Please think of the last time you were in an argument with a friend or family member about something they had done that hurt you. A sincere apology would have likely cleared up the matter quickly, right? But if your friend or family member wouldn’t admit fault, the disagreement probably lingered for days, months, or even years.

This is true in personal interactions and the corporate and business world. If your company does something wrong or causes some harm to customers or others, a sincere apology can go a long way. Companies make mistakes from time to time and need to apologize.

As you consider your public apology, remember these three key points:

Address the issue immediately.

If the problem is getting attention from the public, you need to address it quickly. You might have a few days — or you might only have a few hours. Regardless, a quick response is required before your story starts to get told by others (including the media) with your without you.

Explain why the incident happened.

In the early stages of a crisis, you may not know why something happened, but you can certainly promise that you’re working to find the answer. For any public apology, you need to say you’re sorry clearly — and then explain what happened, why, and what you’re going to do to keep it from happening again.

Be sincere.

If you receive a personal apology from a family member and don’t appear open, you might not believe them. Your company’s apology needs to be well thought out and genuine. For example, if your company said or did something offensive, don’t apologize “that someone was offended” by what you did. Apologize for what you did.

Any corporate apology should be a team effort.

Your vital internal stakeholders should write an apology to help the company make the best of a difficult situation. Each organization is different, but a group developing an apology would likely include the CEO, your top communicator or marketer, your legal counsel, operations, and human resources.

Admitting a mistake is never easy. However, if you apologize in a sincere, timely manner, you can begin to recover from the incident – and repair your reputation.

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