Sorry seems to be the hardest word (to get right)

If you listen to Elton, Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Not in my house. I hear the word “sorry” a lot. It’s usually spilling out of one of my daughter’s mouths at a furious pace in an attempt to muffle the cries a sister.

We’ve all heard these apologies. They’re the “sorry we got caught” style of contrition. They’re defensive, ineffective and sadly as common in big business and politics as they are in my loungeroom.

So why don’t they mean anything? One of the most common misconceptions we hear in media trainings is the belief that simply saying sorry will put an end to a problem. Although important, just being sorry or even saying sorry in isolation will never be enough. Its also important to note that saying sorry is more nuanced than simply lying down and taking 100% of the blame for something.

Think about your audience (always people!)- what do they want from you? They want to feel heard. They want to know you have regret or at the very least respect for how they are feeling. But more importantly, they want to know exactly what you are doing about it? What’s next? What have you learned? What can you guarantee them going forward?

If you haven’t got a remedy, you haven’t got a plan and you aren’t ready to say sorry. It’s Crisis Communications 101. In a media scenario you’re walking into sure-fire disaster. “What are you doing about it?”, is the most obvious follow up question. Your plan to remedy the situation is exactly where you want to steer the interview. This is what you want to talk about and focus on. Its positive, its forward facing and its where you can control the dialogue.

And then there’s the other school of thought, usually favoured by the legal teams in big business; Act sorry but definitely, under no circumstance actually say “Sorry”!

That’s a whole other blog but remember lawyers are there to look after your legal exposure which you most certainly need. That’s their job and it’s easy to be cautious when your brief is clear. But sorry, who’s looking after your brand and reputation?

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Melissa is a master media problem solver. She’s on speed dial for clients, agencies and broadcasters looking to find a better way.