Outrage culture has left businesses unable to sincerely say sorry.
Instead they apologise routinely for trivial transgressions, issuing ‘fauxpologies’, ‘nonpologies’ and baffling their customers with incomprehensible jargon in a way that undermines their reputation, damages their credibility and impacts on their bottom line.
In The Apology Impulse, authors Cary Cooper and Sean O’Meara reveal how businesses are getting it wrong on an epic scale.
Whether it’s Paperchase apologising to the Twitterati for a marketing promotion with the Daily Mail and cutting themselves off from the Mail’s 1.5m readership by promising never to advertise with them again. Or the boss of United Airlines apologising for ‘reaccomodating’ a peaceful passenger who was bloodied by United staff and physically dragged from his reserved seat so it could be given to aircrew for United’s operational convenience.
Cooper and O’Meara show how the business world is increasingly driven by an instinctive fear of mass disapproval and hyper-sensitivity to even the smallest criticism. They apologise for the most trivial of things but withhold the big apologies when things really go wrong, due mainly to an unfounded fear of litigation.
Getting it wrong is damaging, but getting it right can enhance an organisation’s reputation even in the midst of a major crisis. Nick Varney, the CEO of Alton Towers, was widely praised for his direct, plain-speaking and empathetic handling of the 2015 rollercoaster crash. He accepted full responsibility and made sure the victims were at the heart of his response, famously replying: “You’ll forgive me if I’m not really focused on the share price at the moment,” when asked about the commercial impact.
The Apology Impulse explores our modern addiction to apologising without really saying sorry. It looks at the best and worst examples to help readers understand when and how to make meaningful amends and why respectfully holding your ground makes you better at being sorry.
It reveals the tricks and techniques we all use to evade, reframe, and divert from what we did. Explaining the psychological reasons why people quickly demand apologies and why businesses are so quick to give them.
The book illustrates why stage-managed apologies can harm businesses and their clients and provides essential lessons for every business, CEO or communications professional who may find themselves in the eye of a crisis in the future.
The Apology Impulse is published by Kogan Page and out 3 October, priced £14.99.