The Public Apology
Extending a public apology is not very different from delivering a private
onethe ingredients of any effective apology remain the same. The only real
difference is that some of these apologies can become famous in their own
right, or make others infamous for screwing up.
A public apology delivered by celebrities and other well-known figures in
the news and popular culture has an uncanny way of reminding us that 'to
err' really is human. It really doesn't matter who you are, at some point
anyone can find themselves in the doghouse for something they said or did.
This section of the website will explore, comment on, and review some of the best and
worst public apologies ever delivered.
Public apologies know no boundaries. They can extend from the Vatican, to
the United States Senate, to Hollywood and Vine and beyond.
Whether these apologies succeed or fail, a great deal can be learned from them,
because they often provide great insight into the art of delivering
the perfect apology.
For example, in a review of a public apology delivered by John
Kerry we see how not extending a complete apology from the outset can create more
damage and hurt than the original offence.
In an article on Political Apologies
and American Democracy we learn how a misstatement can sometimes gain
momentum of its own and overshadow good intentions.
commentary by Peter F. Goolpacy,
he asks "Where are the Duke Apologies?"
following the debacle of three Duke University lacrosse students falsely
accused of rape.
We also learn why Don Imus' apology for
insulting the Rutgers University Women's Basketball team (and the public at
large) was doomed to fail.
We also cover The Perfect Terrible
Apology: A Case Study David Shuster and MSNBC after Shuster posed an
inappropriate (and offensive) question regarding Chelsea Clinton's role in
her mother's campaign during an on-air political discussion.
On the flip
side of the coin, we take a look at
David Neeleman's Jetblue Apology (which, in both its execution and delivery) is
as close as one can get to crafting the perfect business apology.
In our never ending pursuit of the perfect public apology, we review
some other noteworthy mea culpas in the following case studies:
By examining cases of how public
figures succeed and/or fail to apologize we can better understand
our own chances of being forgiven.
Given the sorry state of public apologies, even the media is
sometimes interested in figuring out what's going on. Read a Q & A session
we had a few years back with a
reporter from the Sacramento Bee on apologies in the media.
As apologies continue
to get media coverage, we are getting more and more requests for our take on things
and why the American public in particular is so interested in these mea culpas—and given Toyota's woes in recent years,
Read our business apology case studies which
includes a full review of the Toyota apology.
The fact that people in the public eye have well-paid publicists supported
by huge public relations firms makes their apologies so fascinating to
witness and study. If these people can't deliver a proper apology (or public
apology) then what hope is there for the rest of us?
What we have learned is
that even large Public Relations firms can screw up by missing the point and by
overlooking the straightforward strategies we've outlined
on this site.
For some light-hearted insights into the public apology approaches most
commonly used by celebrities and other well known individuals, take a look
at this excellent article from the National Post.
Or, take a look at a complete listing of
Bill Clinton's apologies following
the Monica Lewinsky affair back in the late 90's.
Check back often for new and interesting reviews of famous apologies and
learn what they can teach us about apologizing more effectively.
Public Apologies to the Perfect Apology Home Page