Public Apologies

Before you continue reading this post, let me first take this opportunity to formally acknowledge and apologize for any of the following:

  • Everything I have ever said that could have been misconstrued in any way, by anybody.
  • Any of my previous posts that also might have upset any of you in any way.
  • What I might say or write in the future­.

I might as well apologize now for any ill-conceived words, phrases, and unintended results of the content I have yet to conceptualize or capture in text form.

Assuming we are now OK with the apologies-in-advance, and you agree to not be offended by the following, let’s continue.

Have you noticed that when someone is called out for their mistakes the go-to reaction now includes a freely available declaration of guilt? It’s as though our national conscience is set to “I’m sorry.”

Let’s talk about why public apologies are being put on full display for the masses to both examine and pick apart. These confessions are becoming commonplace practice for celebrities, corporations, and public figures. In today’s digital culture the very act of posting equates to a type of personal exposure that no one can just hit delete to erase–not without potential consequences or re-tweets. Someone is always ready to pounce.

It’s happening at the same time that the public feels more connected than every as a society, thanks to the immediacy and convenience of our smart devices and social media accounts. Even businesses and stars have personalized their account pages to the point that it feels like we know these bands and people. They are sharing moments online and we care what they have to say.

This perceived closeness is creating a bubble effect wherein everyone needs to feel comfortable with any content they encounter online. The problem with this environment is that someone will always feel differently…and, for this reason, a public apology seems to even the score. These open explanations and acceptance of everyone’s point-of-view are becoming both more widely accepted, and, in many cases, expected.

The following examples showcase how the public apology is serving as a means to smooth over uncomfortable events, posts, and content choices.

  • Perhaps one of the most recent public apologies to be featured was the one from pop star and actor Justin Timberlake via his Instagram account page. This explanation of his actions concerned an offstage encounter with a fellow actress, and seemed to be addressed at both his fans and his family.
  • Wedding planning sites The Knot and Pinterest recently announced the decision to discontinue promotion of plantation wedding vendors and venues. This decision was prompted by consumer pushback which led to a company-wide policy change in how search terms are classified.
  • The Hallmark Channel issued a formal apology for deciding to remove a branded Zola same-sex wedding ad from its programing. Following internet backlash on both sides of the controversy Hallmark made the decision to reinstate the ad in full. In addition to assuring viewers of its commitment to inclusion, Hallmark reportedly committed to working with GLAAD to increase diversity efforts.

As the practice of making amends in a publicly available format become more commonplace, we could see an impact on consumer relationships, as well as customer-facing business policies. While this is not necessarily a new practice for people, the act of making a documented apology—sometimes without prior context—can display the intent of remorse and acceptance.