I’ve never been much for apologies. Let me give you an example.
A few years back, while negotiating the fee for my services with a potential client, we had several spirited discussions about the value of public relations. He had a number in mind, which we can call “x.”
I, too, had a number in mind, which we can call “1.3x.” Our exchanges continued over emails and phone calls, with the two of us never getting remotely close to striking a deal.
In our last call, this titan of business told me, “It’s a shame we’re both so focused on Jewing each other that we won’t end up working together.”
My response to that point, and his accompanying slur, is unfit for this fine family publication. We have never spoken again.
I thought about Mr. Company President this week while reading multiple news items concerning public apologies made by everyone from Hollywood celebrities to religious leaders to politicians to businesses.
Lately, apologies seem to have become as trendy as Porsches, Lululemon workout clothes and those hideous Louis Vuitton handbags—everybody simply has to have one. Some examples from the past few days:
“Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds issued a public apology for his 2012 marriage ceremony to actress Blake Lively, which occurred at a former South Carolina slave plantation. As Reynolds explained to Fast Company magazine, “What we saw at the time was a wedding venue on Pinterest. What we saw after was a place built upon devastating tragedy.”
I’m not sure about the statute of limitations on offensive wedding venues, but eight years might be pushing it. Also, if Reynolds is busy apologizing, how about one for making that truly crappy “Green Lantern” flick?
Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of ultra-evangelical Liberty University, apologized for posting a quickly deleted Instagram picture of himself with his pants unzipped, belly protruding and his arm around an unidentified young woman sporting unzipped microshorts.
The image, apparently taken during a yacht party, drew criticism for appearing to fly in the face of Liberty’s commitment to abstinence and prim Christian behavior.
Said Falwell: “I’ve apologized to everybody. And I’ve promised my kids I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out.”
Such oozing sincerity kind of makes you feel warm inside, no?
Speaking of feeling warm all over, there’s German carmaker Audi.
It apologized this week for an advertisement featuring a young girl in a summer dress and sunglasses leaning on an Audi RS4 while eating a banana. The tagline? “Let your heart beat faster—in every aspect.”
To critics of the ad, the image seemed too sexual or too suggestive or too … something. Audi tweeted out an apology, saying the ad was meant to show “that even for the weakest traffic participants, it is possible to relaxingly lean on the RS technology. That was a mistake! Audi never intended to hurt anyone’s feelings. We sincerely apologize for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future.”
Let the internal investigation into who chose the fruit for that ad commence.
Each of these apologies fails for me—as too late, too dumb or too over the top for something that wasn’t clearly offensive in the first place.
That’s the big problem with apologies: They’re easy to do wrong because they consist of words. As most of our mothers taught us, it’s actions that matter most in this life—what we do as opposed to what we say. Walk the walk, as the cliche goes.
Few things are cheaper than talk—with the possible exception of that jacka-- I’m glad I never took as a client.