Mistakes are hard to swallow. When they happen, and when they’re your fault, you feel especially awful. Mistakes chip away at your self-confidence, and they don’t get easier to deal with as you get older. 

The truth is, you can be the smartest person in the room and still make simple mistakes. Today’s demands are intense, and expectations around productivity and the amount of things you should achieve are high. To meet these demands, the world operates faster. We rush through tasks so we can check them off and move on to the next. We pile on more projects so we can meet and exceed our goals. And we rarely take a minute to look at what we’ve done to give it a once over and ensure it’s airtight. 

The other day, I had one of those cringy mistake moments. I was tasked with putting together an email on behalf of our CEO, explaining the recent news regarding The EU-US Privacy Shield. This is what I sent out: 

Can you spot the mistake? 

I mixed up the merge field for the recipient’s first name so instead of pulling in the right data, I sent an email to thousands of people that said Hi [First Name]! It was a silly mishap, and as soon as I spotted it, my mind scrambled for a way to remedy it. It was an agonizing five minutes.

I decided to own up to it and send a follow-up apology email. 

I checked and re-checked the apology email before and after sending. And then I waited for the upset emails to flood my inbox. Instead, the results were surprising.  

 

 

 

 

These are just a few of the many, many responses I received. Seeing that people not only didn’t mind the mistake but that they appreciated the follow-up apology turned my (incredibly embarrassing) mistake into a valuable learning moment for me and my team. 

Apology emails are effective, and they’re great at getting you out of a pickle. But there is an art to them. So, next time you make a mistake in your email marketing, remember these four rules for crafting an endearing and sincere apology email. 

1. Own Up to Your Mistake

Just fess up! Don’t beat around the bush or pretend that nothing happened. Own up to your mistake and let recipients know about the error. When you show others you’re able to take accountability, they’ll be impressed with your ability to swallow your pride and admit fault. Also, it helps keep you in check, and it identifies those crucial learning moments that shape us into stronger marketers. You’re never too skilled, smart, experienced, or old to learn from your mistakes, and owning them is the first and most important step toward doing so. 

2. Use Humor and Keep It Light

Everyone loves a good laugh. Adding an element of whimsy or humor to your apology email makes the awkwardness a little more bearable. As you can see from my apology email, I love a good gif. They’re a safe choice because they’re universally loved, and it’s hard to find one that doesn’t elicit even the smallest chuckle. So, keep it light and add a funny image to show your recipients there’s a human being on the other side of your marketing messaging. 

3. Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice 

Okay, this one is huge. If you’re going to go to the trouble of sending out an apology email, you have to make absolutely sure you don’t make the original mistake twice. Double, triple, quadruple check everything in your email before you hit send. Make sure there are no spelling errors, missed spaces, and that you remembered to load the merge field correctly (!). 

4. Slow Down

Navigating this pandemic and coming to terms with the fact that the only thing we’re certain about is the uncertainty of what’s next, we’ve gained some perspective on the beauty of the slow down. We try to understand that being productive while working from home means making room for more breaks, exhaling, and enjoying what’s in front of us. This should also translate into being more thoughtful with our work. So, take a little longer to write that apology email. I’m sure you’ll want to get it out ASAP, but going a bit slower will ensure you don’t overlook another mistake. After all, you don’t want to send two apology emails. 

Remember these four tips when you’re sending your apology email (believe me, if you haven’t sent one yet in your professional career, you will). Mistakes happen, and while they may be embarrassing, they’re a time for us to own up to our humanity and try to move on with dignity. And remember, try really hard not to mess up an email you’re sending on behalf of your CEO (facepalm).