Posts Tagged 'PR apologies'

Catch a Tiger by the Tale

Okay, okay, I’m as sick of the news coverage about Tiger Woods and his transgressions as the next person. But really, isn’t it just the best case study of how to not conduct your PR? Really?

Of course, if I had just acted like a complete idiot following a fight with my spouse over how I’ve been a complete idiot, I’d be a little embarrassed to speak in public too. But here’s how the public statement could have read on the day following his incident:

As you know, I had a car accident last night. My wife and I had a disagreement and, like most families, we have some things to work out in private. My behaviour was irresponsible and I truly apologize to my fans, whom I may have disappointed.

End of story. But that didn’t happen, and yes I’m sure he was busy working things out in private with his wife. But unlike many others, the dad in this family lives a very public life, makes multiple millions from sponsorships and a popular sport with huge purses. If you live out loud, you have to expect your fans to be listening at all times.

It must be difficult to be a “golden boy” as it were. A notable child prodigy, professional in his teens, and living the life of highly competitive athletics. Heck, this guy made golf cool! Has Tiger Woods had a chance to conduct a private life? Unfortunately, as with other child stars, the public thinks they own him. And in a way, his sponsors do own him. Luckily, they’ve stood behind him. But they also know he will bring them millions of dollars in sales, and that’s a PR story for another day.

If there is a next time, Tiger, tell your own tale so the gossip columns don’t start inventing it for you.

The art of the apology

Apologizing has come out of the lawyer’s office and into the PR advisors. Thank goodness! At last, spokesperson’s can talk like human beings instead of having to face critics who think they don’t care.

That said, if you are going to apologize, you better mean it. Here’s my two cents:

Senior Spokesperson

The apology should come from the most senior person available. Your customers and investors don’t want to hear from a PR person – they want the president. If the CEO or president are unavailable, they apology should come from the next in line who has responsibility for the organization.

Sincerity
The apology must be sincere, and from the heart. If the president is too nervous or not a good speaker, it isn’t the end of the world. I’d prefer to hear from a nervous sincere president than a polished salesperson. Better yet, coach your C-Suite before apologies are ever needed. An empty apology will be detected very easily.

Acknowledgment
The spokesperson should acknowledge the error that was made. Whether it was distasteful matter in the media or an accident at a work site, sincere acknowledgment of the issue lets stakeholders know that you take the issue seriously. “It appears that the accident was a matter of human error as the tool that fell to the sidewalk from the 3rd floor should have been tethered.”

Commitment
Let the public or your stakeholders know that you will act responsibly to ensure the incident isn’t repeated. Make a commitment to resolve the issue. For example, new measures or training will be put in place, corrective or punitive actions will be taken, a thorough investigation will take place.

Follow-up
Your job isn’t done. Follow up with the spokesperson to ensure the actions are taking place, then report back to your stakeholders.

An apology is only as good as the sincere action that follows it.