Celebrities—and their PR teams—have had lots of practice issuing apologies this year.
Many have come in written statements, and many of those have fallen flat.
Whether the apologies have come for sexual misconduct amid the rise of the #metoo movement or for general misbehavior, a good apology must convey sincerity and authenticity.
Methods for expressing contrition are changing as well, with social media becoming an important channel for apologies and public interaction with public figures accused of misdeeds. At the same time, social media channels are pushing video, which can deliver the authentic emotion that a written statement, however well penned, often lacks.
Josh Homme, front man for Queens of the Stone Age, took a couple of tries in expressing regret over his behavior at a recent concert. Homme had kicked a photographer’s camera during the performance, sending her to the emergency room and giving his critics plenty of fodder for a social media reckoning.
A post shared by Chelsea Lauren (@chelsealaurenla) on
Homme’s initial written statement was a prime example of how not to apologize.
— QOTSA (@qotsa) December 10, 2017
That went over like a ton of bricks:
So disappointed in Josh Homme and his “apology”. He needs to own up to what he did. It was intentional & not ok 😒
— Melissa Eldridge (@meldridge18) December 11, 2017
Homme apologized a second time, with an emotional video in which he directly addressed Lauren and made no excuses for his behavior.
— QOTSA (@qotsa) December 11, 2017
Some found the public nature of the apology distasteful:
I watched the video of josh homme kicking a photographer in the face, usually I think ppl over exaggerate things but not this time. He full on kicks her camera straight into her face. Rather than an open apology letter, why not approach @ChelseaLaurenLA directly…. @qotsa
— Frankie (@frankiepoppetxo) December 11, 2017
However, the video statement garnered better reviews than the first apology.
— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) December 11, 2017
Here are three takeaways for using video to deliver an important mea culpa:
1. Keep it informal.
The magic of a video apology is its ability to convey authenticity. Overproducing the video with too many bells and whistles will only undercut your principal’s or client’s ability to convey their message.
Homme’s video apology had the look of a personal message shot at a kitchen table. It was informal, intimate and conveyed both immediacy and vulnerability.
2. Apologize to the party that needs it—and stop there.
A video message, especially done live, could stray from your objective. Communicators looking to set up a video apology should prep their spokesperson carefully, practicing a couple of takes before broadcasting live.
In Homme’s case, he went astray after directly addressing the photographer. The rock-and-roller mused on how his actions reflected on his bandmates, his friends and his family. He apologized to all of them as well, before returning to apologize one more time to the photographer.
Although the sentiment may be laudable, or understandable, a meandering apology is bad PR. Josh Homme may feel deep shame for how his friends and family are coping with his behavior, but they were not the one kicked in the face.
Keep your statement short and on message.
3. Know how you are going to end.
Although a video apology conveys emotion and spirit, it can turn into blathering if it doesn’t have a strong ending. Communicators should treat a video apology like a press conference, planning a good exit line to finish up. It’s probably the only thing the audience will remember.
Homme’s video, though succinct, seemed to waver as he tried to figure out in real time how to end his remarks. A little forethought may have spared him the awkwardness of a clunky sign-off, though the lack of preparedness made his remarks a little more authentic and sincere.
As with any video, it’s important to know how you are going to end your apology before you hit “record.”
How would you have handled Homme’s video apology, PR Daily readers?