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May 22, 2015
Make Sympathy Statements Heartfelt, Or Not At All
 
If you’re not attuned to expressing empathy – walking in someone else’s shoes – don’t be the spokesperson in a crisis. That’s the lesson that Thomas Cook, the travel firm, provides after its CEO was asked to apologize to the parents of two young children who were killed on a Cook-sponsored tour to Greece.

“I feel incredibly sorry for the family – incredibly sorry. But I don’t have to apologize,” said Peter Fankhauser, Cook’s chief executive. “I feel so thoroughly, from the deepest of my heart, sorry but there’s no need to apologize because there was no wrongdoing by Thomas Cook.”

Calibrating a sympathy statement like this doesn’t do it. The children were killed, the Drum reports, by fumes from a faulty hotel boiler, and the Cook tour presumably brought the family to the hotel. Hedging emotions to protect a corporate image is a mistake, it simply is.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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