How to Write a Good Corporate Apology

Social media, especially for brands, has become a two-way street like never before. When a company missteps, it hears about it, in quantity. And when that company tries to make it right, it can be a huge lesson in real communication.

If you know or follow artsy people online — writers, illustrators, costume creators, musicians, anybody who makes things — you may have seen calls to become a Patreon supporter. The website has become a lifeline for many creatives by enabling fans (patrons) to give money directly to the artists they enjoy, often in exchange for exclusive access or content. Whether they make a few extra dollars or a few hundred, the platform can give artists the breathing room they need to focus on their work.

Patreon itself, of course, is a business, and earlier this month it decided it needed to change the way it supports itself through the fees it collects. Rather than taking a percentage from artists, Patreon was now going to charge supporters to make up the difference. The uproar was immediate: Not only had fundamental changes been made very quickly and with no notice, but the new structure penalized its most vulnerable users.

This week, Patreon finally responded with a short and deeply contrite blog post: "We messed up. We're sorry, and we're not rolling out the fees change." The title alone does a lot of heavy lifting, but the body of the statement also features some important components. Patreon acknowledges the outcry and the validity of the outcry — especially artists' genuine loss of income — while still pointing out that the company needs to address how it structures payments. It then invites its clients to help it be better through direct input, and recognizes that while the company has mishandled its customers' trust, it wants to pursue its core mission more than ever.

Patreon has also taken it upon itself to do the work of winning back lost patrons for its clients. They've instituted an easy means of repledging that requires as little work as possible from both the artist and the patron. As far as corporate apologies go, this one combines regret, understanding, and action steps for improvement — all good to keep in mind for any missteps in the future.