Business Briefs: Apologies as Performance Art, Computer CEOs & Social Media’s Communication Impact

Welcome to Business Briefs! The world of academic publications features fascinating findings from real-world experiments in business and the marketplace. Here are some key takeaways and applicable nuggets of knowledge that may be helpful for your business.

Apologies as Performance Art

Accidents happen. Any business can make a mistake, and if that mistake catches the public eye, then the apology probably has to be equally public. Apologies then become a crisis communication. 

In a December article published in Public Relations Review, an analyst from Western Michigan University disassembled a public apology to gain a better understanding of how crisis-based apologies work in the business world.  

The case reviewed was the removal of Dr. Dao from a United Airlines flight. You may remember the story: The flight was overbooked, United couldn’t get passengers to voluntarily accept vouchers for later flights, so the airline physically removed seated passengers. Dr. Dao didn’t cooperate with his removal, and airline security forcibly drug him off the plane. It wasn’t a good look for United. 

The first public response from the United CEO on Monday morning was a “non-apology,” a statement that included this phrase “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers…”

That didn’t go over well. Then a letter to employees was leaked: That letter’s position was that United was not the cause of the incident. That made things worse. 

On Tuesday, the CEO tried a new approach, one based on what’s termed a mortification strategy: He acknowledged that the event was “horrific,” and followed up with a “deepest apology for what happened. This time, there was an acceptance of United’s responsibility as well. 

On Wednesday, the apology went further, listing all the people owed an apology, including “Dr. Dao, his family, the passengers on the flight, our customers, our employees.” There was also a promise that it will never, ever happen again. 

The apology tour continued on media outlets throughout the week. And this tour, the analysis suggests, is a critical contributor to the ultimate acceptance of the apology: Unceasing repetition. 

In viewing the apology and its reactions, the analyst concluded that effective apologies require something more than thoughtful language use: “Apologies require empathy; the narrative has to be well performed.”

Read more here

A Blame Narrative Approach to Apologetic Crisis Management: The Serial Apologiae of United Airlines – Keith Hearit, Public Relations Review

Our CEO is a Computer

Developments in AI and automation* have created a world in which more decisions are made by computers. It’s not science fiction: it’s today. Think about self-driving cars: Decisions that used to belong to drivers, are now assigned to vehicles. 

So, it seems perfectly reasonable to believe that more workplace decisions could fall to computers as well. Think about it. Automated administrative decisions could mean more efficiency and speed. 

But can we trust automated leaders? That’s the question posed by researchers who surveyed 333 workers representing fields that included healthcare, education, technology and manufacturing. The workers were presented with hypothetical scenarios involving mentoring or discipline, and automated or human leadership. 

The results of the survey indicated that participants viewed automated leadership as having more integrity and transparency. BUT, human leadership was seen as more adaptable and benevolent. This observation about human leadership led the workers to view human leadership as significantly more trustworthy.  

And trust is the essential component for workplace success. 

*Interesting side question: Is automation the same thing as AI? Not quite. Automation is more targeted towards repetitive tasks, while AI is constantly expanding as it takes in new user information. So one is fixed, the other is evolving. 

Read more here

The Automation of Leadership Functions: Would PeopleTrust Decision Algorithms? – Miriam Höddinghaus, Dominik Sondern, & Guido Hertel, Computers and Human Behavior

Social Media and Communication Habits

Marketing researchers conducted a survey using convenience sampling to collect 204 responses about how social media affects how we communicate in this world. Respondents in the survey were mostly young: 82% were under 35. 

In terms of favorite social media, the top two were Instagram (used by 81%) and Facebook (used by 60%).  

Of the respondents:

  • 90% agreed or strongly agreed that social media influenced how we speak and write. 
  • 90% used emojis in communication.
  • 62% agreed or strongly agreed that social media minimized or nullified face-to-face interactions. 
  • 75% paid attention to grammar rules in their communication

In open commentary, respondents added that social media is an accessible way to connect people, and it can fuel good conversations. Changes in how we communicate can inform messaging and marketing initiatives. 

Read more here

The Impact of Social Media on How we Communicate – Noelle Defede, Nina Marie Magdaraog, Sakshi Chiragbhai Thakkar, & Gulhan Bizel, International Journal of Marketing Studies