Why so many crybabies in politics? We’ve seen so many candidates, elected officials, and other political communicators apologizing recently. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I don’t understand. I’m not perfect.
Somewhere along the line political communicators were taught that America is inherently forgiving and that somehow public opinion is healed through an artful apology.
Of course, in corporate communications and crisis management, a sincere apology can be effective. Especially if you mean it, show remorse, ask for mercy, say you will fix things, and then actually do it.
But so many sorries by so many political figures has diluted the effect. This has now become the first and only reaction to a PR blunder. And they’ve taken the act of contrition to a whole new level. So much so that staffers are apparently brainstorming new and different ways to phrase it.
Companies, nonprofits, even celebrities do not apologize as much as political communicators. And when they apologize, it’s for actions, incidents, or accidents, not communications or personal missteps.
Not only are political communicators apologizing more, they feel they need to apologize for their own talking points or personal life. For those types of mistakes, the apology is almost always avoidable.
So here’s the trick. First-time candidates, seasoned incumbents, press secretaries, and all others take note. Some argue that political communications is done differently than traditional public relations. I’m here to say that it’s that old school thinking that is causing all the whimpering and whining. It’s not different. Companies, nonprofits, even celebrities, all invest in their communications and messaging upfront. They plan for it. They are proactive, not reactive.
So stop saying you’re sorry and start thinking before speaking.
Tara Raeber is a political publicist and communications consultant. She is a veteran of public relations giant Fleishman-Hillard International Communications and the 2008 presidential campaign. Tara is chief strategist and partner at Republicist, a political communications firm in Washington, DC.