I’ll be very honest, I haven’t paid nearly as much attention to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal as I probably should have. The extent of my knowledge was that there was a data breach and that the Internet blew up with memes about Mark Zuckerberg being a robot. I’ve now looked farther into the crisis, including Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook apology.
What makes a good apology?
From a public relations stand point, there are multiple factors that make up a good apology. These factors include:
- Acknowledgement of responsibility
- Offer to repair
- Expression of regret
- Explanation of what went wrong
- Declaration of repentance
- Request for forgiveness
So.. was Zuckerberg’s apology effective?
Mark Zuckerberg hit many of the elements of a good apology. First, he explained what went wrong with a detailed timeline of events starting in 2007. Next, he gave a detailed explanation of what Facebook was doing to repair the situation. He discussed the measures Facebook has already implemented to make sure nothing like this happens again. Zuckerberg also took full responsibility for the situation by claiming, “I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform.” I felt that this was a very important statement because he didn’t attempt to pass blame on anyone or anything else. He did miss a few elements of a good apologizing, and he never explicitly said “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.”
How well was his apology perceived by the public?
We can sit here and discuss how Zuckerberg handled his apology according to PR rules all day, but in the end that’s not what matters. What matters is whether Facebook users accepted the apology or not.
I decided to look through the comments under the Facebook apology, and I found very mixed reviews. On one side, there were many users who were thanking Zuckerberg for his direct response addressing the situation and were actually singing their praises for Facebook. On the other side, there were people who felt the apology was not enough. Within that group, some people didn’t like that he never used the words “apologize” or “sorry.” Other people wanted something more personal than just a Facebook post, to which Zuckerberg did respond to say he would be doing an interview with CNN.
In the end, it’s not possible to please absolutely everyone. I believe that Zuckerberg did a fair job of apologizing. There was definitely room for improvements, including an explicit “I’m sorry” or “I apologize,” but overall this apology was much better than I expected.