Just Apologize and Avoid Running Into A Communication Crisis

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

I have come to the realization that we live in an extremely forgiving society, if you would just admit your mistakes and apologize.

So why do so many people struggle with the “I’m sorry?”

Public figures — especially — need to understand the basics of crisis communication. When you make a mistake, you need to apologize, fix it and move on.

Here we have two elected officials who have found themselves in the proverbial “hot water” because of bad judgments and bad behavior. One apologizes and the other does not.

Following President Obama’s State of the Union address, in a Capitol office, a New York reporter was interviewing Congressman Michael Grimm. Apparently, the New York Republican became very angry when asked about an investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising activities, so he threatened to throw the reporter, Michael Scotto, off a balcony.

Less than 48 hours later, Grimm apologized to Scotto. In a statement, he said he was wrong and let his emotions get the better of him. Grimm noted that Scotto accepted the apology and the two planned to have lunch in the near future.

This story goes away. In the world of journalism, it has no legs.

Then there is Detroit City Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry, Jr., who appears to have gotten “special treatment” when police pulled him over in January.

Cushingberry said he’d been pulled over for “driving while black,” but, according to police reports, Cushingberry stopped his vehicle after being pulled over, but then attempted to start it again. At that point, an officer reached into the vehicle, grabbed the keys and noticed a strong smell of marijuana.

Officers also spotted a half cup of alcohol and an empty rum bottle in the backseat. He had just left the Penthouse Lounge in Detroit. However, police never determined if he was under the influence, as he was not given a sobriety test.

As for the weed in the car, Cushingberry said his passenger has a medical marijuana card. The liquor bottle, he said, was old.

Even though he did not face charges, the incident turned into an ongoing story and left a stain on an already soiled city.

Instead of apologizing like a professional should, he fought back. Days later, the story continued with Fox 2 reporter M.L. Elrick being pushed into a wall by Detroit police at the time Cushingberry arrived at a city council meeting.

A video clearly shows the officers clearing a path for Cushingberry, while pushing Elrick aside, and Cushingberry walks by without even glancing over.

If only Cushingberry had left his ego at the door, apologized for the initial incident, taken responsibility for his actions and moved on, the story would have ended. In fact, if he had done the right thing following the initial incident, Elrick most likely would not have showed up to city council.

The story would have had no legs.

Instead, his arrogance and ignorance turned a one-day story into an ongoing saga.

Yet again, we have an elected leader failing to say, “I’m sorry.” In the process, he gets no forgiveness, no sympathy and no respect.

Now, for a story that shouldn’t have any legs, the marathon continues.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

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