We’d like to introduce you to our new series “What do you do when…?” Over the course of the next four weeks, we’ll share insider information you can learn from when things don’t go exactly according to plan and how you can make corrections that set you and your event up in the best light possible. We all know that mistakes can- and will- happen. But there’s a way to recover and earn (back) your participants’ trust in the process.

Erin Kirchhoff kicks us off with this week’s topic: What do you do when incorrect information goes out on your website or group email?

Tuesday, 11:34 a.m. You’re listening in on a conference call while balancing your monthly department budget and trying to make a dent in your inbox. (Read: it’s a typical, busy day.) All of a sudden, your instant messenger lights up. Your boss has just seen an email from the client with a red exclamation point; the email you just sent out to thousands of constituents contained incorrect information.

This may immediately send you into four-alarm fire mode, but if you can take a deep breath and follow these steps, the recovery may be easier than you’d expect.

  • Draft the correction, putting the bad news front and center. You don’t need to go overboard with an apology (and shouldn’t), but your constituents want and expect you to be sincere. Also, be as succinct as possible; the more words you use, the more it looks like you’re trying to cover up. Be honest, own up to the mistake, then share the correct information.
  • Prepare for some participants to capitalize on your mistake. While most people will understand that accidents happen and won’t give it a second thought, there will always be that small number of participants who will try to gain from your error. So decide how far you’ll go to keep them happy. Or to keep a participant… period.
  • Create an internal FAQ to anticipate possible questions and situations. Work with your front line team to build a list of questions that might come up from participants and then prepare an answer to each one to the best of your ability. Get everyone on the same page and rely on your team to handle the majority of inquiries and complaints. But as the manager in charge, plan to personally respond to anyone who is particularly angry or upset.
  • Publish your apology/correction. If you originally announced the incorrect information through email, an email follow-up is appropriate. If it was on the website, post the correct information there, but consider sending a follow-up email, as well, with the correction.
  • Plan a reminder/follow-up email with corrected information. This step is particularly important if there were a time-sensitive deadline (like a discounted registration fee or other incentive they will earn if they do “x” by a certain date). The reminder email should be scheduled for approximately one week out from the deadline, so that everyone has an opportunity to act. If there’s no deadline associated with the corrected information (like if you published an incorrect event date), give your participants sufficient time (at least two weeks) to plan for the correct date.
  • Develop a checklist and put procedures in place to help prevent similar mistakes. Always check details like spelling, grammar, dates, and your URL and phone number. Other often-overlooked details include making sure the day of the week matches the date of the event, double-checking the “from” email address and the receiver list, and that your call-to-action is clear. It’s also important to ask someone other than yourself (or the original author) to proofread your content. It may sound unnecessary, but it’s remarkable how many errors a set of fresh eyes can identify! For more tips on proofreading, check out this blog post from my colleague, Michelle Kasik.

The reality is: we’re human. Mistakes happen. But it’s how you respond to the mistakes that will set you apart, for better or for worse.

Erin Kirchhoff is a Communications Manager at Event 360, focused on the brand management, event look & feel, and participant experience for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® project. She has extensive experience with brand management and communications, having worked in both marketing and corporate communications for a FORTUNE 500® company prior to joining the Event 360 team 10 years ago. View her LinkedIn profile here.

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