He should have apologised immediately. He should have meant it. He should have shown what he’s done to educate himself, and to make amends. He should have fronted the media, and accepted interview requests.
A full mea culpa was the only way to go.
Simon Henry, the CEO of chemicals company DGL, did none of this.
Instead, after calling My Food Bag’s Nadia Lim “Eurasian fluff” in an extraordinary interview with NBR, he went to ground, refusing to release an apology until it leaked to media yesterday, a full seven days after Henry’s comments were first reported.
It was too little, too late, says one Auckland-based media advisor.
“I don’t think the apology that he gave shows that he believes he’s in the wrong,” said Chris Henry (no relation), the managing director of PR company 818. “You need to mean it, and understand why it’s offensive, so you can learn from your mistake.”
Refusing to speak for seven days magnified the situation. “By leaving that space around it, he was essentially doing it without saying it again. He was leaving his statement on the record by not apologising,” Chris Henry said.
Simon Henry looked bad, but the damage could spread to his associates. “I feel for the people that are around him, trying to execute business and are trying not to get involved in it but are pulling their hair out saying, ‘Why don’t you make this go away?'” said Chris Henry.
Right now, it’s unlikely to die down any time soon. That two-line apology has just made things worse. Is there any coming back from this? Chris Henry says it’s impossible to sweep the issue under the rug, but a proper apology, a lengthy statement, perhaps via a blog post, or LinkedIn, could help end the constant news cycles, “Something that explains how he’s come to the realisation that what he’s done is wrong, what he’s learned from the situation and how that will affect his behaviour moving forward.”
But, he cautioned, Simon Henry has to mean it. “He has to be sorry, and he has to come to that decision himself, otherwise it’s disingenuous.”