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Crisis Communications 101: Should You Apologize for Mistakes?

By Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications

If you’ve ever attended one of our seminars on crisis communications, we often talk about the power of apology.  Real apologies; apologies that are authentic and true; apologies without qualification or the use of “weasel words” (e.g. “mistakes were made”).

Perhaps no industry does apology better AND worse than the health care industry (hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living, rehab, etc.). Some stick to the tried-and-true of deny, defend, evade, postpone and litigate.  Others have adopted full-disclosure from minute-one (“this is what we know; this is what we don’t know; this is what will happen going forward”).

In fact, we constantly direct people to Sorry Works!, a nonprofit that helps make disclosure a reality for healthcare organizations by helping people literally conceptualize disclosure.  For too long, healthcare professionals have been instructed to “deny and defend” post-event, so, it is difficult and scary to conceptualize disclosure.  This is where Sorry Works! makes the difference by providing high quality content on disclosure for both acute and long-term care health professionals and their organizations as well as associated insurance and legal professionals.

While aimed at health care organizations, the model that Sorry Works! uses is very much applicable to the business, manufacturing, chemical, government, law and nonprofit sectors.  And it’s completely consistent with Hennes Communications’ tell the truth, tell it all, tell it first and tell it fast philosophy.

For a broader story about apology, check out this article from The Washington Post.

(Originally printed in our newsletter on March 18, 2017)

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