This month’s reader question deals with a critical part of crisis communication, the apology. Our respondent is T. Denise Stokes, who heads DS Marketing & PR. Most recently, she was a communication manager at Six Flags America. Her response was edited for space and clarity.
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Question: How do you counsel a leader to issue a heartfelt apology, particularly when the person is reluctant to admit culpability? What best practices do you recommend for preparing communicators to handle these situations?
T. Denise Stokes: Let’s assume the executive is accused of misconduct and is apologizing to employees, business partners and possibly the public. In the worst cases–financial, medical or sexual misconduct–the executive(s) should issue a public and private apology.
In most cases, you’re going to have to consult with a legal team before a word can be said. That’s when you, as the PR pro, have to fight for the right words, and not just the right legal words.
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