Saying I’m sorry can help in some PR crises. But the mea culpa only works if it is timely and sincere. Too often, the mea culpa comes after everything else has been tried to calm a crisis and as a last resort the individual or organization grudgingly says “I’m sorry.” At that point it doesn’t feel sincere.
I tell students that most organizations will experience some sort of crisis sooner or later. Even if an organization is ethical, has good products and the best of intentions, bad things happen. It is best to have crisis management and crisis communication plans in place to know who will be responsible for what, and what the priorities will be.