How To Give A Proper Corporate Apology
Not like Oxfam. Whose reputation with key stakeholders and the wider public has been shredded.
When Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, ended up telling the Guardian that criticism of the charity was “out of proportion to the level of culpability” and that no one had “murdered babies in their cots”, he revealed he didn’t viscerally accept or understand the audience outrage – “Hey people, it’s really not that serious; no-one died; we’re on top of it now; jog-on”.
Bad enough. But had he missed the public and media context of his crisis – the current Weinstein/ #MeToo agenda? Remember that your crisis may be a proxy or consequence of a wider issue.
And tell it all, tell it quickly. If your first crisis statement turns out to be untrue, then it calls into question the honesty of all your communication. The Charity Commission and DfID denied that, as Oxfam claimed in their statement, they had been fully informed by the charity of what had gone on at the time.
The oxygen of a crisis is further revelation and Oxfam was unprepared. New stories emerged about similar staff behaviour in other countries and about Oxfam facilitating the re-employment of perpetrators in the aid sector. Each new revelation pushed Oxfam deeper into crisis and further onto the back foot until they were eventually defending against allegations of a cover-up. Pity the Communications team.
So how do you apologise without looking as though you’re just paying lipservice?
It is important to recognise that sometimes things go wrong – your organisation is, after all, comprised of fallible human beings. Or your organisation could be the victim of someone else’s misdeed.
Whilst it has become very fashionable to apologise, how can you do so and sound like you really mean it? Because – too often – apologies, whether from a corporate or an individual, fail to strike the right note.
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