Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Art of the Apology ... the meaning behind SORRY

There's real craft in being able to deliver an effective apology. It's got to hit all the right targets, have the right tone and be seen seen as believable. I've written about this in the past and did a podcast on it as well.

However, following the latest Trump debacle's a subject worth revisiting ... Most crisis comms practitioners should be glad that they'll never have to defend someone as repugnant, blatantly misogynistic, overtly racist and as much of an egomaniac as the Republican presidential nominee.

I won't even talk about the latest tape that proves how big of a threat to women he really is. (Now imagine if he gets into the White House and has to deal with women heads of governments.) Instead, I'll concentrate on his apologies to his latest outrage. The first was a tweet ... a non-apology if there ever was one ... a misconstrued attempt to deflect and obfuscate:

Here's what this "apology" says to me:

  1. it wasn't a big deal ... so many years ago ... locker room stuff ... boys will be boys right ? 
  2. I only talk like this in private ... with my other pro-sexual assault buddies ...
  3. besides ...I'm not the only one ... even my old buddy Bill tells good stories ... 
  4. you shouldn't take it badly ... i mean ... i'm a little sorry ... but not really .... 
And then the Trump "brain trust" (if you can call them that ...) (BTW ... what's KellyAnne Conway think now?) seclude themselves high up in Trump Tower in NYC ... hours later they come up with such a bad video apology ... it looked like it was made purposefully to be a training aid for crisis comms professionals on what NOT do do: 

Here's what's wrong with the video:
  • the background is totally impersonal ... adds to make it look like a fabricated piece
  • "I've never said I'm perfect" ...this from the guy who styles himself as the only one who can save America
  • video should have been 21 seconds long and stopped at : " ... and I apologize." .... PERIOD ...adding anything else in this case took away from any hint of sincerity
  • Trump talks about all the people he's met ... and vows to never let them down ... be a better man TOMORROW ... now, all this a month away from the elections and against a background of Trump having been Trump throughout the campaign ...
  • Trump then launches into his stump speech about jobs and how DC is "broken" ... worst of all ... he brings up Bill and Hillary Clinton again ...
The only message to be taken from this video is that Trump is only sorry for getting caught ... this "distraction" as he calls it only diverts attention from his inevitable (in his own mind) ascension to the highest office in the free world. 

Here's what a real apology needs ... How saying I'm SORRY resonates with various audiences: 

  • S ... for being SINCERE ... however good you might think yourself in front of the camera ... audiences will quickly make their mind if you're being honest with them
  • O ... for OPENNESS ... being open and transparent about what has gone wrong ... laying it out ... avoiding obfuscation 
  • R ... for REGRET ... showing remorse is key ... heartfelt message about wanting to be a better person or organization 
  • R ... for RESILIENT ... demonstrating that a person or organization will learn from this "mistake" or incident ... move on and improve 
  • Y ... for YEARNING ... to be better ... laying out the steps you and your organization will take to ensure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.
In this regard, Trump fails on all counts ... Now, contrasts this with this apology (from a real billionaire ...) head of a very large food processing company in Canada ... shortly after a listeria outbreak that killed 22 people across the country: 

That's how the top guy is supposed to handle an apology and explain the actions of his organization in a crisis ... in other words ... to be a leader ...everything Trump isn't ...

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