You might have heard about the recent news involving MIT, an undisclosed (or simply unknown) amount of e-mails, and the small glimmer of hope that a gaggle of teen geniuses clung to as they awaited the arrival of their very own metallic tube. A small collective “yes” may have well traveled the world as both a sigh of relief and jubilation on February 5, 2014. Well, it was quickly and just as equally quashed. And the response, as you might not have guessed, has been overwhelmingly positive. That’s right: No hard feelings.
The dreams of some of this world’s most promising youth down the proverbial drain and they weren’t even paining for revenge (emotional damages or otherwise). Quite the opposite, actually. They were understanding, altogether sympathetic, of those in the admissions office and of one man in particular. Chris Peterson, self-proclaimed “King of the Internet,” had cultivated a genuine rapport with prospective students visiting the well-trafficked MIT Admissions blog. These students were undoubtedly drawn to Peterson’s honest humor and panache. And so when Peterson, himself, could relate to the suffering of the students—having personally been on the receiving end of a similar mishap—something unexpected and amazing happened. Forgiveness.
“I have never forgotten that. I was rejected form seven of those ten schools, but that
letter hurt the most, not only because it was my first choice, but because the
mistaken identity added insult to injury. It made me feel like they didn’t even care.”
One applicant hopeful, Prachi, chalked up the error to an honest mistake—one that any MIT-material student would have the good sense to pardon. Mahdiazhari Austian, too, said it was no big deal. He thanked Peterson for sharing his personal experience with the group. Aarif Khan even went so far as to praise the busy admissions staff in spending the time explaining the issue.
So, how did this happen? And why didn’t we see a drone death strike? Easy: PR 101.
Be Quick: Peterson addressed the student audience immediately and in a space he knew they would congregate and discuss.
Be Transparent: Peterson detailed what went wrong. He took personal responsibility for the error—though not at all his alone—without blaming anyone.
Be Authentic: Peterson shared an anecdote that was personal and highly relevant. The apology was sincere and honest.