Company Apology Lessons from Kickstarter

Kickstarter Apology

Things happen quickly and publicly in the digital world. This is great news when things go your way, but when mistakes happen, those happen quickly and publicly, too.

Last week Kickstarter experienced the latter scenario when they received word of a campaign that many people found offensive and inappropriate. The campaign was a so-called “seduction guide” that, as this blog post explains, goes several steps too far and promotes violent behavior toward women. That blog post made its way to Kickstarter staff, and they immediately launched into action with an apology post.

If you find your brand in a sticky online situation that merits a public apology, this six-step approach will help you communicate effectively and genuinely with your audience.

1. Explain what happened.

When you release a public apology, you can’t expect everyone to know exactly what led up to this situation. Take the time to include a straightforward description of exactly what happened. In Kickstarter’s apology they give a play-by-play of the situation, including how the offensive material was brought to their attention and exactly where their mistake happened.

“The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t.”

2. Admit that you were wrong.

Instead of defending actions, just come out and say it.

“We were wrong.”

3. Explain why the mistake happened.

It’s helpful to let your community know the missteps that led up to the issue. Kickstarter’s blog post pointed to two reasons why the campaign was not cancelled: the timing was tight, and typically their policy is to respect the artistic freedom of creators.

4. Clarify your company policy.

An apology is one thing, but it’s important to share the company’s official, documented stance on situations of this nature. Kickstarter goes on to state its policy on pro-violence campaigns:

“Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter.”

5. What happens next?

So, a mistake happened, but what happens next? Kickstarter lays out its course of action for the future, clarifying that while it’s too late to take the money back, the page has been removed and “seduction guides” or anything similar will be prohibited from the site in the future.

6. Do something besides apologize.

A monetary commitment is by no means required in a public apology, but it demonstrates a real commitment to righting your company’s missteps. To add action to its apology, Kickstarter offers a $25,000 donation to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN.


Kickstarter’s apology was immediate, genuine and thorough, and the response from fans proves that.  As of Monday morning, this blog post has received well over 1,000 comments, many of which are positive.

Kickstarter Comments