Best Practices: Apologies and Non-Apologies

11.18.12


Sorry.

It’s five letters and in a sincere context those five letters have more power than four. You can say it all sorts of ways.

I am sorry.

I am sorry I made a mistake.

I am sorry I was rude. It won’t happen again.

I am sorry. I showed bad judgement.

All of these short and simple sentences are capable of ending an ugly situation.

A non-apology often escalates a difficult situation. Non-apologies include but are not limited to:

I’m sorry you feel that way.

I’m sorry I thought you were someone else.

Woah! Linz, social media guy says sorry! Thought had Twitter set to personal account and was responding 2 similar name friend!

A few hours ago Lindsay Goldner tweeted the Pantages asking if they had any extra tickets to the Book of Mormon. This is an absurd request and Lindsay knows it, but you can’t win if you don’t bet. A good social media manager (actually a mediocre one too) would reply back with someone witty like, “I wish I did I’d totally invite you and all your friends” or even “Nope, sorry but if you manage to score a ticket I’ll buy you some Red Vines at intermission.” Instead this happened.

 

Of course it should have ended there but when you’re digging a hole you might as well dig it deep enough to hide the bodies, right?

Of course I hopped on the phone with Lindsay after I saw this because I had seen the Book of Mormon with her on opening night at the Pantages. As a complete aside I found it to be long and unfunny. I sat in my seat feeling uncomfortable that a musical was mocking a group of sincere people and slept through the second half. Yes, I just defended Mormons. That was weird.

In any event Lindsay and I were on the phone and she was talking about how much she loves musical theater and how she has been to a zillion shows at the Pantages and this made her feel horrible about ever going there again.

That is incredibly sad. This girl loves musical theater (I don’t…).

Eventually there was a non-apology and sometimes I wonder if a non-apology is worse than no apology at all.

What should the Pantages Theater have done? Obviously it’s late for Lindsay, but pretend you’re the social media manager, how do you fix this?

 

EDIT:

This tweet was sent minutes after the tweets to Linsday were sent. It demonstrates that it was unlikely that the the Panatages tweeter thought he was on a personal account.

 

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52 responses to “Best Practices: Apologies and Non-Apologies”

  1. amoyal says:

    You get Linz a ticket and you issue a real apology letter. Like on paper and stuff.

  2. natalie says:

    they don’t need to get her a ticket for this show. but they should ask for her contact info and email her a true apology and invite her to a future show. making an excuse about the handle is not a good one. it is an excuse because there is no way that there was a mistake. how could that be?

  3. What Arie said. No excuse for failing to admit wrongdoing. The whole tweeting under personal account to similar named friend is very weak.

  4. Much, much ado about nothing.

  5. Cat D says:

    He might start by hiring a few bloggers to teach him about social media, that would be a start.

    • Or you reach a point where you’re tired of people asking for freebies and you just lash out. I’ve DM’ed people before when I’ve been threatened on other accounts calling them out for bad behavior.

      • amoyal says:

        Lash out? That’s not very professional. I used to work in a call centre. I got the same stupid questions day in day out. Do you think I ever lashed out?

        • Oh, when you get threatened on Twitter that someone is going to cause trouble, yes, I’ve privately DM’ed the person on my account and put them in their place.

          Lashing out in public? Never. But, well, as I’ve also worked in call centers coming in on the Holidays to help out (it was a company-wide support so marketing / PR came and helped) and I spent 30 minutes on the phone helping an 80 year old woman work the Internet and our service. The head of CS said it was the best thing he ever say.

          But I’ll bet you that when you hung up the phone after those stupid questions, you bitched.

          • amoyal says:

            Sure I must have, I left that job almost 9 years ago now. But I wouldn’t have bitched AT them,

          • Thirteen years ago for me, but still remember how to handle people on the phone and make them feel like they’re the most important thing. It’s what I do in PR also.

            But you’re missing a key thing – the people demanding things are people I know, but didn’t realize I was running the account. I called them out on it in a DM from my personal account.

            Bad behavior is never acceptable. And I count demanding free stuff as bad behavior.

          • Okay I totally agree that Lindsay behaved badly but here’s the rub. Whomever is handling an account like that needs to know that a good bit of their day will be spent saying “no” to blogger requests and if they’re any good at their job they’ll have a lot of ways to say “no” nicely.

            I’d really like to know what you think of the apology. I think that’s what I’m focused on. It’s so easy to say “I’m sorry” and no one ever seems to do it. Whenever someone apologizes to me I go out of my way to make them feel comfortable. Why were they incapable of a real apology?

          • amoyal says:

            Because they suck at their job?

          • Like I said initially and originally, it was a poor response and apology.

            And while I don’t doubt that the account gets a lot of the “hey, are there tickets left can you help me,” I wonder how often they get the “gimme free media tickets” request – because that’s what it was.

            As for a real apology, yes it should have been a bit more sincere even if it wasn’t meant sincerely.

          • What I am surprised about, Jessica, is how fast the blowback became against asking for the tickets and the story turned into asking for tickets versus the apology/non-apology.

            Makes me wonder if that type of behavior is not being accepted as much anymore online.

  6. Like I said on your wall, never understood the “oops, wrong account” excuse (lie?) but this crossed the line asking for free tickets in public. Bad response, poor ask.

  7. trisha says:

    Well, the reality is that we all make mistakes and in this world of social remarks, while he should have been more careful, I do think sometimes we have to just accept an apology. He seems sincere.

  8. Shelby says:

    It was totally inappropriate for her to be asking something like that in a public forum to begin with. Who does that?

  9. A bit of a jerk trying to score free tickets. I wouldn’t have replied but on the blogger.

  10. Mika Douglas says:

    I think an open apology (transparency) with a backed up action.
    Made a mistake, thought I was on a different account. No excuse, accept my apology. I have escalated this to my boss and here’s what we can do.

  11. Yolanda says:

    Sigh.. yea… Pantages PR does not like bloggeers, well strike that— they like maybe 2 or 3 bloggers and I have been told (via email) they cannot and will not give tickets unless they are guaranteed coverage. GUARANTEED. Not even mainstream media can guarantee. Sigh.

    • Well… they got coverage. Just not the coverage they were looking for.

    • If you are giving bloggers $150+ tickets and you get NO coverage, why they heck would you want them there?!

      • Yolanda says:

        No one can ask for guaranteed coverage, period. That’s ethics. Would you make a news site guarantee you coverage? No, because it’s unethical.

      • also- who’s saying they wouldn’t have gotten coverage? we NEVER got to talking about that. he was so rude i couldn’t offer to pay for tickets (if they even exist) or offer to cover in exchange for tickets. that’s part of the issue here, i think.

        • But your blog is not about entertainment, plays, theater, Hollywood or LA – so what type of coverage would they get?

          • actually, it’s a lifestyle blog- and i do talk about things like entertainment and theatre and events in LA when i go to them- covered the county fair last month. But thanks for continuing to be argumentative. Always fun with ya.

          • I must have been looking at the wrong blog, then.

            And even then, the tweet was still over the line asking for free product or tickets instead of emailing the press office.

          • and once again, you’re ASSUMING i wouldn’t have then offered to pay face value. tickets are being scalped at 2-4x the value- that’s why i asked in the first place, and yes i did try to leverage being a blogger, thinking maybe if i did offer coverage as something else that I could offer that it might be appealing. But your assumption that I just wanted free stuff is wrong. Maybe that’s how it came off to you, but had the conversation CONTINUED, it would have revealed (as I’ve said in other threads) that I was more than willing to pay face value, just not the $400 being asked on sites like craigslist and stubhub right now. So please stop making assumptions that you have no clue about.

          • And to be perfectly clear. Had they comped me the tickets I’d have scalped them for the $400 and went next door to the Frolic Room to buy all the alcoholics a round of shots.

          • If you don’t want people to think you were asking for free tickets – and it’s not just me, but most of the people reading these threads – maybe, JUST MAYBE, you should’t have asked for media tickets. Which are ALWAYS free.

            So stop blaming everyone else because this went off the rails and didn’t go your way.

          • Actually, plenty of people on the threads this has been posted in (not just here but around fb/twitter) have been in agreement with me. And in case you can’t read, the whole POINT of the post was that the Pantages social media guy handled it incredible poorly. Who cares what the motive is? Even if someone is personally attacking your company, social media 101- you don’t act that way to a potential customer. But I guess you do.. which speaks volumes.

            But thanks for posting on it, @JessicaGottlieb:disqus. Obviously other people who “get” social media see that you probably shouldn’t treat customers that way, regardless of WHAT they may or may not be asking for.

          • And therein is the rub – you’re pissed that this went off the rails for you, and is NOT going your way. Yes, I said that the Pantages guy treated you poorly and owed you an apology.

            But you know what, your actions speak as loudly as your words. And don’t make any assumptions that you know me, or know how I work or think. Bad move on your part, but the back channel chatter on this whole thing is much more telling than you realize.

          • Once again- I was upset at how he acted, NOT that there wasn’t a possibility of tickets. @JessicaGottlieb:disqus said it in the post. I knew it was far-fetched but never thought he’d react like THAT.

            And really, back channel chatter? I’m sorry, but that’s a poor attempt at trying to intimidate someone who disagrees with you and is also quite telling.

          • Lindsay – have you “met” Jeremy? He’s probably one of the foremost experts on social media/PR strategy. He goes a long way (just like I do). If I were you, I would really listen to what he has to say – as professional advice. If anything, he is probably doing the “mentorship” you have been looking for.

          • I appreciate that, Ana Lydia. Haven’t met him in real life but have seen him in many situations like this and while he may be an expert I disagree with the delivery here, making assumptions, essentially attacking anyone who defends me in comments, etc- even though I tried to explain myself- and then making strange comments about “back-channel chatter and whatnot.” @JessicaGottlieb:disqus and I had a long conversation over this when it happened, and I consider her to be pretty knowledge, if not an expert in social media as well, and I trust the advice she gave me too. There’s been a lot of advice given- it’s not like I’m going after them for free tickets or after this guy’s head or anything. If I was, then advice telling me to stfu would certainly be warranted. However, the advice coming at me now is basically just telling me “you were wrong, don’t do that.” I hear you. But the Pantages guy was wrong as well- and that’s where this post came into play, because his attitude and his “apology” were definitely NOT good social media practices, and I’m surprised that people seasoned in social media (not you in particular) aren’t recognizing that and are blaming it all on the content of my particular tweet.

  12. Erin aka @queenofspain says:

    I really, really, really hate the ‘ooops wrong account’ crap. We all know it’s bullshit and we should call bullshit when we see it. Regardless of if the ask was tacky or if the ask was totally normal, the response was customer service and social media pr in a spotlight and THAT was an epic fail. This snotty little asshat needs a lesson in twitter etiquette 101 and to OWN UP to the fail for REAL and just say ‘ok, I had a bad day, I’m sorry’ … we’re all about honesty and transparency around here. USE IT. Shockingly you might find we RESPECT IT.

    • I’ve done it on hootsuite before, but it’s generally REALLY obvious when it’s the wrong account (like when the red cross staffer tweeted from the wrong account a while back). When they’re directly responding to your question? Tough to see it as being from the wrong account.

      I think it’s social media 101, and just BUSINESS 101- you make a mistake, and you own up to it. Even if you don’t comp someone tickets (which I wasn’t demanding this went down, to make my feelers all better, of course), just a simple admission of “Wow, I said something that I shouldn’t have said/didn’t realize how it came across/etc.” can go a LONG way towards smoothing a potential future relationship with a business. Instead, they got someone like Jess writing about it, and a whooole lot more people seeing the situation.

  13. […] how the whole fiasco really went down, you can read about it over on Jessica Gottlieb’s blog here. Because of the way their social media person reacted, we certainly never got to that point in the […]

  14. Jill, Head Geargal says:

    I don’t like that they blamed it on their “social media guy” as if he is not a representative of the company.

    I do think it was a poor way to ask for tickets; clearly she wanted them for personal use, not as a potential story. It did seem a little grabby. They should have just said, “no, sorry,” and left it at that.

    Then again, I’m tired of bloggers being, as you put it in another post, the indentured servants of any given industry. We’re not your free content creators just because you send us a pair of socks, PR people. I’ve long said that companies should build good relationships with trustworthy bloggers; it’s the longer view and is more meaningful than the current model of spraying press releases to an entire mailing list of random bloggers.

    Still yet again, there is an endless supply of new bloggers willing to do just about anything for said free pair of socks (or jacket, or tickets, or what have you). It’s a substantial obstacle to the blog world; it can never become a serious, professional, money-producing endeavor because it’s so easy for companies to just go on to the next hungry-for-attention/success blogger. I charge companies to put their logo (ads) on my site, but there are dozens of bloggers who will throw those logos right up there for free. It can get depressing.

    So, I think we’re stuck with debacles like this until the whole thing settles down and bloggers and companies understand what we can and should all being doing for each other.

  15. Jim Lin says:

    Bloggers are not media.

    • Are you sure?

      I have press passes all over the city.

      • Jim Lin says:

        They/we are influential and can shape opinion, but we are very different from media. We sell ourselves (our viewpoints, our insights, our POV, but most importantly, OURSELVES) and we do it sometimes within the context of information. Media exists for a very different reason. Media sells information, and it is done through the entity. When the public/industry misses that distinction, a lot of shit happens. Bloggers and media are all important parts of the conversation mix, but they are distinct and their motivations are different. This is why a blogger can say “pay me $2000 and I will blog about you” while the NYT can’t (without catching shit for it). Personality vs Information. For most cases, and in practice, they are interchangeable, but when bloggers use the title of “media” recklessly, it’s often embarrassing.

  16. Ryan Cox says:

    Sigh. We’ve had this conversation about poorly managed brands @JessicaGottlieb:disqus once or twice. Wowzers.

  17. […] a look at Best Practices: Apologies and Non-Apologies and you’ll see one of hundreds of examples of people not thinking about the consequences of […]

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