In a crisis, you get ONE chance at an apology. One chance, not two and most certainly not three! This is something that Paula Deen, and especially her crisis management and PR firm should have understood before making the mistake of publishing a half-assed apology… three times!
As you may have heard, Paula Deen, a Food Network celebrity, is in the midst of a full-on crisis due to accusations of racial discrimination against her former and current employees.
Read more about this crisis here
Within her first attempt at an apology, Deen and her PR firm attempted to blame the discrimination on her southern upbringing and her age – basically the fact that she is “old” and was raised in a time and place where races were socially separated. A part of the statement reads:
“[Paula] was born 60 years ago when America’s South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus …”
Pfff! Can we say crisis PR fail!
Oh but wait, Deen’s failed apology attempts don’t end here!
As a second attempt at an apology, Deen’s PR and crisis team published the below short video. It’s only 45 seconds long but apparently that was too long for it to go unedited.
In her opening words, Deen appears to not fully understand what it is that she needs to apologize for:
“I want to apologize to everybody, uhh, for the wrong that I’ve done, uhh [too long of a pause], I want to learn and grow from this < CUT/Transition > inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable < CUT / Transition > I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way but I beg you…”
“Uhhs”, “ums”, transitions and cuts within a 45 second statement, excuses and “buts” do NOT make an apology.
Have a watch for yourself:
Paula Deen’s second failed attempt at an apology
In her third apology attempt, Deen and her PR and crisis team STILL don’t get it. In fact, in this third failed attempt, it’s clear that Deen believes herself to be a victim in all of this.
“I’ve worked hard and I’ve made mistakes, but that is no excuse”
… so why are you mentioning it? What does working hard have to do with unacceptably discriminating against your employees and others? I’m sure they were working hard while you were publicly discriminating against them.
“The pain has been tremendous that I have caused to myself, and to others”
Nobody cares about the pain you’ve caused to yourself in this situation. It’s the same as when companies say “we regret this situation ever happened”. Of course you do! You’re in a crisis because of it! By putting herself and the “pain she’s caused herself” above the pain she’s cause to those that she discriminated against and disappointed, Deen is clearly showing her lack of remorse and comes across as completely insincere and self-centered.
Paula Deen’s third failed apology attempt
What is an apology?
An apology is supposed to be a sincere statement of “I’m sorry”. That’s all. Don’t try to defend yourself. Don’t try to make yourself seem the victim. If people are upset with you or your company for something you’ve done wrong, if you say you’re sorry then do so whole-heartedly, sincerely and show that you mean it. This means not issuing a half-assed apology that attempts to make the viewers pity you. Own up. Apologize. Take responsibility and move forward … And do it once, not 3 half-assed times.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.