Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mistakes were made

I have often heard the phrase mistakes were made used as an example of the passive voice. The sentence lacks a clear subject, and it leaves the reader to ask: Who made these mistakes?

Unfortunately, I have also heard these three words used as a way to define what public professionals do.
Supposedly we find eloquent ways help people who do wrong avoid responsibility. I would argue that this stereotype is unrelated from the careers of the majority of public relations professionals. However, often situations in the field of crisis communications arise where PRos must debate about whether or not to apologize.

A recent post by Crisisblogger explains the moral (and economic) value of saying you’re sorry. Crisisblogger recommends apologizing because, “It’s the best thing for your organization’s reputation and trust level.”
I understand when a company chooses not to apologize because of legal concerns, but there are other instances where a direct and honest apology accompanied by meaningful action will actually avoid a legal struggle.

I learned the value of an honest apology when I was financing my schooling by working at the front desk of hotel. Often guests would come to me with angry complaints, requesting refunds. I did not have the authority to give guests a refund, and the best I could do was to recommend they call the manager first thing Monday morning.

I quickly learned that rather than a refund the majority of people simply wanted to feel validated for their feelings of discontent. Genuinely listening to a complaint and doing everything in my power to appease the customer went a long way. This commitment to hearing the customers resulted in our hotel having the highest online customer ratings.
Apologies, accompanied by action can be remarkably powerful.

Photo By: Qatari Mother

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