So, You’ve Made an Email Error

Insert your favorite expletive here, take a deep breath, and read this

havas CX helia
4 min readAug 10, 2020

You’ve heard the story about the time “that company” sent an email with an error so egregious it completely ruined their reputation, right? Or maybe that story about the email sent with a link error so scandalous that thousands of angry customers took to social?

Not ringing any bells? That’s because, even if it feels like it at the moment, email errors aren’t typically the end of the world.

And despite your best efforts, they can happen to anyone.

When asked “What’s the worst email mistake you’ve made?,” our Senior Email Marketing Manager Michael Kinstlinger said, “I once sent out the same email twice, and another time I included the organization’s name in the subject line.” Okay, maybe those aren’t that bad. But they are mistakes nonetheless—and fortunately, as an expert in the finer aspects of email deployment, while Michael is human, he didn’t panic and knew what to do next.

The point is this: At some point along the long path to deployment, humans are inevitably involved and we all make the occasional mistake. What really matters is what we do next.

Plus, let’s face it, email marketing is more than just “people hitting a send button.” There’s quite a bit of tech involved in deploying client emails. As we set up each piece, there exists yet another potential spot where a mishap could occur. Maybe your email was sent to the wrong list or your link to the blue kid’s bike went to the red one. Either way, we’re here to tell you everything is going to be ok.

Once you’ve identified why and where the error happened, it’s time to make adjustments, whether it’s adding more eyes to your QA process or re-naming some of your fields. Assessing and making adjustments will help to avoid further incidents.

And then there’s your response.

Take the alcohol delivery service Drizly, for example. Drizly accidentally sent a “lorem ipsum” email that clearly wasn’t ready for deployment. The company’s response? A humorous follow-up addressing what happened head-on. The follow-up was written in a friendly tone that jokingly blamed the dog, and included a promo code — appropriately named LOREMIPSUM — which offered subscribers $5 off or free delivery on their next order.

What people remember most about the incident isn’t the mistake itself — instead, the focus shifted to Drizly’s humorously perfect response, which hit all the right notes in terms of their audience and their brand voice. This is the stuff email marketing lore is made of, a great example of how to simultaneously address a mistake and improve your reputation.

Still feeling a little anxious? We have got you covered with 4 great tips to help save your sanity:

1. Don’t do it alone.

If you’re the one who hit send or approved the email, you’re probably feeling guilty, nervous, overwhelmed, anxious, or a combination of all four. When you sit down to work on a resolution, consider snagging a co-worker who can be objective and may be thinking more clearly.

2. Don’t be hasty.

You should certainly send something as soon as possible, but it should be smart, not frantic. Take a moment to align with your client. Make sure they know what happened, how key areas like social or call centers might be impacted, and propose a solution.

3. Take time to craft an honest apology.

You want to avoid sounding ingenuine by creating a quick prescriptive “we made a mistake and are now trying to fix it” email. Make sure you use a tone and voice that’s on-brand and, perhaps most importantly, appropriate for your audience. Then, consider if including an offer as part of the apology makes sense.

If your audience is older and your brand is more serious, you may want to stick with a serious tone. However, if your audience skews younger, don’t be afraid to take notes from Drizly and use levity.

4. Try the ATM process.

[A]cknowledge the error and be honest about what happened.

[T]hank people for their understanding, support, business, etc.

[M]ove the conversation offline by providing an email or channel for specific issues

You don’t need to go too in-depth with your explanation — just own it. Avoid deflecting and blaming someone else. And have a plan — an apology can seem pretty empty if there’s no plan for future improvement when one is needed. If necessary, after apologizing, let your customers know what you plan to do in the future.

Of course, errors should be avoided in the first place.

Just remember, when an email error happens, expect that you may need to adopt some new practices and re-assure the client that your errors have been fixed. You’ll also probably feel a little more worry when sending out future campaigns. But soon those feelings will fade and you’ll feel more confident the next time around.

Do you need help with your email program? Havas Helia can provide strategy, design, development, and deployment at scale. Let us know how we can help at



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