The David Politis Company | Seven Crisis Communications Rules for Public Apologies that Work
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Seven Crisis Communications Rules for Public Apologies that Work

17 May Seven Crisis Communications Rules for Public Apologies that Work

One week ago, long-time KUTV evening news anchor Shauna Lake was arrested in Salt Lake County for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence. This past Monday, Lake was formally charged with a DUI misdemeanor count in Murray Justice Court and issued two other misdemeanors related to her arrest.

Last night Lake issued an on-air apology to the public. Here is the video of that statement.

A message from me

A message from me.

Posted by Shauna Lake on Tuesday, May 16, 2017

After reviewing this statement several times, I am now convinced this is one of the best Public Apologies by a Public Figure I have ever witnessed.

Here are are my Seven Crisis Communication Rules that you can use should you ever find yourself needing to make things right, whether as a Celebrity / Public Figure, an Elected Official, as a Corporate Officer, or as a Public Relations / Marketing Professional advising someone else.

1. Fess Up if you Mess Up

One of the truths about being human is that we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, one of the other truisms about human beings is that when we screw-up, our first inclination is often to hide what we’ve done.

This is a terrible idea, especially if you are in the public eye or are someone that might be considered a Public Figure. And in today’s fast moving, hyperconnected and Social Media-driven world, a lot of people are now Public Figures

  • even if they themselves don’t recognize this fact, and
  • even if that public profile is limited to their LinkedIn Connections or FacebookFriends.

So if/when you make a mistake “in public,” you need to acknowledge that mistake “in public” as well.

Photo by Klaus Hausmann via Pixabay


2. The Weight of the Apology Needs to Match the Weight of the Disclosure

Because she has been an on-air TV journalist in the Salt Lake market for over 20 years, Lake’s arrest was widely covered by news outlets throughout Utah. In fact, Mark Koelbel (Lake’s co-anchor at KUTV) was the individual called upon at the station to share news about Lake’s arrest during a 10 p.m. newscast.

As a result (and because her arrest was so visible), Lake needed to make a similarly high-profile Public Apology in order for her to have a reasonable chance of counterbalancing the news about her arrest.

Could she and/or KUTV opted instead to hold a Press Conference to issue this Public Apology? Yes. However, Lake’s role as a top news anchor in the state provided her with an excellent (and safe) venue for delivering a Public Apology, one assured to receive coverage from other news outlets. And it did.

3. You Must Apologize; That Means “Admitting Your Mistake”

According to, the first definition of apology is

a written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse or

sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured or wronged another.


Lake covered this step masterfully by humbly and pointedly stating, “I am ashamed and humiliated by my decision.”

4. You Must Say You Are Sorry

To her viewers, Lake simply said, “I let you down, and for that, I am sorry.”

And to her co-workers and business associates, Lake added, “I also let my KUTV family down … I offer my deepest apologies to my colleagues …”

Check. And Check.

5. You Must Appear to Be Contrite

For others to be willing to

  • Accept your apology, and
  • Forgive you,

you must (at a minimum) appear to be contrite. Lake did.

Tears don’t hurt either, and Lake shed those as well.

6. You Must Speak Directly to the Camera

When you apologize, you must directly address those you have harmed.

In a face-to-face setting that means you must look into their eyes and not off to the side.

Similarly, if you are being videotaped / recorded, you must look directly into the camera.

{NOTE: If your Public Apology occurs before more than one video camera, my best advice is to look directly ahead for the majority of your statement. Do this until it is time to actually say “I am sorry” or “I apologize,” at which point I recommend making such statements first to the left, then to the center, and then to the right. This way cameras in each sector will have the image of you speaking directly to the viewers, and that is what you want.}

7. Ask For Forgiveness

Last of all, you must ask those you have harmed to forgive you. This applies both to individuals and organizations.

If you leave out this critical component of making a Public Apology you will have shortchanged both yourself and those you hurt.

Lake nailed this as well when at the end of her statement she said, “What I did was wrong” and “I just hope that over time … you can learn to trust me again.”


What’s fascinating about these 7 Crisis Communications Rules is that most of us are quite willing to forgive others, especially if they follow the seven steps outlined above.

Hopefully, you will never Mess Up so badly that you need to Fess Up in public by issuing a Public Apology. But if you do, I hope you will find hope and courage in these Rules, as well as in the example set by Shauna Lake.

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What do you think? Am I off-base or on point here? Please share your thoughts / comments below.

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A marketing and communications expert, David L. Politis recently published his first book  —  66 RULES for Publicity Success: Boost Your Company’s Value for Pennies on the Dollar. David currently helps clients address their crises, publicity and marketing challenges through The David Politis Company.


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