Here is a terrific interview by Bulldog Reporter’s Brian Pittman with Jennifer Thomas, and author and expert on apologies. I strongly recommend that everyone in crisis communication read this interview (and probably the book too).
The simple reason is that recovery from a crisis where you, the leaders or the organization has messed up is largely based on a quick, full and complete apology. This article makes it crystal clear why some apologies are effective and some not. But I can tell you the secret in two words: complete and sincere. Sincerity, hedging, limiting, dodging while trying to issue and apology simply doesn’t work. It’s like saying to your wife, “I’m sorry I said those things to you, but…” The “but” will get you every time.
The one thing this excellent article doesn’t deal with that almost must considered in apologies is speed. In my experience as many apologies have gone wrong for being too slow as for being incomplete or insincere. That is why it is critical to gather your top executives, talk about the things that can wrong, and prepare to issue a full, complete and sincere apology right away. That means getting the lawyers involved and hassling through those issues NOW and not in the crazy minutes and hours after something has gone terribly wrong. Because as they say, Now is Too Late.