The Art of the Apology

How to use YouTube to deliver an effective apology

Mario Gomez – GoCrisis, VP Global Communications

Your airline has spent weeks preparing for a busy travel season. The Information Technology team has prepared upgrades to the ticketing system to help boarding become a smoother experience for the travelers. At the height of one of the busiest days, the system has crashed. Hundreds of flights have been delayed or canceled. Travelers are angry and fearful that they cannot reach their destinations on time.

Unfortunately, situations like this and other more serious crises can affect airline operations and its reputation with the traveling public. In an effort to maintain good relations with its customers, corporations, including airlines, are using video to apologize for the inconvenience.

The video apology is the tool that directly speaks to your target audience without depending on the media.

The role of an apology in today’s business culture

Why do we apologize? There are many reasons but here are some of the most common:

  • A serious situation has occurred that threatens the brand
  • Injury or loss of life
  • A financial fiasco
  • Bad behaviour by staff or the CEO
  • Data breach

The risks associated with an apology
Making an apology, especially posting a YouTube video can be a risky in terms of organizational culture and reputation. Consider the following:
• Can be seen as a sign of weakness by the CEO
• Conceding that you failed
• The timing of the apology may be too late
• Negative short or long-term impact financial impact
• CEO may lose his/her job
• Possible legal action
• Loss of reputation

The seven elements of an effective apology

If a situation has occurred that requires an apology, YouTube is one the best social media tools for an airline or any organization to control and communicate their message. In order for an apology to be authentic, the spokesperson, especially in a major crisis, must have the personal temperament to express the following:

  • Show empathy
  • Expression of regret
  • Explanation of what went wrong
  • Acknowledgment of responsibility
  • Declaration of repentance
  • Offer of repair
  • Request for forgiveness

How to prepare your leadership to deliver an effective apology

Preparing and delivering an apology is often overlooked in crisis communications and crisis management plans. When a major incident occurs, it is the responsibility of the president or CEO to be the spokesperson for the airline. Consider the following action steps to integrate into your emergency planning:

  • Conduct a risk analysis on the impact of an apology in various crisis situations and its effect on the airline’s culture, target audience, and financial future
  • Plan for an apology as part of your crisis communications plan
  • Media-train your CEO
  • Practice making an apology on video
  • Write suggested talking points
  • Help your CEO display empathy
  • Help your CEO to understand an apology does not result in legal action
  • Truth to power – if your president or CEO cannot express empathy, the most important element of a effective apology, another executive in leadership may be the better choice to deliver the message
  • Keep your target audience informed on next steps

When delivered properly, an effective apology can help your organization transition from crisis mode to normalcy.