Corporate Apologies: When is it too late to apologize?

Can a corporation’s apology ever come too late?

Crisis communications often involve apologies. Apologies are less science and more art – and much more, matters of the heart.

What to say, when to say it, and to whom are primary considerations. Timing can be tricky, and it raises this question:

Is it ever too late to apologize?

This past Sunday, an apology waited on for 70 years for finally came forth. At a ceremony in Los Angeles, James Murphy, a 94-year old U.S. prisoner of war, accepted an apology from Mitsubishi Materials for using American POWs for forced labor during World War II.

According to the Associated Press, Mitsubishi executives said they felt a “deep sense of ethical responsibility for a past tragedy.” Through a translator, executives offered a “most remorseful apology” to approximately 900 POWs who suffered “harsh, severe hardships.”

Was this apology too little, too late?

Not for the POWs wanting and accepting the apology.

According to the AP, the apology was considered “sincere, humble and revealing.” James Murphy said the words “touch the heart.”

Importantly, the apology was not presented with qualification or with self-promotion. It contained all the important elements of apologies: according to James Murphy, the apology “admits to wrongdoing, makes sincere statement showing deep remorse,” and assures that such wrongs will never happen again.

An apology has incredible power to bring healing and hope to those waiting to receive it — regardless of time passed, even 70 years. And for the corporation making the apology, it’s a time to come clean, move beyond what was, and share a compelling vision of what’s to come.

See the full AP article here.