The Matt Lauer Apology

I’m going to assume you know the Matt Lauer situation … so I won’t spend time explaining it again. As “The Atlanta PR Guy,” I was curious what folks thought about the situation.

Lauer said in a statement this week:

“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.  As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.  Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.”
So we conducted a quick survey, asking:
1) Do you believe his apology is sincere?
  • 54% said Yes, 46% said No.
2) Do apologies like this carry any weight for you?
  • 63% said No, 37% said Yes,
3) Do you think he would have come forward on his own if a credible accuser hadn’t come forward?
  • 97% said No.
4) How should Lauer have handled this?
  • Made a written statement (that’s what he did) – 61%
  • Held his own press conference – 14%
  • Appeared live on Today – 16%
  • Made no comment at all – 9%

Most who responded to our survey thought his apology was sincere, but a larger percentage don’t feel the apology carries much weight. It’s become standard practice to make a written statement apologizing for your misdeeds. Which leads, of course, into the “carries little weight” part.

I’m sure his PR agency counseled him that making some sort of statement was better than staying silent. The rules of crisis communications encourage companies or individuals to 1) Offer a quick response, 2) Be honest, and 3) Respond as completely as you can. My calculation in his situation would have been that issuing the statement would do little damage, but that it wasn’t likely to have much positive impact.

The elements that are unknown to most of the general public, but likely known to Lauer and his advisors, would include the likelihood of other women coming forward now that the doors are open.

A common comment has been that NBC should have had someone other than Savannah Guthrie make the announcement this week. She and Matt are close friends and the news clearly impacted her. A better strategy would have been to have Lester Holt come on Today to do it. That separation would have helped the “optics” of the news.

Guthrie’s personal pain is understandable when you know how long she’s worked with Lauer. But her delivery focused on the “bad news” of Lauer being fired, rather than the bad news that women at Today have been sexually harassed by this man for years. It diminishes the pain of the woman who came forward.

Continuing the Conversation:

Megyn Kelly offered this week to have the women and Lauer on her segment of Today to discuss the issue. Would that be a good forum?

Should Lauer expert favorable treatment or tougher questions from his former show?

Would he be better off doing an exclusive interview with Oprah?

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