Everybody makes mistakes. Here’s how to handle it online (or anywhere else)

sorry flickr butupaSo NBC News’ graphics department got a bit sloppy. Viewers noticed. Stuff happens.

They acknowledged the mistake right away. They explained their error. They made amends by doing a lovely little homage to New Hampshire. How could New Hampshire not forgive them?

New Hampshire Apology from NBC Nightly News

I had occasion to apologize myself a couple of weeks ago. I was promoting #ChalkTheBlock with the Norwin Area Arts Council. I took a team of students out to “prechalk” the block to build buzz for the upcoming event.

There was buzz, all right. Just not the kind I’d been hoping for.

When one of the property owners arrived the next morning, he was less than thrilled to see the kids’ artwork. He called the borough, irate. The borough emailed me.

Upon reading the email, I dropped what I was doing and called the property owner myself to resolve the issue.

Yep. Definitely not happy.

I apologized repeatedly and immediately went over armed with supplies to scrub the sidewalk. We did not leave until he was satisfied with the results.

I could have made excuses. The sidewalk was the property of the borough, and we had their permission to chalk there. We also secured permission from one of the tenants, a shopkeeper that was still open the evening before. Plus, it was just chalk, not spray paint. A temporary problem, at worst.

Still, it didn’t matter. Unbeknownst to me, I’d failed to secure permission from all affected parties. My actions had made him unhappy. It was within my power to solve the problem. Done. And we gave his property a wide berth on the night of the event.

I learned a lesson that day. And THAT is why our mistakes and failures are so valuable.

Tips for handling an apology

  1. Acknowledge the error right away. Demonstrate that you know what happened and why you need to apologize for it.
  2. Take responsibility for the error and any resulting damages. Leave excuses out of it.
  3. Make amends. If possible, work something agreeable out directly with those who have been affected.
  4. Make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Here’s another great piece about apologies.

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