How to say sorry via digital media

We support and help many customers with various aspects of their marketing. One of the issues that repeats itself is dealing with a mistake. As part of our mentoring programme we are there to help them with this on an individual case basis.

If you prefer you can download a PDF version to read at your leisure.

Our business is built on the ethos of helping people to grow their knowledge and make the best of opportunities that come their way. Therefor I have compiled this article from a combination of our experiences and research.

how to say sorry and win

When something goes wrong, you can be sure there will be a lot of people who are going to see your mistake. At the time you may feel like it is the end of the world. You panic and rush about to try to fix it and reduce the instant backlash the internet.

This is normal human behaviour. However consider this, instead of seeing your screw-up as just a negative try to see it as an opportunity, if often helps if you can discuss it with an impartial third party.

A really good honest apology may actually benefit your business more than if the crisis just hadn’t happened in the first place. Remember the old saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity” if handled correctly, funny how they miss out the ending to that quote. A mistake or error is a chance for you to showcase your business ethos under pressure. Your customers are human they understand as a race we make mistakes.

Which social forum do your customers use?

Depending on the nature of the mistake you will either be directed to which forum by a customer. If it is a general open to the public mistake then you need to be on the social channel that your customers use. In this modern world people will turn to social media for information. If you have previously carried out good customer research you will already know which forums are best? However you must monitor all the channels for chatter. Consider setting up additional google alerts.

However it must be said depending on the scale of the mistake it might be prudent to consider an integrated communication strategy to minimise the negativity and try to turn the incident into a positive. We found several companies who have used Twitter to great success, The AA, Dropbox, TDI North, Pandora to name but a few.

A simple social broadcast for a major mistake could be:We’ve just become aware of an issue, please DM us if you can’t get through and we’ll try to help you.

Tell the truth ASAP

You might not have all the facts and a solution, but acknowledging that there is a problem that you need to look into should happen ASAP. The longer you leave it, the more people will make up in the absence of the truth.

Similar to a car manufacturer making a recall, make it public not just to those that you think maybe affected. Make sure it’s clear what the problem was so your customers aren’t wondering if they were hit or not.

Communication has never been easier especially amongst your community. Therefor honesty is not only the best policy, your customers will also find it attractive and unusual. On a psychological level it’s very hard for the average human to stay mad when someone is being open and apologetic.

We recently sent out the same status update five times, we produced a meme with an office worker waiting at the coffee machine.

sorry not had coffee yet

Regular updates

Depending on the nature of your incident, it would be beneficial to set timings on when the problem will be fixed. However if you are going to miss any deadlines let people know well in advance as to why. Remember if you do not keep people informed, the internet trolls will make something up. Even if there’s nothing to report, let people know you’re still working on it.

Post incident summary

Turn the incident into a possible means of driving traffic to your website. Use social media to make people aware that you have investigated the incident and Blog your findings, remember to consider the list below. This makes sure anyone who didn’t hear about the problem while it was going on can hear the full story from you, rather than from potential trolls.

  • What happened and when
  • Why it happened
  • How it was fixed
  • How you’ll stop it happening again
  • How you’re going to make it up to your customers

Email all those who were affected

As much as Social Media is the so called Holy Grail of digital marketing a personal apology goes a long way, especially if the incident was serious enough to require compensation. Try to use personalised greetings and sign off from a real human that customers can reply to, rather than customercare@ info@ sales@ etc.

How you deal with adverse situations is all part of your business brand whether you like it or not. Opening up to your faults and showing integrity and honesty especially under pressure will raise you in your customers’ estimations. It is how you deal with the problem that can be the problem, not the problem itself.


Please feel free to share any positive or negative experiences you have had to deal with or if you have been on the receiving end of a business dealing with a problem.

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