Rupert Murdoch should apologize for his apology ad.

News Corp’s CEO’s apology ad isn’t as good as the competition.
While every “OMG! We’re soooooo sorry…” corporate response is unique to specific crises, we can always look forward to the apology ad that we know will run soon after any organizational “Ooops” has been discovered.

Toyota did it.
BP did it.
Exxon did it.
Maple Leaf did it.
United did it.
Heck, even Tiger did it (kinda).

And now, Rupert Murdoch has done it.

He just didn’t do it as well as he should have. Here’s what he should have done:

Go on TV
Sure, this was a newspaper issue but Murdoch still should have gone on TV. A responsible CEO doesn’t hide behind the page, they step in front of the camera. While a professional probably wrote BP CEO Tony Hayward’s script, at least he was the one who stood up and said it. Rupert Murdoch may have approved the News Corporation print ad that ran but I’m sure his involvement beyond that was pretty limited.

Acknowledge what happened.
After the summer of 2000, United Airlines Chairman Jim Goodwin appeared in an apology commercial and clearly identified the issue he was actually apologizing for. “This summer, thousands of people had their travel plans disrupted while flying United Airlines.” Murdoch, on the other hand, referred to his massive ethical breach of privacy with the nondescript, “We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred.” 

“Wrongdoing”? That’s a nice low-level sin, catch-all phrase that also includes my dog urinating on your lawn. “Dear Frankie Flowers: I apologize for my dog doing his wrongdoing on your daffodils.”

Identify what’s happening.
After the recall of thousands of cars (and countless late night monologue jokes), Toyota clearly stated what was happening in their paid-for media mea culpa: “We have a fix for our recalls. We stopped production. Our technicians are making repairs. We’re working around the clock.” Murdoch  was a tad more elusive: “In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve the issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.”

Or put another way, “We’re looking into it.”

Inspire confidence about what’s to come.
Once the heartfelt apology has been accepted (or not), the public needs to feel confident that whatever must be done to both solve the problem and ensure it never happens again, will be done.
Tony Hayward ended with, “We will get this done. We will make this right.”
Jim Goodwin said, “We’re reducing our flight schedule so we don’t make promises we can’t keep.”
Rupert Murdoch said, “Oh, crikey. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”

You may be able to own the news, Rupert but when it comes to the ads, please consult a professional.

Here are some apology ads mentioned above.


  1. I suspect that the difference between Rupe and the other CEOs is that they are (however elevated) salarymen, whereas Rupe created and built NewsCorp. The other distinction is that while BP, Toyota, UA etc. are essentially businesses seeking the usual growth in shareholder value, etc., NewsCorp actively seeks to influence the political scene in the countries in which it operates. And while all big companies do that to an extent through lobbyists, etc., he does it at an enormously higher level via mass media news and entertainment vehicles. The resulting complexity of issues is probably too big for any PR/ad agency to deal with.

    In any event, I don’t think Rupe is in the least bit sorry, he’s merely angry that all this shit flying about is putting a spike in some of his loftier plans. I suspect he’s not very receptive to “media training” that no doubt Edelman tries to put him through, or to being told what the “messaging strategy” is.

    Talk about the client from hell.

    • Ron

      Good point. I agree that he’s above the others and certainly has more ambitious plans. There is still a right way and a wrong way to do it. He just doesn’t care. He’s too focused on his 24 hour infomercial for the Republican party known as Fox News.

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