Mar 15, 2017 Categories: Crisis Communications & Reputation Management Tags: Corporate Communications, Leadership, Public Relations

Lately, there’s been an uptick in CEOs apologizing for their bad behavior or company’s missteps.

CEOs at Uber, Hootsuite, PwC, Facebook and Caterpillar recently issued either public apologies to consumers or regrets internally to employees.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recently apologized for disrespecting one of his drivers, which was caught on camera and the video later released to the media. Kalanick, maybe feeling a bit of déjà vu for the pubic apologies he’s issued in the past, went a step further and admitted he needs “leadership help.”

In another public display of bad behavior, Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, apologized after he told a Bloomberg reporter, via Twitter, to call an obscene phone number because he wasn’t happy the writer questioned the value of his social media management platform startup.

In the apology for what could be called “the mistake seen around the world,” PwC took full responsibility for the accountants who delivered the wrong best picture envelope during the 89th Oscars.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, apologized for removing videos showing police violence that give credence to the Black Lives Matter movement and for deleting the “The Terror of War” photo.

And Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby apologized to his employees after federal law enforcement officials searched three of its facilities without his advanced knowledge.

How does a company bounce back when a CEO has to make a public apology? What are the key elements that comprise a good apology? A good apology should win back stakeholder trust and offer a sense of transparency and commitment to change. Whether the CEO is apologizing for his/her behavior or on behalf of the company, it should be authentic, remorseful and ethical. And to take control of the situation, apologies should also be timely, especially when social media in involved.

It’s important to seek professional counsel that has experience with such situations to plan for different scenarios and help protect the company’s brand. An effective PR strategy will minimize some of the damage and put the company on the road to rebuilding confidence with its stakeholders. A PR firm will also help a help a company with internal and external communications; execute a communications plan, manage press inquiries, and assist with on-going communications with key groups to provide progress updates.

With the exception of the PwC example, the scenarios above could not be predicted. But company executives should be aware of industry risks and have a crisis contingency plan in place so they will know how and when apologies should be delivered. A well-executive apology will position a company to have better relationships with its stakeholders and employees.

– Chandra Hayslett

Image via Giphy