This well crafted and clearly genuine apology from Sky News’ Colin Brazier last week got me thinking about the art of apology. For the last few years I’ve been away from the front line of customer facing organisation. Being employed at a trade association we are one step removed from the end user, so therefore don’t get that daily interaction with consumers.
In my former in-house role at an insurer, it was a regular feature of my week – going through media threats from unhappy customers who wanted an apology for one thing or another, and having to see what the company view was. It turns out that sometimes, the customer even deserved one, and so worked with the business to make it happen.
Nowadays, in our multi-channel life, it’s so easy to say sorry, but seemingly so difficult to do properly. Get it wrong and it looks insincere. Do it too frequently, and people start to think there’s a more inherent problem, and therefore becomes a threat to the brand. And do it too late in the clamour of media hype that you look like you’re doing it because you want out of the limelight, not because you actually mean it.
So it’s a tricky area to get right. I have a personal experience of having to apologise publicly for making a mistake. I’m a rugby referee in my spare time and in our game, there are often debates about individual decisions. That’s just part of the game. Making a clear cut mistake is rare, and on that occasion, it was so blatant, it was the right thing to do. I did it quickly and sincerely; privately first and then publicly. I’m pleased to say it was accepted, I learnt from the experience – a crucial element to any apology – and so life moved on. Result!
I hope Mr Brazier’s apology will be received to by those slighted. The explanation speak for itself and I, for one, have more respect for him, his profession and what these journalists go through to bring us the news of the day.