It’s one of the most important steps in your social media crisis plan. It opens the door for positive communication, and closes the door on the negativity that may be flooding in. It allows you to begin to regain control of the situation. It leads to forgiveness. It’s the power of an apology.
Although there are many crucial steps in dealing with a social media crisis, there is something very powerful and incomparable about a truly sincere apology.
Let me give you an example
I recently interviewed a friend of mine, Frederic Gonzalo, on a social media crisis he faced back in 2011. At the time, Frederic was V.P. of marketing for Le Massif, a hot tourist attraction in Quebec, Canada. As he got to the end of his story, I found myself smiling when he told me how Le Massif managed to regain complete control of the situation, putting an almost instant end to the attacks. I was smiling because I knew exactly what they had done to accomplish this!
Through their lack of being prepared, Le Massif made some innocent, yet potentially brand-damaging mistakes throughout the crisis. This is only to be expected when a brand is not prepared with a social media crisis plan. However, the mountain managed to do something right: they released an official statement, taking responsibility and apologizing for their mistake that lead to the crisis.
Once the apology was made, that was it! The attacks almost instantly stopped. In fact, when asked about the lessons they learned from the experience, Frederic said: “The power of an apology – we realized it, and we also realized that it should have come earlier.”
What is the power behind the apology?
We tend to live in a forgiving society. The truth is, your fans don’t want to be angry with you. During a crisis, what they want is to know that you’re on top of it, that you’re sorry, and that you will do everything in your power to fix it and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
By giving them a sincere and heart-filled apology, along with your official response, you’re showing them that they were right to trust in you. That even though you’ve made a mistake (I mean, it’s only human that you do), you care enough about them and your business to own up and take responsibility for your actions.
However, you can’t just come out at the first sign of an attack and declare your ‘sincere apologies’. There are some rules and guidelines to your apology that should be followed in order for it to have maximum, and positive impact.
1- Don’t apologize before having all the facts
Blurting out an apology before you have all the facts of the crisis won’t help your cause. In fact, it will come across as insincere and rushed just to silence everybody up. Your apology should be released as a part of your official statement, after you’ve gathered all the facts, know exactly what went wrong, and know the steps that are needed to be taken to fix it. There is no quick fix to a crisis. Only smart strategy, comprehension of the situation and ownership and correction of your mistake will bring it to an end.
2- Don’t tarnish your apology by being less than truthful, or hiding important facts
Before their successful apology, Le Massif tried to release a statement that had the opposite effect. This further angered their customers and induced a whole new ambush of attacks on their wall. This happened because they were less than truthful about what was going on – and their fans saw right through it.
When you make your apology, don’t insult your customers and fans by being less than truthful. After all, that’s not being truly sorry is it? The only way to make your apology have a true and positive impact on the crisis, is to own your mistakes and disclose all necessary information to the public.
3- Don’t release a silent apology
There’s no sense in publishing an apology that no one knows about! Make sure your official response and apology obtain maximum reach by publishing them to the same channel that the crisis originally broke out on, and where it escalated to an attack (if they aren’t one and the same).
4- Be real, make your apology human
Your brand is made up of humans, and humans make mistakes. People will understand this if you show your human side and be real. Speak from your heart and empower your words with true feelings of regret and sorrow. Trust me when I say that this will go a very long way.
So the power behind a true apology is infinite. At it’s best, it can put an end to the attacks and help you reconnect with your fans and customers. It’s a valuable part of your social media crisis plan, and should be implemented sincerely and honestly.
Now it’s your turn! Have you experienced the true power of an apology? Be sure to leave your comments and share your insights in the comments section below!