How Media Training Can Help in Creating an Effective Apology
Words carry weight. For individuals and companies alike, saying the wrong words in a given scenario can be very damaging to one’s public image.
Most of the time, those that are in the public eye do their best to protect and uphold their reputation, but communications mistakes can sometimes be inevitable and the manner in how they respond can determine whether they come out unscathed or damaged.
This blog has discussed at length how crises can be preventable, but only a few companies have taken steps to prepare for the uncertain by having an effective issues-response communications plan in place. Recently, PwC released its Global Crisis Survey 2021 report and it found that 95 per cent of business leaders reported that their crisis management capabilities need improvement.
The objective for many companies is to try and steer away from any controversies that would put their reputation in jeopardy. However, as evident by the PwC study, many companies are unprepared to deal with a crisis. One of the most crucial elements in managing a crisis is to have an effective communications strategy.
Public figures and companies are fragile because their reputations are closely tied to their market value as explained in an article in Harvard Business Review. Essentially, this means that any controversy or negative event associated with a celebrity or company will not only affect their reputation with the public, but it can also have negative financial impact.
For example, most brands are reliant on general consumers to be profitable and successful. Hyatt Hotels, an international hospitality corporation, found itself in the midst of controversy after holding the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February. The issue was the staging in the conference room which featured a design that resembled a Nazi symbol.
The hotel chain initially released a statement calling for respect of freedom of expression, but the statement only increased backlash. This caused #boycottHYATT to trend on Twitter as reported by Forbes. Not only did this controversy affect the reputation of Hyatt Hotels, the calls for a boycott also threatened corporate profits as the general public encouraged consumers to avoid staying at the company’s hotels.
Hyatt Hotels released multiple press statements and eventually denounced the CPAC stage design. Blame was shifted to the American Conservative Union, indicating that it was the union that had control over the design.
What is most telling in this situation is the fact that Hyatt Hotels did not release an apology, which only allowed the calls for boycott to continue in social media. For companies this can be dangerous. That’s why knowing how to craft an effective apology is critical when trying to mitigate any backlash and essential to protecting a reputation.
TWO IMPORTANT ELEMENTS TO AN EFFECTIVE APOLOGY
Many brands and celebrities, often have a designated public relations expert or publicist that specializes in protecting and enhancing their public brand image. Since controversies and crises are sometimes inevitable, these famous figures often deploy a carefully planned message in the event that they find themselves forced to address an issue that requires an apology.
Below are two important factors that make up an effective apology that can be practiced and mastered with media training.
On International Women’s Day, Burger King UK released a sexist tweet that was intended to generate attention towards a new scholarship for female chefs. The backlash was immediate, and within a few hours, the fast-food chain deleted the tweet and issued an apology to address the tone-deaf words, especially in light of the given day that was supposed to celebrate the contributions of women.
The Global Chief Marketing Officer of Burger King, Fer Machado, tweeted that the message was in bad taste. Although he stated that it had good intentions, Machado acknowledged that an apology was absolutely necessary in this event.
In March, Condé Nast was set to appoint Alexi McCammond as the new editor-in-chief for Teen Vogue. After the announcement, racist past tweets made by McCammond resurfaced. This triggered vocal critics to call for the publication to immediately remove her from the position. To make matters worse, McCammond’s past tweets, targeting Asians, came during the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes around the world.
McCammond apologized multiple times for the past tweets which were issued in 2011 and 2012. In her apology, she expressed empathy by claiming to understand the frustration and pain that others may have experienced after discovering her past tweets. Ultimately, McCammond decided to step down from the position.
BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE APOLOGY WITH MEDIA TRAINING
Although accountability and empathy are two crucial elements that are required for an apology, there are many other considerations as well. From word choice to committed actions, creating an apology to satisfy key audiences can be very complex. With media training, brands and public figures who are often in the media spotlight can learn how to be strategic in their communications. They can work with a trainer to develop appropriate and suitable messages to articulate a sincere and authentic apology.
An apology can either be praised or scrutinized by the public depending on its content and how itit'ss delivered. One thing to always keep in mind is that every word in an apology becomes part of the public record, as explained by Harvard Business Review. Knowing this, it is important to consider the repercussions of an apology that doesn’t align with the expectations of the public.
Media training can be very useful for companies who thatmay not have a public relations department, and expert media trainers are a smart solution. They can help ensure the executive team is prepared and able to respond quickly and appropriately to any issues that may arise.
Media training can help in multiple ways. For example, identifying and understanding the audiences, media and public alike, who will receive the apology is critical. With media training, experts who have a thorough understanding of the media and how to effectively communicate, can help develop a strategy for the apology that will help diffuse the situation and reduce the impact on a company’s reputation.
Bulletproof is a communications agency that provides media training services and effective communications strategies to help individuals and organizations achieve their objectives. Our team consists of strategists, trainers, and journalists who understand the media, and the importance of public relations and communications to obtain desired goals.
Bulletproof media training is led by Tara McCarthy who has over 20 years of experience in building reputations and is an expert in strategic communications, public relations, and media training. The Bulletproof team of veteran strategists and trainers can teach you or your corporate teams how to draft an effective apology, designed to protect your reputation.
Bulletproof is an agency specializing in media training in English and French. Staffed by industry veterans, it helps executives achieve their communications objectives while navigating challenging scenarios. Free consultations are available by filling out the contact form at www.bebulletproof.co.