Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
As soon as a public figure messes up, reporters jump on the phones baying for an apology.
It's a well trodden path and experience shows it's best to take your medicine early because the howls from the pack will only get louder.
If it's done right, and if it's convincing, a real apology can stave off calls to resign. But done badly it adds fuel to the fire.
This week's Dastyari debacle was a high stakes battle of soundbites. And the Labor party got it completely wrong.
When Labor Senator Sam Dastyari finally caved and apologised profusely to the media pack this week it was a case of too little too late. While there were some obvious media 'tells' that he'd got it wrong, he stumbled on for another 24 hours before resigning.
The clearest signal that this issue was the media's top priority was that ABC 7:30 host Leigh Sales came to his press conference. Yes, she left the bunker. That's virtually unheard of but it didn't encourage him to lift his game.
The second sign was the bizarre reporting of his 'ask me anything' presser. Coverage focused on his delivery style - unctuous grovelling - rather than the substance of his apology.
His apology technique is straight out of a US style contrition playbook and it just doesn't work in Australia where we tend to focus on facts rather than the spectacle of public humiliation.
To me his delivery style looked like a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the real story. He gave the media self-flagellating soundbites and shared that his leader had "severely counselled him" for flicking his bar tab to the Chinese linked Top Education Institute.
But on the real offence, his apparent support of China's stance on the hypersensitive South China sea, he was angry, defensive and evasive.
He bought 24 hours but it wasn't enough.
And did you see the Government's brilliant grabs which succeeded in refocusing the agenda on the real issue?
You can watch the ABC's full report here. It's worth it just to hear Christopher Pyne's delicious: "There's clearly be a long term seduction of Senator Dastyari", followed by the PM's knock out blow: "He. Took. Cash. For. Him. Self".
The circus has moved on, Dastyari has stepped down from the Opposition front bench but not from the Senate. And Mr Shorten has assured us that, like Arnie, "he'll be back".
So my top three insights from Dastyari's downfall are:
1. Apologise early and often - but make it sincere and concrete or it will explode in your face;
2. Keep your comments short and sparkling, Pyne and Turnbull won the day with exquisite strategic thrusts;
3. Journalists are overworked, not stupid. If Leigh Sales comes to your presser lift your game or pay the price.
Need to master the Art of the Apology? Email us for a useful framework to nail it every time.