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“Sorry” is the Hardest Word to Say: How to Accept Responsibility

October 7, 2022

If Elton John was right that “sorry seems to be the hardest word,” then it is no wonder why apologizing in today’s business environment is a minefield. The last years have seen a rush of executives and corporations publicly apologize for a myriad of misdeeds with the hope that a quick public apology will smooth the waters, limit the social media comments, and allow everyone to move on. But why is that goal rarely realized? Why is it so hard to know how to accept responsibility?

What does it say about our society that apologizing is now taught in business school? It shouldn’t take a course to know when you are wrong, and it shouldn’t take a course to know how to make it better.

The internet is filled with faux-pologies, non-pologies, poor-pologies and backfire-pologies. The lack of an authentic apology is usually far more damaging than silence, and the rush to apologize often leads to a series of sticky issues that take more time and more work to “unstick”.

 

Accepting Responsibility Means Focusing on the Recipient

As a firm that specializes in crisis communications, our world is filled with individuals and entities that find the need to apologize and accept responsibility for some action or comment that caused harm. Our first mission to have the frank and often painful conversation that the motivation behind that comment or action really is not and should not be the focus of an apology. An apology is intended to show the “victim” that you understand how they feel. Yet most of these tortured apologies focus on how the initiator felt when intentionally or unintentionally offending the colleague.

 

How to Accept Responsibility: A Few Tips for the Uninitiated

  • A good apology is not a speech. Limit this to what was said or done. No one wants to hear or read a saga.
  • A good apology is not filled with prepositions. But, if, aside, in case, etc. don’t justify what was done and only cause more pain.
  • A good apology is authentic. Nothing rings hollower than words with no action.
  • A good apology doesn’t address the feelings of the apologizer. Just apologize.
  • A good apology doesn’t include “what I said”, “what happened”, or “the incident”.
  • A good apology can’t be frequent. If this is happening often, are you in the right position?
  • A good apology starts with “I need to apologize for”.
  • A good apology doesn’t end with “we are good, right?”

 

Organizational Apologies Can Be Complex

When it is an organizational or corporate issue, there are many other factors to consider:

Who makes the apology? When do we issue it? Do we post it online? For how long? Should it be sent companywide? What if we offend others by sending it?

Often, the apology isn’t the period at the end of the sentence, so take a breath to think through the ramifications of the actions involved and try to achieve a level of parity between the offending action and the words used.

 

Call in Professional Help

Sometimes, knowing how to accept responsibility means knowing when you’re in over your head. If this is all too much to work through, call us. Don’t be sorry for needing help – no apologies needed!

Kessler PR Group is a leading public relations firm specializing in crisis communications, reputation management, litigation support and media relations. To learn more, please visit https://kesslerpr.com, call 908-322-1100 or email info@kesslerpr.com.

OUR TEAM

Experienced. Collaborative. Responsive. Committed. Knowledgeable. Creative.

Led by acclaimed crisis communication strategist Karen Kessler, our team brings skills, knowledge, and experience from a winning mix of professional backgrounds to best serve our clients’ needs. Kessler PR Group’s collaborative approach means you get the whole team. Everyone on our team is familiar with every client and the issue at hand.

Karen Kesseler - Kessler PR

Karen Kessler

kkessler@kesslerpr.com

Karen regularly counsels clients on sensitive issues including regulatory inquiries, personnel matters, business practices and criminal and civil litigation. She represents high profile celebrities and entities in the USA, Europe and the Middle East. She is known for her discretion, her integrity, and her decades-long relationships with media leaders.

Karen is a frequent keynote speaker on topics ranging from reputation, career, leadership and moving beyond cancel culture. A reliably provocative commenter on reputation issues for print and broadcast, Karen has served as an on-air reputation consultant to the “NBC TODAY SHOW” and others. Her work has been the basis of both feature and documentary films.

Karen has served on Boards of Directors of public companies and leading not-for-profits in finance, health care and education. She and her work have received dozens of awards from local, regional and national organizations.

Early in her career, Karen served as the Vice President of Corporate Communications for the American Stock Exchange. She was the Director of Transition for New Jersey Governor-Elect Jim Florio and the first female commissioner of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. She earned an AB in economics from Vassar College.

Karen Kessler

Karen Kessler

kkessler@kesslerpr.com

Karen regularly counsels clients on sensitive issues including regulatory inquiries, personnel matters, business practices and criminal and civil litigation. She represents high profile celebrities and entities in the USA, Europe and the Middle East. She is known for her discretion, her integrity, and her decades-long relationships with media leaders.

Karen is a frequent keynote speaker on topics ranging from reputation, career, leadership and moving beyond cancel culture. A reliably provocative commenter on reputation issues for print and broadcast, Karen has served as an on-air reputation consultant to the “NBC TODAY SHOW” and others. Her work has been the basis of both feature and documentary films.

Karen has served on Boards of Directors of public companies and leading not-for-profits in finance, health care and education. She and her work have received dozens of awards from local, regional and national organizations.

Early in her career, Karen served as the Vice President of Corporate Communications for the American Stock Exchange. She was the Director of Transition for New Jersey Governor-Elect Jim Florio and the first female commissioner of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. She earned an AB in economics from Vassar College.

Warren Cooper - Kessler PR

Warren Cooper

wcooper@kesslerpr.com

Warren provides strategic communication counsel and litigation support to clients facing personal or institutional crises.

He has provided media training to clients facing the glare of public scrutiny; written political speeches, university commencement addresses, and policy presentations for a variety of speakers and audiences; drafted media statements for corporate and outside counsel to align with and bolster litigation strategy and crafted traditional and social media messaging to support political and policy campaigns.

In advising clients, Warren draws on his years as an investigative reporter, as well as his own experience handling media as a New Jersey mayor and school board president. Warren earned a doctoral degree in psychology at Rutgers University and a BA in English at Binghamton University. He has taught psychology at Rutgers and journalism and communications at Raritan Valley Community College.

Warren Cooper

Warren Cooper

wcooper@kesslerpr.com

Warren provides strategic communication counsel and litigation support to clients facing personal or institutional crises.

He has provided media training to clients facing the glare of public scrutiny; written political speeches, university commencement addresses, and policy presentations for a variety of speakers and audiences; drafted media statements for corporate and outside counsel to align with and bolster litigation strategy and crafted traditional and social media messaging to support political and policy campaigns.

In advising clients, Warren draws on his years as an investigative reporter, as well as his own experience handling media as a New Jersey mayor and school board president. Warren earned a doctoral degree in psychology at Rutgers University and a BA in English at Binghamton University. He has taught psychology at Rutgers and journalism and communications at Raritan Valley Community College.

Allison Perrine

Paul D’Ambrosio

pdambrosio@kesslerpr.com

Paul D’Ambrosio is the former executive editor of the Asbury Park Press/APP.com and a national award-winning investigative journalist with more than four decades of media experience. Paul has written extensively about numerous topics, from health care to politics, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal in Public Service. Paul’s extensive knowledge provides Kessler PR Group clients with valuable insights into how to navigate the rapidly changing media landscape, engage with social media platforms and respond to investigative news queries.

Paul D’Ambrosio

Paul D’Ambrosio

pdambrosio@kesslerpr.com

Paul D’Ambrosio is the former executive editor of the Asbury Park Press/APP.com and a national award-winning investigative journalist with more than four decades of media experience. Paul has written extensively about numerous topics, from health care to politics, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal in Public Service. Paul’s extensive knowledge provides Kessler PR Group clients with valuable insights into how to navigate the rapidly changing media landscape, engage with social media platforms and respond to investigative news queries.

Erin Friedlander Kessler PR

Erin Friedlander

efriedlander@kesslerpr.com

Erin develops and executes customized communication strategies for clients. She has represented many high-profile individuals and organizations during her career and has extensive experience in working with leaders of education, healthcare, not-for-profit, and religious organizations.

In addition to helping clients generate greater public awareness and visibility for their brand, Erin often works with clients who seek to avoid or respond to reputational fallout when faced with media or public scrutiny. She regularly provides public relations and litigation support for clients engaged in complex matters including, but not limited to personnel issues, leadership transitions, mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies.

Prior to joining Kessler PR Group, Erin served as communications director and media spokesperson for a prominent religious nonprofit organization in Central New Jersey.

Early in her career, Erin worked for a public and government relations firm in Trenton, where she led multiple strategic public relations, marketing and grassroots campaigns, special events, and communications initiatives for corporate, small business, New Jersey Department of State and not-for-profit clients. Erin earned her BA in Communications at Rider University.

Erin Friedlander

Erin Friedlander

efriedlander@kesslerpr.com

Erin develops and executes customized communication strategies for clients. She has represented many high-profile individuals and organizations during her career and has extensive experience in working with leaders of education, healthcare, not-for-profit, and religious organizations.

In addition to helping clients generate greater public awareness and visibility for their brand, Erin often works with clients who seek to avoid or respond to reputational fallout when faced with media or public scrutiny. She regularly provides public relations and litigation support for clients engaged in complex matters including, but not limited to personnel issues, leadership transitions, mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies.

Prior to joining Kessler PR Group, Erin served as communications director and media spokesperson for a prominent religious nonprofit organization in Central New Jersey.

Early in her career, Erin worked for a public and government relations firm in Trenton, where she led multiple strategic public relations, marketing and grassroots campaigns, special events, and communications initiatives for corporate, small business, New Jersey Department of State and not-for-profit clients. Erin earned her BA in Communications at Rider University.

Kevin Israel Kessler PR

Kevin Israel

kisrael@kesslerpr.com

Kevin provides communications guidance and messaging support to a wide variety of clients, including those in the healthcare field, construction professionals, and the entertainment industry. He has overseen event planning and helped produce major televised events.

Prior to joining Kessler PR Group Kevin served as public relations manager for a major New Jersey health system, directed the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Office of Community and Constituent Services, and served as chief of staff for state elected officials in New Jersey’s 13th Legislative District.

Kevin’s legal and legislative background combined with his transportation and health care experience make him uniquely qualified to service a wide variety of clients. He has worked on high profile issues throughout the NY/NJ region and provided messaging strategies to governors, legislative leaders, and corporate executives.

Kevin earned his BA from the University of Delaware and his JD from Hofstra University School of Law.

Kevin Israel

Kevin Israel

kisrael@kesslerpr.com

Kevin provides communications guidance and messaging support to a wide variety of clients, including those in the healthcare field, construction professionals, and the entertainment industry. He has overseen event planning and helped produce major televised events.

Prior to joining Kessler PR Group Kevin served as public relations manager for a major New Jersey health system, directed the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Office of Community and Constituent Services, and served as chief of staff for state elected officials in New Jersey’s 13th Legislative District.

Kevin’s legal and legislative background combined with his transportation and health care experience make him uniquely qualified to service a wide variety of clients. He has worked on high profile issues throughout the NY/NJ region and provided messaging strategies to governors, legislative leaders, and corporate executives.

Kevin earned his BA from the University of Delaware and his JD from Hofstra University School of Law.

Andria Lykogiannis- Kessler PR

Andria Lykogiannis

alykogiannis@kesslerpr.com

Andria Lykogiannis serves as principal client liaison, supporting client research and managing the scheduling, coordination and implementation of multiple projects. Her background in broadcast media production and business management enhances the critical support for client services aimed at achieving reputational goals.

Andria’s background and experience as a network television technician and editor for ABC and CBS included work on the Republican and Democratic national conventions, the Superbowl, Olympic Games, the CBS Evening News, the Detroit Grand Prix, NFL Football and NCAA Basketball to name a few. In addition, Lykogiannis owned and operated a successful franchise restaurant and catering business.

Andria Lykogiannis

Andria Lykogiannis

alykogiannis@kesslerpr.com

Andria Lykogiannis serves as principal client liaison, supporting client research and managing the scheduling, coordination and implementation of multiple projects. Her background in broadcast media production and business management enhances the critical support for client services aimed at achieving reputational goals.

Andria’s background and experience as a network television technician and editor for ABC and CBS included work on the Republican and Democratic national conventions, the Superbowl, Olympic Games, the CBS Evening News, the Detroit Grand Prix, NFL Football and NCAA Basketball to name a few. In addition, Lykogiannis owned and operated a successful franchise restaurant and catering business.

Brian McDonough Kessler PR

Brian McDonough, Esq.

bmcdonough@kesslerpr.com

Brian utilizes his legal experience to provide strategic crisis communications counsel and litigation support to clients confronted with complex and high-profile matters. He has developed successful communications strategies for corporations; not-for-profits; C-suite executive; professional sports teams, and educational institutions, and has drafted crisis communications plans for large hospital networks and universities.

Brian practiced law before joining Kessler PR Group. He has defended insurers and corporations in employment and mass tort cases, as well law firms and hospitals in legal and medical malpractice actions. Brian’s legal background, robust research skills, and strong writing underpin Kessler’s work on behalf of clients who seek to establish themselves as industry thought leaders or transform and enhance their public image.

Brian earned his JD at Seton Hall University School of Law and his BA in Law & Policy at Dickinson College.

Brian McDonough, Esq

Brian McDonough, Esq.

bmcdonough@kesslerpr.com

Brian utilizes his legal experience to provide strategic crisis communications counsel and litigation support to clients confronted with complex and high-profile matters. He has developed successful communications strategies for corporations; not-for-profits; C-suite executive; professional sports teams, and educational institutions, and has drafted crisis communications plans for large hospital networks and universities.

Brian practiced law before joining Kessler PR Group. He has defended insurers and corporations in employment and mass tort cases, as well law firms and hospitals in legal and medical malpractice actions. Brian’s legal background, robust research skills, and strong writing underpin Kessler’s work on behalf of clients who seek to establish themselves as industry thought leaders or transform and enhance their public image.

Brian earned his JD at Seton Hall University School of Law and his BA in Law & Policy at Dickinson College.

Allison Perrine

Allison Perrine Bio

aperrine@kesslerpr.com

Allison utilizes her background in journalism to counsel clients through a variety of media-related needs. She provides media training, conducts research, and drafts statements and speeches for organizations to lean on during times of crisis. Additionally, Allison designs graphics and websites for our clients to help raise awareness of their brands.

Prior to joining Kessler PR Group, Allison served as the senior reporter for a local newspaper in Monmouth County. There, she maintained relationships with community and political leaders and produced balanced articles by maintaining sources with confidentiality and respect.

Earlier in her career, Allison worked on public relations campaigns for New Jersey-based nonprofits and helped promote small businesses in her community. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications at Monmouth University.

Allison Perrine

Allison Perrine Bio

aperrine@kesslerpr.com

Allison utilizes her background in journalism to counsel clients through a variety of media-related needs. She provides media training, conducts research, and drafts statements and speeches for organizations to lean on during times of crisis. Additionally, Allison designs graphics and websites for our clients to help raise awareness of their brands.

Prior to joining Kessler PR Group, Allison served as the senior reporter for a local newspaper in Monmouth County. There, she maintained relationships with community and political leaders and produced balanced articles by maintaining sources with confidentiality and respect.

Earlier in her career, Allison worked on public relations campaigns for New Jersey-based nonprofits and helped promote small businesses in her community. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications at Monmouth University.