Whether managing your personal account or updating an employer or client account you’re responsible for, making an online mistake can be embarrassing to say the least. Online mistakes can also be costly in terms of damage done to an individual or firm’s reputation. As many celebrities and newsies have discovered sometimes what they felt was an innocuous statement can become quickly controversial and viral.
A client recently asked me how to deal with an error that went out in a post. There is no “easy answer” to this type of question, of course. The answer is really “it depends.” It depends on what the “oops” was, how many people are likely to see it, what the potential negative ramifications might be and–importantly–whether a follow up message might bring more attention to the issue rather than defusing it. Believe it or not in some (many!) cases, it may be best to just “let it go” rather than throw fuel on the fire by keeping the conversation going.
But, that said, if you are unable to delete the “oops” before it’s been widely seen, and you decide that some sort of follow-up is necessary, these are my tips:
- Identify your target audiences and connect with key constituencies or individuals off-line as appropriate – e.g. through phone calls, private emails, etc.
- If you do decide to generate a broad online message, be brief and to the point – apologize for the error or misstep, and provide a correction
- Respond consistently with your organization’s or client’s corporate image/brand – for instance, if you’re a “fun” company you might be able to say: “Oops, we goofed! – Here’s what we should have said.” If not, a more formal response, consistent with the tone of your ongoing communications, would be most appropriate.
- Don’t make excuses and don’t place blame on others.
- Try not to become engaged in any online back and forth about the issue – if it becomes necessary attempt to take any ongoing discussion offline.