Not necessarily 'sorry, this is our fault', but perhaps 'sorry this has happened' or 'sorry people have been affected'.
But - often under instruction from lawyers - many companies have failed to do this and suffered reputational damage as a result.
I was therefore fascinated to see two organisations pro-actively saying sorry in recent weeks.
Firstly, John Armitt, CEO of Network Rail, was quoted as offering an 'unreserved apology' following the Virgin train derailment.
Second, the phrase 'we're sorry' featured prominently in the headline of Tesco's full-page ads following the petrol contamination incident.
An apologetic company has a far better chance of winning in the court of public opinion and preserving its good name.
Jonathan Hemus, global crisis and issues specialty leader, Porter Novelli.