Back in November, I received this email from the folks at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). It’s a powerful example of how acknowledging an error of substance (i.e., not a typo or missing photo) can be a good opportunity to reinforce your organization’s brand (in this case, reliability, accuracy and passion for the truth).
Here’s what happened:
- In striving to write a succinct review of a recently-published article, EDF implied the incorrect reason behind wasted electricity in the electricity production process.
- When the error was pointed out by an EDF member (an engineering professor), EDF morphed this mistake into a clarion call on its commitment to accuracy as the only way to “promote meaning solutions to our environmental challenges.”
- Sam Parry, EDF’s director of Online Membership and Activism reached out to the initial email list with a pro-active apology, correcting the error, thanking the professor and asking readers to let him know whenever they spot an editorial error.
- Outcome: Sam scored on multiple fronts — 1) Thanking EDF supporters for their support, 2) Stressing the organization’s passion for truth-telling and 3) Engaging supporters to help EDF perpetuate its focus on the “business of truth telling.”
Most communicators are mistake-phobic. We labor away — conceiving, writing, designing and finally…publishing our communications. And when something is wrong — no matter who finds it — it’s dismaying.
But it doesn’t have to be. Some errors are due to sloppiness, and that’s truly dismaying. But errors like this one can be a real opportunity. Congrats to EDF for seeing the opportunity in the mess, and responding artfully but authentically.
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