Monday, June 6, 2011

Public Apology - The New Media Way

Traditionally, public apologies are done through
advertisements in newspapers
. [Pic]

Just how should you say sorry?

Last week, an active Malaysian blogger, Fahmi Fadzil was ordered to apologize not once but 100 times. Besides having to say sorry numerous times, Fahmi had to do it in a rather unusual way.

It all started in January this year when Fahmi tweeted about a pregnant female friend whom he said had been treated badly by her employers at Female Magazine.

Today, public apologies can be made via the new media. [Pic]

The magazine publisher Blu Inc Media was not amused and threatened to take legal action. Somehow, the defamation row reached a settlement in March and Fahmi agreed to make a public apology.

However, Fahmi was unable to pay for an advertisement in the newspapers but Blu Inc Media, a subsidiary of SPH Magazines, was not relenting. So the parties agreed to move on to the new media.

Fahmi was ordered to apologize 100 times in Twitter over three days at regular intervals. That means his apology updates had to come on every 35 minutes. He said in one of his tweets 'No sleep till 100!'.

Fahmi reached an unusual settlement for a defamation row
with publisher Blu Inc Media.

He started his 1/100 tweet on 2 Jun at 9.00 A.M., saying "I've DEFAMED Blu Inc Media and Female Magazine. My tweets on their HR Policies are untrue. I retract those words and hereby apologize".

At the end of day one (2 Jun), he managed 26 tweets and continued into day two (3 Jun). He was mid way at 50/100 on 3 Jun at 1.35 P.M and started his day three (4 Jun) with his 68/100 tweet. He finally completed his 100/100 tweet on 4 Jun at 6.45 P.M.

Fahmi apologized 100 times over three days.

Out of court settlements are usually seen as a win-win outcome. In this case, Blu Inc Media received the apology they felt they deserve. As for Fahmi, besides avoiding a court proceeding and possibly some legal punishments, he also gained some unintended prominence from his 100 tweets. Over the three days, he earned at least 1,000 followers. As a social activist, Fahmi has certainly 'benefited' from the amicable settlement as well.

While I am somewhat amused by this bizarre and yet innovative settlement, I am reminded that we are in an era, transiting from the old to the new media. Many old school thinking and teaching are now being challenged and some are already in trash bins.

Is it appropriate to make a public apology
over Facebook or Twitter?

The art of public apology has to be unlearned and relearned. It is no longer good enough to fall back on issuing a media release and hoping that the public would pick up the message fast enough before further damage is caused. 

Company public relation experts know well that public apology is important especially in crisis situations. However, not everyone has learned to handle it well, especially over the new media. Many organizations are still seeing social media as a less formal platform to interact with their customers. They are still deliberating if it would be appropriate to make a public apology via popular social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

Personally, how an apology is delivered is not as important as how effectively it is received. If saying sorry over Facebook or Twitter helps to pacify upset customers better and faster, why hesitate? One thing we cannot ignore about social media is its viral effect. We either make it work for us or let it destroy us.

Most things are designed to work for us. We just have to learn how to use them the right way.

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." ~W Edwards Deming~

Fahmi's Twitter feed is at

News reports:

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