We’ve all seen it happen — a big brand name company drops a Tweet with a typo, sends out a monthly newsletter with the wrong content, shares a broken promo code or tags the wrong competition winner on Instagram. You might remember the time that Sainsbury’s tried to ring in the weekend a day too early, or when Little Mix forgot to delete the copy instructions from their promotional Instagram post. It can be funny to see as a follower, and even better to watch as a fellow marketer.
But what do we do when we’re the one making the mistake in the first place?
Marketing mistakes can happen to the best of us. Tweets don’t get scheduled on the right day, we forget to use the right hashtag in our Instagram post, we attach the wrong image or we use the wrong link for customers to click on. Simple, small errors that slip through the cracks, but can often have a big impact on both the reputation of the brand and your own marketing career as well.
The first thing to remember after making a marketing mistake is that, honestly, you are not alone. There isn’t a marketer out there who hasn’t had to re-upload a LinkedIn post, or hastily edit a content plan at the last minute. We’ve all been there and we’re all human. But to help you survive these awkward and embarrassing scenarios, I’ve put together a few steps for you to follow to achieve the best possible outcome after your mistake.
Identify, Notify and Rectify
The most crucial steps in any marketing mistake scenario are to identify your mistake, notify those who need to know and then rectify as best you can. Note down the mistake itself, and then check any other marketing details that may have been delivered or shared around the same time period or in the same batch for other errors too.
Then alert anyone who might need to know about the mistake. This could mean any of your colleagues who might be working on the platform, your manager who would need to approve your rectification attempt and those who would be involved in helping you fix it. I know it can feel embarrassing and awkward to admit your own error to other people, but it’s best to communicate the situation as clearly and productively as possible.
For example ‘Hey, just letting you know that I had to take down X Tweet as I made a typo in the text. I’ve checked all the other posts for today and they’re all fine. Would you be able to approve X Tweet to go up today instead?’
Or ‘Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I accidentally sent out the Tuesday newsletter on Monday. I’m sorry for any disruption that causes and I’m currently working on an apology newsletter to be sent out shortly afterwards to avoid confusing customers. I’ll send it over to your approval before I post it, and I’ll make sure to check any sharing dates more carefully in future.’
Get straight the point, don’t hide your part in the error and provide the next steps to take to fix it. Then go about figuring out exactly how to fix it. This can usually be done by simply re-uploading the correct post, adding an apology post as a follow-up or simply deleting the post entirely. Often, the way you go about handling these mistakes as a brand can say a lot about your company and their approach to human errors. Many brands and businesses actually create humour out of mistakes, creating witty, self-deprecating content to share with their followers, revealing an empathetic human-side to their business that isn’t typically seen in the more polished and professional copy. Let yourself get creative with your rectification, where you can, and don’t be afraid to be human in your error.
Check-in on the Fallout
Sometimes, when we make mistakes in public spaces, there are unexpected repercussions. Whether it’s a handful of humourous replies, a spiralling viral meme or an angry virtual mob in your inbox — it’s necessary to be prepared for the fallout. After you’ve rectified your mistake, take the time to check in with anyone who might have been affected by it, both internally and externally in your brand. Are your followers satisfied with the new information, or confused about your messaging? Are there any urgent queries being raised about your company that you could answer? Has your new response covered all of the bases?
It’s also important to consider the fallout from a professional perspective. Who else might have negatively impacted by your error? Another colleague, a team member, a senior manager? Make sure you check in with them to express your regret and to inform them you have now fully rectified the situation. Make yourself aware of how this might impact the social results and reports of this period, and what the repercussions might be in that case.
Even have a conversation with your manager about how this mistake has reflected on your performance. Try to alleviate any doubts they might be having by reassuring them of your professionalism up until this point, and be honest and transparent about how the error occurred. Be aware that this error might fact into a professional review, depending on the company and past performance, but confirm within yourself, that you did everything you could to fix it at the time.
Future-Proof your Process
One of the best things you can do to help prevent your future self from making any similar mistakes is to start replanning your marketing process. Make a list of all of the steps involved in delivering your marketing content, and identify where you went wrong the last time, and how that could be changed in future. Point out any other weak spots in the process too, and try to include more failsafe procedures to help catch any errors or mistakes early as well. In many cases, simply having another person to look over your content plans or your schedule is an easy way to spot any mistakes, so try to include an extra pair of eyes in your planning process.
It’s also a good idea to alert your colleagues and management team to this process too, to impress on them that you’re working to improve your own process for better. Highlight the areas where the process might have been a little sloppy before, and illustrate how you propose to resolve it.
Finally, let it go.
As humans, it’s second nature to hold onto our mistakes. We let them eat away at us, and hold us back and drag us down until our self-confidence takes a beating. They can make us anxious, embarrassed, triggered and depressed to the point where our future work starts to suffer as a result.
So here I am, reader, giving you permission to let that mistake go. Get rid of it. Let it out, forget about it and move on. It doesn’t define who you are, it doesn’t deflect from your skill and your creativity, and it’s not the end of your career. You are still you, and in the long, grand and brilliant scheme of your life, it truly does not matter. So breathe, relax and continue.
With that in mind, I also wanted to point out that there will be times where our mistakes and our reaction to them can be larger than we’re capable of coping with. In those situations, it’s always ok to ask for help — whether it be from a friend, a colleague, a manager or mental health professional. There is no benefit to wallowing in your mistakes or letting them drown them. You’re so much more creative and inspiring and stronger if you can succeed despite them, so give yourself a chance to heal from them.