When Mistakes Happen

Whoops. We’ve all done it. Whether the mistake is a typo, using an incorrect name or a sending a survey with a broken link (yes, we did this two weeks ago), it happens to most of us sooner or later. In the grand scheme of things, the mistake often isn’t the biggest issue. It is how you react to the mistake that can define you as an employee and as an organization. What should you do when you send out an email with the wrong name or send to the wrong list, or something even bigger? Own it.

making a mistakeAccording to Judy Smith, expert on crisis management and author of Good Self:Bad Self:Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets and inspiration for the show Scandal, always try to gather a 360 degree assessment of the situation first, before you react.

It’s also important to think about these three areas when addressing and evaluating any situation that has not been optimal:

Perspective
It’s important to look to understand the issue, the people involved, and the broader situation and don’t let emotion get in the way. Take an honest look at the mistake, the potential ramifications and try to be as proactive (not reactive) as possible in addressing the solution. Most importantly, never lie.

Communication
I’ve seen marketers send out a second or follow-on email when they make a mistake calling out the mistake. I appreciate that. It lets me know what happened or how someone is addressing and fixing a mistake. I don’t think every mistake (misspelling or broken link) needs this type of communication, however, it is a great way to clear the air if an error happens. It also gives you a chance to have a sense of humor about things and appeal to your audience to remember, errors do unfortunately occur from time to time. The idea is to have clear communication, so this helps ensure that and it shows that you recognize and own the mistake.

Assessment
Assessment is different than perspective and is vital when evaluating something that has transpired as it helps to prevent similar situations in the future. Conduct a full assessment of how the mistake or error happened. Was it poor editing, a data or list mistake or something more systemic like not having a comprehensive system of checks and balances before an email send, product launch or go-live date? Understand where the system failure occurred, identity how mitigate similar errors in the future and put steps or systems in place to prevent future errors. Document what the steps are going forward to ensure an error-free process.

Marketers today do more today than ever before. We utilize multiple technologies to communicate with our buyers, we depend on and require real-time communications and live in a 24 x 7 world where everything is visible and sharable (good or bad). Mistakes will happen. Some may impact your business or affect your self-esteem more than others, but how you handle and address the mistake is what matters most.

Author: Erika Goldwater CIPP/US @erikawg VP of Marketing, ANNUITAS