Expert Q&A from Southern Utah University
Are there any resources available for people interested in public apology? (1)
There are many books and journal articles examining individual apologies, but I recently noticed there wasn't a specific website dedicated to archiving the most prominent examples of image repair in our culture.
With the help of some grant money, I created Public Apology Central (www.publicapologycentral.com). The website is the web's best source for crisis summaries, transcripts, videos, and audio of public apologies (apologia) from politicians, celebrities, athletes, organizations, religious leaders, media figures, heads of state, and lay citizens. Although the term "apology" means taking responsibility, apologia includes a variety of defensive strategies used by those accused of wrongdoing, including denial (“I didn’t do it), shifting blame (“He did it”), minimization (“It wasn’t that bad”), and mortification (“I’m sorry”). The site deals with all forms of persuasive defense and not simply “apology,” where one takes responsibility for his or her actions.
The site also contains a wealth of educational resources for those interested in this type of rhetoric, including definitions of the key strategies, some data on recent trends in apology, examples of apologia in movies, and a reference list of the most noteworthy publications on apology.
How has public apology changed with the advent of new technology and social media? (1)
Not only has technology changed the way people apologize, but it has also functioned to increase the overall number of apologies. I recently completed (with my colleague Dr. Matt Barton) a fairly comprehensive content analysis of over four hundred apologies from the past century and discovered that the sheer number of apologies is on the rise. Our sample contained 554 apologies between 1920 and 2000 and 1,584 apologies after the year 2000.
Are people in the 21st century more socially deviant than previous generations? I don't think so. I think that technology has placed a spotlight on offensive behaviors. It's simply harder to get away with things than it used to be. Technology, particularly social media, has also changed the way people apologize. For example, public relations professionals have to be bothered that they craft careful messages for their clients only to find that the client posts contradictory (and much less polished) statements on Facebook or Twitter. This certainly occurred with Kanye West after he grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. West was contrite in his interview with Jay Leno where he said, "It was very…it was rude, period. And, you know, I’d like to be able to apologize to her in person, and, you know, I’m going to do that.” However, on his Twitter feed, he posted: "I’m sorry to my fans if I let you guys down! I’m sorry to my friends at mtv. I will apologize to taylor 2mrw. welcome to the real world! everybody wanna booooo me but i’m a fan of real pop culture!"
So clearly social media apologies look different from traditional apologies offered in interviews and press releases. Some argue they are more authentic because they do not come from the public figure's "handlers," and I would agree there can be great value in this level of authenticity. However, the strategies on social media must be consistent with other released statements and these public figures are sometimes too emotional to be able to objectively determine which strategies are the best choice for repairing their images.
What are the best strategies to use when attempting to repair image after a public scandal? (1)
There are no easy answers to this question and public relations professionals are sometimes confounded any time a new scandal arises. Just when they think they've got a good playbook in place for dealing with controversy, someone will come along and do something crazy like Justin Timberlake tearing off Janet Jackson's shirt during a Super Bowl halftime performance or crematorium owner Ray Marsh stacking up corpses behind his place and business and giving the relatives urns of concrete rather than the remains.
Aristotle defined rhetoric as "the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion." This means that professionals have to be somewhat flexible in developing strategies for image repair. An awareness of what scandals have occurred before and what strategies were used in hundreds of cases should help one to hone in on just the right combination of strategies. That being said, there are some strategies that are generally more effective than others.
The first of these is the strategy of mortification, wherein one takes full responsibility for his/her actions. A person accused of wrongdoing should say "I'm sorry for what I've done. Please forgive me." Often, however, people will waffle on this strategy and say things that evade responsibility, such as "I'm sorry you were offended" or "I regret that this incident occurred." Other times, they will combine their mortification with other evasive strategies, such as provocation ("He made me do it") or minimization ("The thing I did was not that bad"). Sometimes the accused person is limited in what responses he/she can provide because of specific elements of the context. If a person was caught on video doing something egregious, he/she can't say the act didn't happen or that it was less significant than it appeared to be for audiences who watched the video. In short, a good rule of thumb is to take full responsibility and to offer some form of corrective action (restitution). It sounds so simple and you might wonder why anybody would pay consultants for this advice. Well, people are not good at following advice because their pride sometimes gets in the way and they can't resist the temptation to use strategies that detract from the sincerity of their apologies.
What does a Dean of Students do? (1)
The Dean of Students Office at Southern Utah University provides solutions, services, and support to help students navigate the university setting. The Office serves as a student support network by focusing on students’ educational, social, and personal development; we promote academic success and student retention.
The Office also provides advocacy, problem resolution, and critical incident intervention when additional assistance is needed, including conduct issues on our campus.
What is Southern Utah University Known For? (1)
Southern Utah University is a university in Cedar City, Utah. The university is known for personalized education and top programs include nursing, business, aviation, criminal justice, psychology, outdoor recreation and theater. The University has been recognized as one of the nation’s “Colleges of Distinction” and U.S. News has ranked SUU among the “Best in the West.” The Princeton Review has declared SUU one of the “Best Regional Colleges” on nine occasions and awarded SUU with “America’s Best Value” on four.