Shaun Johnson and online apologies

22 November 2017

You may be aware that Kiwi Rugby League star Shaun Johnson recently apologised on Facebook after comments he made after the NZ loss to Fiji last week implied that fans had got what they wanted.


How effective was his apology?

Firstly, good on him for apologising. It was the right thing to do and I think it has worked well for him. However, there were two things with it that could have been better and these are things anyone should be aware of when writing statements that can be picked up by media.


The statement itself was 360 words long. While that’s good for those who took the time to go to Facebook to read the statement, most people would only read what the news media take out of the statement for their stories and they will only ever take snippets. So the more you say, the more you are giving media the control over what to select from the statement.

Luckily for Johnson, I believe they will have taken exactly what he would have wanted them to. But it’s best not to give them the choice. You do need to make it interesting for media, but the shorter it is, the more control you have. It also means fans will remember what he said.

Too many points

This relates to the last paragraph. Johnson followed up his apology with an attack on social media trollers. While it’s easy to understand his frustration with them, it wasn’t necessary because it diluted the focus on his apology. By doing this, the news media could have focused on his attack on trollers and ignored the apology or diluted the emphasis on it. Readers of the post may also have remembered the troller attack more than the apology.


How does this affect you?

This advice isn’t just for high profile people making apologies on social media. If you are sending anything to media, be as brief as possible and focus on as few points as possible. That way, you have more control over what is used. But always remember that it must be interesting. The best way to help yourself is to help the media get a good story.

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Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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