Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

CEOs frequently rise to the top based in part on charisma. They tend to be quick thinkers and quick talkers. But once they land in the corner office, they can’t just speak off the cuff anymore. Instead, the savvy ones turn to professional communicators to prepare for speeches, social media posts or media engagements. They know missteps could be costly to them and their companies.  

As social media has become more prevalent, the stories of rogue CEOs have, too. There are countless examples of viral clips of executives being insensitive, exasperated, or just plain rude. These leaders caused critical harm to their company reputations by speaking before thinking, becoming a PR nightmare for their comms teams. 

How do you keep your leaders on message? At Spring Green, we’re experts in both crisis communications and executive communications, so here — in the unfortunate space where they sometimes intersect — we have lots of thoughts. 

Nothing is truly “internal.” Your virtual meetings might be password protected, but it only takes one rogue employee to share your CEO’s unscripted thoughts with the world. And you don’t want your boss to trend for all the wrong reasons. Always give your executives prepared talking points and vetted responses to tough questions to ensure key messages come through.  

When you mess up, own up. Everyone misspeaks sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes. So when the media storm comes for you, don’t double down. Be prepared with an authentic apology — and make sure the person tasked with offering the apology can truly own it. 

What’s an authentic apology? We counsel clients on this three-step approach: 

  • Acknowledge how your remarks fell short. 
  • Apologize sincerely to anyone who was harmed. 
  • Let stakeholders know how you plan to make it right. 

Don’t wait for something bad to happen. In life and in business, things are going to go wrong. Have a plan. We work with our clients to prepare crisis comms checklists that they can refer to the minute a crisis starts to brew. We work with executives to create draft responses to likely crises before they happen.  

Give us a call and let us help you get started. It’s what we do best. 

by Melissa Mathews