Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
Notice how Shannon Noll’s apology on the weekend was almost as offensive as the foul-mouthed, misogynist rant that prompted it? And predictably it set social media alight and triggered waves of media coverage.
Which makes me wonder if that was the point. It’s starting to look like we’ve entered the age of the weaponised apology - when an apology is not really an apology and it does little more than amplify public outrage.
Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonheljm, who has been under fire for his sexist slurs, also made a perfectly transparent attempt to not only shrug off blame last week, but threw it back in the face of the people he was supposedly apologising to.
It's tempting to assume in both instances that the comments were deliberately crafted to inflame the situation and grab the media spotlight rather than to genuinely resolve it.
It’s an interesting strategy if you’re a politician or a musician desperately needing a shot of infamy to reignite an ailing career. Let's not forget, that Noll has just launched a national tour and his first album in seven years.
Whatever the case, just getting people to talk about you isn’t strategic, particularly if they’re trashing your personal brand.
And surely, neither Noll nor Leyonheljm would be manipulative enough to play with people’s emotions like that.
So, giving Nollsie the benefit of the doubt, and assuming his record label Warner Music didn’t offer PR assistance with this one, what turned his apology into a weapon of mass distraction?
First up, looking at his statement (below). It’s questionable whether he’s even truly sorry.
In his 141-word statement, he uses some of the right language but wraps it in justifications for his behaviour. So the overall effect is a petulant child blaming others because he was caught, not because he sinned.
If you strip out the context (17 words) and the justifications (103 words) that leaves just 21 words or 15 per cent for apologising. Not a great ratio.
Moving to Leyonhjelm’s ‘apology’, not the one he’s refusing to give to Senator Hanson-Young, who is now suing him, but the one aimed at Studio 10’s Angela Bishop. It’s the classic faux apology:
Bishop: "So why call me a b**ch?”
Leyonhjelm: “Oh … I’m sorry you took offence at that.”
It’s clearly irrational and intended to be inflammatory while prolonging his 15 minutes of fame. And it worked, dominating the headlines all day.
When you’ve triggered outrage if you want the anger to die down you need to give a genuine apology.
If you don’t, the outrage will keep burning. And while that will keep you in the public eye, it’s most likely damaging your brand.
There’s a simple framework for a powerful apology which won’t trigger any legal headaches. I’ve covered it many times in our blogs, so if you'd like it again, by all means shoot me an email.
Have you seen any other offensive apologies? We'd love top hear your thoughts, so share them in the comments section.
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