I think apologies are now overrated, simply because they have become overused in Crisis PR, even if the apology contains all the required elements (see our steps to making an apology). Too much spin.
For instance, I think when Australia heard Tony Abbott’s apology in the wake of the leadership crisis, people sat back and thought, “Yeah? Let’s see what happens. Until then, apology not accepted.” Hence the mere slow and gentle rise in his popularity rating.
These days, especially with social media, I think that it’s a longer, tougher road back from a crisis. Yes, in Crisis PR there is the need for a well crafted apology that’s values-based, well-articulated, and contains a frank confession followed by a commitment to change including followup evidence.
But now, much more evidence is needed to take people beyond their initial scepticism. I think that requires a much more focussed, higher profile community or customer engagement program, with simple, clear, consistent messaging nimbly delivered. People now expect an ‘above and beyond’ response.
In fact often, not always, you can skip the well crafted apology-by-press-release and just out-perform your way out of a crisis and back into people’s favour. Social media helps with that. And again, people are alert to tricks; you can’t hoodwink people for long on social media.
It’s back to that corny old adage, slightly reworked, ‘Reputations, trashed in a crisis, are rebuilt over a long time’.