Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
NSW Waratah's backrower Jacques Potgieter ‘s lame apology this week is as clumsy and ill-conceived as his alleged homophobic slur in Sunday’s match against the Brumbies.
But I’d bet that while the South African international came up with the slur all on his own, the actual apology was most likely crafted by a comms professional, which makes it even more outrageous.
Full marks for offering an apology, it’s the magic bullet to kill social media outrage, it keeps sponsors happy and it's essential evidence for any disciplinary hearing.
But the Waratah’s media team could have at least got it right.
First up, Potgieter should have apologised for the actual sin: what he said. Using a homophobic slur was not only offensive but also demonstrated that the ARU is not a civilised or inclusive code and calls all their diversity training into question.
Instead he apologised for “the offence it caused” rather than for his actions, and then justified his behaviour by saying that it was “…on field during a heated encounter”. So clearly it’s not his fault.
It might be lame, but he got away with it.
You might not be that fortunate especially if your stakeholders have higher expectations of you and your organisation.
Being able to deliver a meaningful apology is critical for any spokesperson. It gives you the right to speak and is the only thing which will help you survive a social media firestorm.
f you refuse to apologise you’ll be hounded until you do. And if you apologise badly you can be torn to shreds.
Decent people get these things right.
Hit the hurt: Identify the offence you’ve caused, name it and tackle it head on.
Show you get it: Talk is cheap so you need skin in the game to show commitment. Share what actions you are taking to fix this.
Be authentic: The right words aren’t enough, you have to show you mean it. It’s hard to fake empathy so find the real thing and express it well.