The recent high-profile hacking of Sony Pictures has caused a public relations nightmare for all involved. More confidential company data, internal email exchanges and unreleased movies continue to be leaked by the group calling itself “#GOP,” which stands for Guardians of Peace. The spotlight is on Sony executives, particularly co-chairman Amy Pascal and film producer Scott Rudin. They are under fire for their private emails bashing some of Hollywood’s elite and even making racial jokes about President Barack Obama’s taste in movies. They have both issued public apologies – how they handle this situation is crucial. Who knows when this firestorm will stop, but for now since the leak is ongoing, other Sony executives need to be prepared with apologies if their material is released.

Whether it’s an individual or a company dealing with a PR crisis, it can be beneficial to issue an apology. Acknowledging that mistakes were made and taking responsibility for them can help salvage a reputation. While in the midst of a crisis, there’s no escaping the media. Stories will be published – sometimes with accurate facts and other times not – which is why people should own up to the issue themselves instead of letting others do the talking for them. An apology can be a powerful tool because an individual/company can turn negative press into positive messaging.

According to a PEOPLE Magazine article, “Hollywood crisis expert Howard Bragman thinks that both Rudin and Pascal will be fine. ‘This is a speed bump, not a sinkhole,’” he said. Word travels fast, especially in Hollywood in Sony’s case, so issuing an apology early on in a crisis can prevent digging a deeper PR sinkhole.