Who’s Sorry Now? – The Mediapology Multiplies

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Sir Elton John once famously warbled, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” Yet I tend to disagree with the Rocket Man, especially after he sung at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding and took part in this musical monstrosity. I’d even argue that sorry seems to be quite an easy thing to say – even easier if you’re a big company with a PR firm devoted to full-time damage control.

Last week saw the release of British Petroleum’s “Oops! Our bad!” commercial. The spot features BP CEO Tony Hayward patting himself and his company on the back for responding quickly to the Gulf oil spill disaster. Hayward also notes that BP takes “full responsibility” for the ecological nightmare while promising viewers that the company is doing everything they can to make things better. Aww”¦ What a guy! All kidding aside, anything to come out of the lips of a BP spokesperson will be greeted with a thunderous refrain of “you suck!,” so the situation is a lose-lose.

The oil giant joins a luminous list of companies who recently have unloaded apologies via the media in hopes to save their tarnished images and restore consumer faith. Toyota tried to put an all-better band-aid on their recall disaster a few months back with Internet ads and traditional commercials featuring smiling factory workers whom we are told are making a great product even in difficult times. The carmaker’s effort appears to have worked; sales for Toyota are still strong, though many believe it’s due in large part to discounted financing specials.

Celebrities and journalists, too, have taken to the web and social media lately to apologize for their unsavory or “misconstrued” behavior. When legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas spewed out anti-Semitic remarks last week, the journalism world was in an uproar. At a spry 80-something, Thomas was quickly placed in the Don Imus file and written off as a racist old coot. Thomas, of course, has apologized for her now famous video via the Internet. Suffice it to say, hams brought to a Passover dinner have elicited warmer reactions than her apology. It would be great if Thomas’ ineffective apology put an end to celebs wanting to say “I’m sawwee” online. Yet why hold a press conference and waste mascara on phony tears when you can just tweet your regret from the comfort of your SUV?

With the onslaught of shady behavior followed by the expected apology, the public has become immune to such messages. Our national skepticism demands that we roll our eyes and take to the blogs to sound off. The mediapology has now officially gotten out of hand. With more channels and faster delivery of such “news,” these simple, online apologies have given a green light for stupid actions and hurtful words; after all, they can be fixed later. But what is your take on this phenomenon? Do you buy the sorry package when it’s sold to you? Or do you call bull-shizzle on such blatant PR maneuvers? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

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