Fake Apologies Are Not Your Friend, Brands

There have been quite a few shockingly ill-conceived campaigns rolled out by corporations in the last few weeks. There have also been several instances in which companies handled “hurdles” in an exceptionally poor manner, leading to an onslaught of negative social media posts, shares and stories.

The aftermath of these faux pas has demonstrated just how the communication sphere has changed in the last decade or so and, perhaps more importantly, how those at the helm of these corporations and companies have failed to evolve with it.

Sincerity is important to consumers. Will issuing heartfelt (and genuine) remorse in the face of a public relations nightmare always alleviate the ire of an upset public? Of course not. But, down the line, people will look back and see that a situation was handled with civility and care.

What absolutely will lead to more outrage is a half-baked, blame-defecting “statement” from a representative of any company that has made a very visible misstep. Seriously, these are not a good look.

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in the position of composing an apology on behalf of an in-mid-fall-from-grace company, avoid any sorry-if-you-were-offended type phrases. Keep it brief, clear and to-the-point. And don't dial down your company "tone" too much.

This is not to say that you should accept full responsibility for any situation that went sour—in fact, steer clear of this unless your company was unequivocally to blame—but it does help to demonstrate that you understand why people are frustrated, even if you do not reiterate what the problem was specifically.

Include action phrases, such as “we are investigating the matter internally” or “we are taking steps to ensure that…” and assure the public that you will keep them looped in with updates. Be sure to actually follow through on this front as well.

Posting this statement on a platform that you can control, such as the official company Facebook page might be a good move. If this message is going to be pushed out to journalists, you can respectfully request that they include links to the actual post/statement, as doing so may limit reinterpretations and misunderstandings.

Run this by as many sets of eyes as possible—and a legal team—before you hit “publish”.

The bad news is that, even with an amazing, well-crafted apology in your corner, you will still have to weather the storm. But, on the plus side, you didn’t add more fuel to the fire with a pretend one.