Mastering the apology email
If there's one thing we've learned from reality shows (and let's be real: there's more than one thing), it's that you have to "own your shit." End-of-season reunion shows see cast members hurling that mandate at one another -- along with "I apologize," "You do you" and "I'm a grown-ass woman" -- but the real lesson here is the apology.
In marketing, not every leap of faith has an easy landing. Sometimes you make the wrong call, people take offense to your well-intentioned quip or you simply share incorrect information. Pretend it never happened, and let it blow over?
I not-so-secretly love when brands make an oopsie because how they recover speaks volumes about their character. When they apologize to their audience, from the heart instead of the legal team, they restore trust. Always be sure to acknowledge and thank a member of your brand community who points out an error.
Earlier this month, I sent a chipper note to the clothing chain Anthropologie (disclaimer: I once worked for the company) pointing out a typo on its website. A team member took the time to one, share the error with the appropriate team so it could be fixed, and two, reply to thank me:
I hope this email finds you well. Thanks for letting us know about this issue. I have reported this error to our web team for correction. Please, have a great rest of your day!
If you require additional assistance or have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I share this because it's mind-boggling that companies still don't understand how valuable embracing their audience (in a work-appropriate way) is for that customer's lifecycle. Even if a company's apology/thanks email is one-to-one, caring for each community member's experience with the brand is advantageous.
Here's a truth about non-life-threatening marketing errors: When a person/company is contrite, honest and grateful, without placing blame or making excuses, that person/company will eventually be forgiven.
In email marketing, you know the subject line is vital. That's why when you're resending an email containing corrected information, you want to capture your audience's attention immediately so they don't presume the email is a repeat of the one they already received.
Here's an example I received last week from the Nashville Public Library:
The subject line had me right away -- everyone loves a good blooper -- so I opened it, adding to their percentage of email opens.
Then, here's how their email began:
What the library did right:
- They made "Oops!" all caps in a larger font size and another color above the fold.
- They were up-front that they made an error.
- They simply explain the incorrect and correct information.
- They smooth it over with a la-di-da "whatever you call it, call it awesome!"
Now, this breezy apology can't always be the case in instances of poor judgment. Marketing interns have been known to craft questionable "witty" tweets that offend specific groups. Their thoughtlessness almost certainly ends in a dismissal. A good rule of thumb? If any element of what you're writing for your audience gives you pause, rewrite it. Don't just hope for the best; you're too good of a writer. Rewrite.
You might also be interested in: