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We don’t live in a perfect world, so accidents are likely to happen – even to corporate communicators like ourselves. When accidents do occur, avoid falling into the trap of throwing together a half-hearted quick apology. Instead, create a clear, well-planned response that explains what happened and how you’re working to rectify the situation by following these tips:
• Quickly show concern – You need to quickly show concern that something has happened, spend time investigating and then make a formal announcement once you have all the facts.
• Own up early – Admitting the mistake expedites the recovery process. Attempts to shift blame or hide can make matters worse and potentially upset customers.
• Reframe the discussion – While you might need to give the blunder time to air out, aim to focus the conversations on how you are moving your company forward. Reinforce your company’s mission and values, and how you intend to get the company back to those principles that steered it towards success in the first place.
I’d like to reference the late Steve Jobs for an example of how to properly handle a marketing blunder. When the iPhone first went on sale, Apple dropped the price of their 8GB model from $599 to $399 just two months after its release. This really upset the early adopters of the iPhone. In response to the onslaught of complaints, Steve Jobs issued an apology and gave customers a $100 store credit, which calmed the stir. As we all know, the iPhone went on to be an industry game changer and the standard for smart phone technology. In addition, Apple’s brand made a full recovery and is readily recognized as a user-friendly and helpful consumer product.
In a nutshell, being up front and honest is the quickest road back to rebuilding your credibility and reputation. In the end, the most important part of issuing a public apology is to say what you mean and mean what you say.