right time and to the right people.
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