In response to the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, posted an apology to his personal Facebook status last month.
In comparison to apologies made by other top executives in times of crises, I’d say Zuckerberg’s apology was well-executed. While there wasn’t an explicit “we’re sorry,” he did say “we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.” Because the scandal centers around a data breach, I think his detailed explanation of steps Facebook will take to prevent a breach in the future was informative and helpful as a user of Facebook.
In regards to crisis communications, elements of an effective apology from an organization include:
- Acknowledgment of responsibility
- Offer of repair
- Expression of regret
- Explanation of what went wrong
- Declaration of repentance
- Request for forgiveness
Zuckerberg acknowledged responsibility by stating: “I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform.” His offer of repair is thorough as he states three steps in which Facebook will try to prevent instances like this one from happening in the future. His expression of regret may not seem genuine, but Zuckerberg is not generally known as someone with a warm personality. Through a timeline of events, he explains what went wrong with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. He is forward-looking when stating “we will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.” Although he does not explicitly request forgiveness, he encourages users to “continue to believe in [their] mission and work to build this community together.”
Although Zuckerberg does not hit all aspects of the elements of an effective apology, I believe the elements he did touch on were thorough, detailed, honest and transparent.