Thought Leadership
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How to apologise (with apologies to Ja Rule... and United)

Hayley Smith
3rd May 2017

The now infamous Fyre Festival has given us so much…

The now infamous Fyre Festival has given us many things. A lesson in pitch deck gibberish being just one. A grade F for event organisation another.

But I want to focus on one particular element of the event that was brought to my attention by this great The Ringer article: Ja Rule's 'apology'.

As a masterclass in the ‘Sorry, not sorry.’ school of apologies, it's peerless.


That text in full:

We are working right now on getting everyone of (sic) the island SAFE that is my immediate concern… I will make a statement soon I'm heartbroken at this moment my partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event it was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting I don't know how everything went so left but I'm working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded… I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT… but I'm taking responsibility I'm deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this…

It's easy enough to critique that stream of consciousness. For one it has next to no punctuation, bar the advanced and frequent use of the ellipsis. But there's also only one typo, so credit where credit is due.

But maximum style points are to be given for the 'sorry, not sorry', which one Twitter user seemed particularly enamoured with:


You will probably also recall the recent United Airlines statement after dragging a doctor off a flight in the US recently. That was another epic 'sorry, not sorry' apology.


Poor lambs. The whole thing was very upsetting for them.

The internet then corrected said apology…


Before CEO Oscar Munoz finally issued a second (proper) apology.


That's better.

The moral of the story?

Apologise once. Apologise properly.

So the United farce ended in a massive lawsuit. The Fyre debacle is still playing out as I write this, but given Fyre is (right now) the most famous media company in the world, I felt it might be time to talk about how media companies should apologise to their clients.

I’ve crafted this list in the style of Ja Rule’s apology for clarity, emphasising key points with CAPITAL LETTERS.

  1. The first rule of apologies is to SAY 'SORRY'. Just 'sorry'. Avoid the temptation to add a 'but'. Just say 'sorry'.

  2. Now that you've admitted culpability and said sorry, you'll need to ensure your next move is to FIX THE PROBLEM. So explain what you're going to do and how you're going to do it.

  3. Next, REASSURE THE WRONGED PARTY THAT YOU WON'T LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN – you might want to suggest some process fixes, but don't worry, this can be detailed later. Reassurance is the key part here.

  4. Finally, really fix the problem. PUT CHECKS AND BALANCES IN PLACE to make sure it really doesn't happen again. Making one mistake can be put down to carelessness, making the same mistake again and again smacks of sabotage.

And that's it. Simple. To the point. Apologise, don't grovel. Tell them how you'll fix it. And then fix it permanently.

Job done. It might seem simple to you or I, but it's clear that some people out there still need a bit of help in 2017…

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