Applying Crisis And Risk Communication To Apologizing By Looking At H&M’s Mistakes

There is an art to apologizing and most people learned he simply, “ I’m sorry.” When they are younger and then followed by being taught how to forgive. As we all get older we realize that it is not as simple as that. Once your older situations get stickier and stickier and apologizing gets harder. When you are a large corporation most people do not forgive and forget the past mistakes they have made. By looking at the mistakes others have made we can apply them to risk communication and prevent it from happening to us.

In 2018 H&M released a new product of clothing in London. The hoodie came in multiple colors, was $7.99 and read “ Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” At first not much came of it until social media blasted them all over the internet because the model for the hoodie was a young, African American boy. The audience said it was racially insensitive.

H&M did not respond in the best way they possibly could have. This crisis blew up fast through social media and everyone was waiting just to see how H&M would handle the situation. The first mistake H&M made was hiring a spokesperson to make a public apology by doing a press conference with the Washington Post. Instead, they should have someone incorporate that worked for the company to apologize to make it more personal instead of someone who is trained to say sorry they could have helped prepped someone from the inside to not seem insensitive.

The spokesperson they hired apologized for the photo ever being taken, ever being printed and being sold globally. They proceed to say they would investigate the mistake and discuss prevention tactics then went on to say, “Even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists.” They went on to hire multiple people to help avoid and help in crises by using risk and crisis communication. H&M learned that the main way to solve a problem is to prevent it from happening and perfect the apology for a situation before you have to give it. Everyone also should be trained that is high up in the company so that even if intentions were good in a pinch can give a quick and sincere apology. The longer a situation festers online the worse it gets.

Since the apology was insincere and was not from someone who even works for or at H&M the backlash from mainly people on Twitter was insane. The parents of the child who was in the photo were never publicly addressed either. After the one statement, H&M pushed on and treated the event as if it never happened. So now looking at what they did wrong we can apply risk communication and know what to do right.

First, prevent having to hire a spokesperson by training the top people in the company on how to act quickly and be ready to speak on an incident when it comes up. This way you will seem sincere and as if you recognize the situation so you won’t let it happen again. Second address the people that were affected in the process. Both the boy in the photo and the parents of the boy were not addressed in the apology for how this may have affected them. Third, do not ignore or act as if the situation never happened. Even though they did not have the intention to be racist does not mean the ad was not. Releasing a statement of the progress they have made going forward or what actions they have taken since could benefit them because the customers will see they are not just trying to sweep this under the rug and use ignoring as their main tactic. You always want to try and prevent risk communication, but when it comes down to it sometimes crises do happen and in that scenario, you have to act fast and apologize sincerely otherwise Twitter and other social media platforms will never let you live it down.

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Remington Loyd

Remington Loyd

I’m a student at Missouri Western State University majoring in convergent journalism.