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How to Make Things Right When You or Your Company Causes Offense

We’ve all seen it happen: a marketing campaign goes awry with content that offends a representative group. An employee inadvertently sends an insensitive tweet from the company account. An unpleasant incident between an employee and a customer in a brick-and-mortar business goes viral.

In the age of social media, every company is at risk of accidentally causing offense and going viral for the wrong reason. That’s why every company should consider how to handle such an incident in advance. Here are three actions any plan should include. 

Listen to your audience.

When receiving negative feedback about a statement or action that offended people, your first reaction might be defensive. You may want to downplay the incident or dismiss it as an example of “cancel culture” run amok. However, it’s essential to understand where your audience is coming from. Listen to your audience to determine what they found offensive–but also try to understand how the offense fits into a bigger picture and pattern, especially in terms of historical racism, homophobia, sexism, or ableism. Show your audience you’re listening to them and want to do better. 

Own your mistakes. 

A timely public response that shows an acceptance of responsibility is vital. Company leaders must show that they understand where the brand went wrong and how they intend to address the issue. Depending on the nature of the incident, it may be beneficial to release a thoughtfully-crafted apology from the CEO in a public letter, press release, or on social media. In other cases, it may be better to put a human face on the company and release a short apology video from the CEO or another team leader. A sincere apology can help calm rising fury and regain control of the narrative.

Put your money where your mouth is. 

If you’ve assured your audience that the company will take action to prevent similar incidents, follow through on your words. Get to the bottom of the broader issue that gave rise to the offense, take steps to fix the problem, and let the public know what you’re doing. Showing genuine regret and change is the key to regaining the customers’ trust. 

At Ebony Marketing Systems, we are experts at designing and conducting multicultural research that meets your company’s unique needs. We tailor our work to best suit you, the communities you serve, and those you want to serve. For more information, call us at (718)742-0006 or send us a message today.

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