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How to say sorry in business

Knowing how to apologise properly is a must for even the best-behaved business. The nature of social media means that if a brand messes up these days, a whole lot of people will hear about it quite quickly. So what makes an effective corporate apology? Read on for a few pointers should you ever need to make one.

Use the right tone

The tone of your apology is almost as important as the words you use. Consider the tone of voice your brand usually speaks to its audience in and whether it’s appropriate for this type of message. If you have an informal and light-hearted voice, it would be wise to make the apology a little more ‘corporate’ so it’s taken seriously.

This also means avoiding jokes and trying to laugh off the matter – your stakeholders probably won’t see the funny side. It’s what The Sun’s Dylan Sharpe attemptedafter he was criticised for gloating on Twitter that the red-top would continue to publish pictures of topless women earlier this year. 

Take responsibility; use ‘we’

When writing to sell, one way to engage the reader directly is by using ‘you’, and you should do the same with an apology. However, it’s important to take responsibility too, and that’s where ‘we’ comes in. It puts the spotlight on the brand, and shows you aren’t trying to pass the buck.

Don’t make excuses

Similarly, making excuses rather than taking full responsibility will make it look like you’re trying to wriggle out of some negative press. Even if a supplier or partner firm’s actions are the reason for the apology, you’re associated with them and are therefore in it together. You should also be wary of making someone a scapegoat. This may appease some of your harshest detractors but it might not deal with the cause of the issue, so what good has really been done?

Resist the urge to sell

As tempting as it may be, dropping in even a subtle promotional message won’t be looked on favourably by the reader. Apple did it in Tim Cook’s open letterapologising for its sub-standard Maps app back in 2012, and the passage sticks out in an otherwise adequate apology.

State your own call to action

Finally, your customers will want to know how you plan on making things right, so include your own call to action. Just as you would when directing a site visitor to take action, state the next steps clearly. It goes without saying, but you’ll need to follow through with this or risk another Twitter backlash in the future.   

Which corporate apology sticks in your mind for the right or wrong reasons? Share it with us in the comments below or tweet @strattoncraig.  

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