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Crisis Communication: Don't Blow Your Apology

  October 30, 2017

The last thing you want to do when you're in the midst of a communication crisis is to issue a poorly expressed apology.  There is no better example of this than Kevin Spacey's attempt at apologizing to an actor he allegedly sexually assaulted many years ago.  Not only did he try to lay the blame on drinking too much, but he also chose this time to come out as gay.  The backlash was swift across social media, with members of the LGBT community expressing anger that the actor would tie an assault allegation to his sexual orientation.  Why not issue a straight forward apology?   No blurred messaging.   Later, if Spacey felt he wanted to come out publicly, fine.   He really needs to get some expert communications advice before he says or tweets another word.   

I don't think the Spacey story is going away any time soon.  Today it was overshadowed by the news of the first indictments in the Special Counsel's Russia collusion investigation.  But with the bungling of the apology,  the story goes from bad to worse.  

Designer Donna Karen offended a lot of women recently when she weighed in on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, suggesting a woman's appearance could be a trigger for a man's bad behavior.  She was quick to apologize and even sat down with ABC's Robin Roberts to try to explain herself.  She started off OK, saying she made a huge mistake.  But throughout the interview she flashed a strange smile.  Maybe she was nervous.  It came off as creepy and took away from what she was saying.  When you are doing a TV interview, everything counts: the words, your body language, gesturing and facial expressions.

Another apology that is ringing hollow for some, comes from Houston Astros player Yuli Gurriel.   Not only was he caught on camera during the World Series,  making an anti-Asian gesture, he also referred to an Asian player by a racially derogatory term.   In his apology he acknowledged that he knew the term was offensive.  So why mouth that word in the first place?   Gurriel will have to sit out some games in the 2018 season for his behavior.  I hope the team mandates cultural sensitivity training as well.  

The Brazilian manufacturer of black colored toilet paper issued an apology recently for an ill-advised ad.  The company used the phrase, "black is beautiful" to describe its product.  It was rightfully pointed out that phrase is about empowerment not TP.   This line in the apology impressed me, "it's always time to learn."
Indeed it is.  

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