marketing disaster checklist

So, it’s happened. After spending hours putting together a piece of marketing, you’ve sent it out only to discover shortly after that it possessed a major error.

Maybe it was an embarrassing typo, an email offer sent to the wrong contact list or an expensive campaign promoting a product that’s been recalled. Maybe you just published something that, for whatever reason, angered your audience and you need to immediately address the situation.

Whatever it may be, it probably feels like your worst nightmare has just come to pass.

Take a deep breath and relax. Use the checklist below to help you work through your situation and minimize any damage your faulty marketing might cause.  

Step 1: Acceptance

First things first: now is not the time to blame anyone or run around the office finger-pointing. Your first concern should be how this error affects your current customers and prospects. You need to immediately accept that this has unfortunately occurred and switch immediately into problem-solving mode. 

There will be time to address how this error occurred later. For now, you need to immediately get to work minimizing any potential fallout. If you already have an emergency communication plan in place (more on this later), lean on it to decide what your next steps should be. 

Step 2: Own Up to Your Mistake

Now that your head is in the right place, you need to do some damage control. This means assessing how your marketing mistake could negatively affect your audience and taking the proper actions to limit the consequences.

What steps you take here will be dictated by the nature of your marketing disaster. Below are a few examples of how you might address different issues. 

  • Email correction — If you sent an email with incorrect information or a faulty link, you should immediately send a note to your contacts explaining your mistake, correcting the issue and apologizing for the confusion.
  • Honoring your offer — Maybe you had a specific offer intended for leads that was mistakenly sent to current customers, or you incorrectly worded an offer (offering a lower rate for 12 months instead of your intended six, for example). Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can just take back. You’ll have to honor this with everyone who expresses interest in this offer (provided doing so won’t put you out of business).
  • Audience anger — Let’s say something truly out of your control occurs, like an employee thinking they’re tweeting from their personal account only to be accidentally posting on your organization’s account. If your audience sees these tweets before you are able to delete them and they’re offended or angered by them, then you need to immediately delete them, write a post apologizing and explain what happened. This is also an opportunity to reach out directly to the offended parties and apologize directly as well as offering them something to make amends.
  • Automation disaster — Marketing automation can make your life a lot easier, but you can also alienate your audience when it’s not done right. Imagine you’ve already made contact with a lead and they email you or download content only to receive your generic workflow email response. While auto-responders are great for people who are coming in cold, these will likely come off as a tone-deaf response if there’s an existing relationship. In this scenario, you’ll want to immediately make contact with them either by phone or by sending a personalized email, owning the mix-up.

The constant among these examples is that it’s critical to be proactive in searching for a solution. Don’t just sit there, hoping it blows over. Get out in front of the issue and show that your organization has a handle on what went wrong and that it won’t happen again.

Step 3: Internal Audit 

After you’ve addressed the issue, the next step is to figure out what exactly went wrong. Bring your team in and determine who was working on what, where this error occurred and why it wasn’t caught. Was there some miscommunication along the way? What prevented this issue from being fixed before being sent out?

Mistakes often occur when a strict editing or oversite process is ditched to meet a deadline. While in the moment failing to miss a deadline can seem like a non-option, ask yourself what’s worse; taking an extra day to make sure everything is in order or having to apologize/potentially lose business due to an error?

Step 4: Moving Forward with New Processes

While certainly not ideal, mistakes give us the opportunity to address underlying problems in the way we do business. Once you’ve determined what went wrong, it’s time to examine your existing processes and make improvements.

Putting a content development process in place that helps you plan long-term should eliminate deadline rushes and give you ample time for edits and proofing. If you don’t have a disaster plan in place, you should develop one just in case you find yourself in a similar situation again. This should include key items like:

  • What systems or alerts will you have in place to monitor how your crisis is affecting your audience? (We recommend setting up Google and social media alerts)
  • Login information stored in a team-accessible location so authorized people can access and make corrections if needed, even if the regular point person is out of office or unavailable.
  • Prepare content like apologies formatted for different platforms (email and social for example) that can be quickly updated to address your current issue.

You should also consider holding regular meetings — at least once per quarter — to review how your team members should respond to customers or leads in the event of a marketing disaster. This can include some helpful role-playing which should help your team feel more comfortable responding to your audience’s needs.

Whether you’re forced to handle a huge marketing disaster or just issue a minor correction, odds are that somewhere along the line something will go wrong despite your best efforts. By keeping a level-head, proactively addressing the issue and then implementing new measures to ensure this mistake does not occur again, you can position your business to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other end.