Public Outbursts Intensified By Delayed Apologies

By: Lauren Kuefner & Liz Beresford

Just like everyone else, people in the spotlight often slip up. This past week alone, Americans have witnessed Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, and Kanye West make unfortunate decisions that both abruptly destroyed their public image and jeopardized their careers. Even though it is natural to have angry impulses, politicians, pro-athletes, and celebrities need to maintain their composure, especially when in the media’s watchful eye.

After the actions have occurred, and the media has promptly documented and reported the outbursts, the actions become irreversible. According to public relations professionals, there is only one thing left to do: apologize. It has been proven, especially with these recent events, that the quicker you apologize and the more sincere you are, the more forgiving the media is. The public usually seems to follow their lead.

For example: West could have apologized sooner, as opposed to semi-apologizing through his blogs and twitter account. It was not until Taylor Swift stated on The View that she had never actually received an apology from West directly, that he called her to apologize for his actions. Had he taken immediate responsibility the night of the VMAs or the morning after, perhaps the backlash wouldn’t have been so hard towards him.

Although this type of behavior is more commonly seen in the sports world, it still looks equally disrespectful in the eyes of the public, and is more harshly punished by sport organizations. Williams knows this first hand, after being fined $10,000 for her outburst. Even though she had the opportunity to apologize at the press conference right after the match, similar to West, Williams also delayed her apologies for a number of days, which only hurt her public image further.

Wilson, a politician, apologized once to the president, but refused to apologize again. His refusal to do this resulted in the House of Representatives passing a resolution criticizing Wilson. He stuck to his opinion, stating that although shouting at Obama may have been wrong, he still believes in his statement.  This outburst, although may have gained some contributions to his campaign, overall hurt his political image.

The bottom line is – a prompt and sincere apology is always the best step to take after a negative public display of emotion.

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