Apologies are powerful tools in today’s social media environment. Too much of it will cost you and your brand of their credibility to loose its lusture. Failure to use it will often result in a backfire and a significant level of loss and damage to your brand and business. Once the problem gets viral, the next big step is to apologize. And more often than not, the situation will ease and disperse by itself. It is only when the decision to apologize drags on until to the point of `rebelliousness’ that it fails to realize its potential as a defensive PR tool.
So what happen if you don’t acknowledge your social obligation to apologize when things go wrong? Firstly, you are being perceived as arrogant but by large as a marketing entity that is not able to live up to its pull instead of push strategies. Your long silence and ignorance may or may not cause the manifestation of thoughts that will be ditrimental to your brand. It ( the problem ) grows by day and if you are not lucky it will spins itself out of control and at a momentum that is quite impossible to halt.
This is the optimum time for your competitors to jump in and seize the moment with their offensive pr strategy and hurt your brand. Once the problem gets viral, you are not only risking your brand’s image but also your personal credibility as a person that deliver the brand.
Here is how to manage the `sorry’ state :
– Timing is important
There are 3 stages in which an apology can be made. Pre-crisis, crisis and pro crisis. By being sensitive to the stages of the conversations, the intensity of the apology can be reduced dramatically depending on its build up in dialogue and tone. Once it gets to the stage of crisis, this is where heated exchanges starts to take place with no indication of any conclusive agreement of sorts. Apologetic statements under such circumstances will cool off any conversations and will still be able to carry a great deal of weight. But once the crisis situation gets out of hand, viral manifestation starts. This is when the apology has already lost its value and integrity.
– Say it differently
Apologies can be communicated in numerous ways without actually saying `Im sorry’. Acknowledge the faults, take action on straightening the records and let them know its not a a taboo to say `sorry’. One can always rephrase an apology by giving it a more meaningful thought and a good treatment.
Here is an example – “Thank you ( person’s name ) for your comments, I (not `we’) have acknowledged the problem and will try our level best not to repeat the situation under such circumstances. We at ( company’s name ) will continue to strive for the needs of our customers like you. Please monitor our progress and let us know what you think.” ”
A good mitigation programme would have all the right words in a sentence for skillful communicators authentically to build on and delivered in real time. Canned 1 liner conversations on the other hand does not deliver the desired effect and are treated as superficial statements that does not carry enough weight to be labelled as one that is of integrity.
– Influencing your pessimists.
Even if you don’t agree with their comments, you will want to let them know you will take their opinions into consideration and thank them for their comments. This does not compromise your position and values but a show of respect to your audience and to soften their resistance. People tend to listen and follow those who have a high level of `moderating’ undertone in their personal conversations even if they made them angry/frustrated. The rule of thumb is not getting yourself into an emotional conversation that question you or the other party’s personal governing values.
– Be flexible in your opinions
Explore your own opinions and give it a perspective that is pallatable to the customers. Do not force your views on others. As long as one view each problem and solution expressed is not one that is right or wrong, but bad or good, you save yourself a lot of trouble by not putting yourself and your brand at risk.
– Stick by your principles
Too many apologies can put a dent on your credibility. There are times when your social network’s bad comments are unfounded and not constructive enough to justify. Do not apologize but acknowledge the fact that they have the right to express their opinion and that they are entitled to their space. If you feel that their irrational behaviour is getting out of hand, get your mitigation team in and labelled him or her as a `troll’ and ignore continuous statements but monitor the situation.
When there is a need to apologize, do it without second thoughts. The moment you do that, you are deflating and dispersing the gas within a dissapointment. Prep yourself and anticipate. Bear in mind that you will never be able to always bring a conversation to a conclusion that gives you the winning edge under such circumstances. But you can drive away possible hostility and pessimism by being moderate in your comments to neutralize the negative aspects of the conversation. To the eyes of the observers, you have already won in that sense.
I would like to leave you with this – Acknowledge with sincerity. Choose to stand, not to fight.