How to send a tasteful apology email

As email marketers, we’ve all been there before.

You send out an email that has some type of error in it – a missing/incorrect subject line, the wrong offer, correct copy but to the wrong list, etc. Sometimes we send out an email that is poorly-timed or flat out “in bad taste.”

The question that’s often asked is how to apologize. Make no mistake: Apology emails are tough. Do you send an email to everyone, even those not impacted by the error? Do you not even acknowledge it and hope that it will go away (nobody will notice)? Former WhatCounts Services Account Manager, Elena Hekimian, gave a few suggestions in her blog post, “How to Handle Your Email Marketing ‘Oops’ with Class.” Amy Garland discussed how to avoid email marketing mistakes from happening in the first place, as well as offering some tips to make the situation better.

Backcountry.com “Messed Up” But Sent A Timely Apology Email

Last week, Backcountry.com messed up. They sent an email with a huge block of creative (an image) that included the text, “Mother Nature Hates You. Deal With It.” View a portion of the email now.

In the wake of the the devastation and loss of life that occurred in the South as well as Alabama due to tornadoes and other weather, the Backcountry.com email could have been viewed as poorly timed and in bad taste.

However, Backcountry.com recovered quickly with a tasteful apology email. Here’s what I loved about the apology email:

  1. The subject line was clear and direct. An Apology For Yesterday’s Email.
  2. The email was timely. The apology email was sent the very next day.
  3. The template was simple and clean. The Backcountry.com logo. Nothing fancy. No attempt to sell, just to communicate.
  4. The tone was apologetic. They led off with “We messed up,” admitted it was “extremely insensitive and offensive,” and said they were sorry – multiple times.
  5. The copy was repetitive, in a good way. Notice the words & phrases they chose: We messed up. Insensitive. Offensive. Sincerest apologies. Mistake. Completely unacceptable. Deepest condolences. Sincerest apologies. Our lack of foresight. Complete insensitivity.
  6. The email was written/signed by Jill Layfield, the CEO of Backcountry.com. Whether or not Jill approved the original email, as the CEO she is accountable. I like that she takes that responsibility on directly.
  7. The reply-to address was valid. They didn’t hid behind a “noreply@” email address. Instead, they chose “service@”.

Finally, I really liked that they didn’t try to win back those who they may have offended with a discount offer. In some cases that may be appropriate; however for this situation, a sincere apology worked – for me.

A colleague of mine, Andrew Kordek of Trendline Interactive, had the following to say about the Backcountry.com apology email:

I want to let you know that I am really impressed with this email you sent out. Its thoughtful and it really shows that you care. These are hard things to write and I think you guys did it with integrity and were not looking to capitalize on anything promotional since the mistake was made.

You have my respect.

What do you think about the apology email from Backcountry.com. Do you agree with Andrew and me? If not, how would you have handled it differently?

This article was originally written by DJ Waldow.

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