Apologize and build trust

One of the first rules in crisis communications is to know when and how to apologize, assuming, of course, that you’re in the wrong.

The sooner the apology is offered, the better it is for your reputation — to say nothing of the reputation that you and your organization have worked hard to build. It’s also best to offer the apology quickly, rather than waiting to be bullied into action on social media or as a result of consumer backlash.

Which leads me to ask why, for instance, have the dentistry students at Dalhousie University not come forward yet to apologize for the unacceptable comments made about their female classmates on Facebook? It seems to me their silence is having a negative impact not only on their reputations as professionals going forward, but also in the moment, on Dalhousie’s. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/dalhousie-dentistry-facebook-scandal-has-some-alums-pulling-funding-1.2882937

Whether out of fear of reprisal, fear of litigation, or simply shame, apologizing when you’re wrong should be part of what executives are taught at business school, if not later in their careers, by their executive coaches, their media consultants, their mentors and colleagues.

Some things are just plain wrong and require an apology. Imagine how differently we might feel as consumers, if someone way back in 2007 had spoken out about sub-prime mortgage lending and blew the whistle. An apology from financial regulators, or from a central bank somewhere, would have been nice. It may not have stopped the global recession we’ve lived with for the past 8 years, but it would have built more trust in the system (and that’s really the bottom-line) had there been more accountability and more mea culpas.

On the subject of natural capital, an interesting article appeared this week in Corporate Knights on global deforestation, including an analysis of why it’s happening, countries most at risk and the overall economic impacts. Here’s the link. http://www.corporateknights.com/channels/natural-capital/decline-of-forests-index

Ever the optimist, the article made me wonder, what a different world it would be if apologies were expected not only for bad personal or corporate behaviour, but also from whole industries or individual governments. In the case of deforestation, how amazing would it be to hear an apology?

Apologizing simply because it’s the right thing to do, especially in this litigious world, takes guts.That’s what I like about the way the CEO of AirAsia is handling communications in the aftermath of Flight 8501′s crash into the Java Sea.I find Tony Fernandez’s approach incredibly refreshing. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/aap/article-2907604/AirAsia-better-CEO-says.html

It leaves me hopeful that even in the face of incredible human tragedy, a new type of leadership might be emerging.






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