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Apologies to Newsletter Subscribers [and What to Do When You Stuff Up On Your Blog]

I Stuffed up!

Earlier today I sent out my weekly Digital Photography newsletter to not only the 40,000 subscribers who asked to receive it but also to several thousand ProBlogger readers who had subscribed to an old ProBlogger newsletter that I used to run (and which I’m about to start back up).

Here’s what happened:

I previously ran a weekly ProBlogger newsletter using the Zookoda service. However late last year I had so many problems with Zookoda not delivering emails and being unreliable that I ceased using it as a service. I switched my photography newsletter over to Aweber but decided to pause the ProBlogger newsletter.

Over the last week or two I’ve decided to start up the ProBlogger newsletter again and have begun to import all the old contacts that were in my Zookoda list into the new Aweber one. So far I’ve got 4000 subscribers across (Aweber only allow you to do 2000 a day to stop spammers importing massive lists).

The problem came today when I went to send my photography newsletter out and without thinking I marked it to go to ALL of my lists (forgetting my new ProBlogger one).

As a result – 4000 of you got a photography related newsletter. I feel like a complete goose and want to express my apologies. I just sent a newsletter to those who got the newsletter by mistake to explain but wanted to do it again here.

I also thought it was a good opportunity to post about managing problems like this on your blog.

What to do when you stuff up on your blog

1. Admit your mistake – as soon as I found out what I’d done (when a couple of people emailed to let me know) I immediately started working on an apology email. The temptation when this kind of thing happens is to either put your head in the sand and hope it’ll go away or to make excuses. Both are mistakes. Admit your mistake quickly – apologize and do what you can to respond to any complaints.

2. Respond personally to complaints – a few people have emailed complaints about the newsletter – a couple were angry. I sent personal emails to these people to talk them through my mistake and to give a second apology. In most cases they responded to this very positively. A little personal attention counts for a lot.

3. Look for the positives – I had ten people email me to let me know about my mistake. Four of these surprisingly thanked me for the mistakenly sent email and asked where they could subscribe to it because it was on a topic that they had some interest in. Another two emailed to thank me for it because it gave them ideas for their own newsletters and thought it was a good example of how to use a newsletter to promote a blog. These emails gave me a bit of a giggle but then I realized that perhaps there was an opportunity. I added a ‘PS’ to the apology email that I sent out saying:

“PS: ironically some of you liked the newsletter and want to subscribe.

You can do this at www.digital-photography-school.com/blog in the sidebar.

Otherwise – take this as an example of how NOT to use newsletters to build community and promote your blog!”

Perhaps this is a bit of a risky and slightly cheeky thing to do but since sending out the apology email I’ve had 25 emails from readers. Each one has been positive and quite a few have said that they enjoyed the newsletter and have subscribed to get it again. I wouldn’t recommend this type of mistake as a promotional tactic – but sometimes there are hidden positives in the mistakes.

PS: if you’d like to subscribe to the ProBlogger newsletter that I’m going to restart – stay tuned because I’ll be posting about it next week.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. A good example of turning a negative experience into a positive one (post). Good post Darren.

  2. David says:

    Maybe that’s something more people should do, with permission first is to send out a letter like that with information on other projects. I’d love to hear more and see more of the stuff you are doing outside of Problogger. :)

  3. Darren Rowse says:

    It can work David – but I think it depends a little on the voice of your blogs/newsletters etc.

    For example – I did recently mention that I’d written the ProBlogger book to my DPS newsletter but I did it in a very conversational ‘by the way’ type tone. I think I got away with it because my normal style in newsletters is conversational.

    So yeah – could work if it was subtle and not intrusive (and not a stupid mistake like this).

  4. Lulu says:

    Anybody that got angry enough about getting your letter to email you needs to get a life, or get anger management, or something.

  5. Joe says:

    I’m surprised that people got so angry over a mistakenly sent newsletter. There’s a delete button if you really don’t want to read it.

    This is still a good read though… for when you do mess up. Even though I don’t consider this a major one at all!

  6. Darren you sure that you subconsciously not trying to convert us Bloggers to Photographers? LOL

  7. In five years of email marketing I’ve made versions of this mistake several times… and I’ve followed all three of the suggested actions at different times:

    1) Head in the sand
    2) Excuses
    3) Real apology

    As you mentioned, the third option is the best for many reasons. And there is also step 4, which you’ve also done:

    4) Tell others about your mistake

    This is golden… as you can see here.

  8. jhay says:

    I got the DPS newsletter too, but no harm done. I enjoyed the new rich resource for a new hobby I’m about to start. Thanks!

  9. Berry says:

    What should the people get angry for?they have nothing to loose and to err is human,peace on the world.

  10. the Senorita says:

    What an example to prove your honesty towards your work. Surprising why people had so much problem with that newsletter considering it was from one of the very famous bloggers??

    It is always great to say sorry instead of making up stories and cover up your mistake. I straight away say sorry to my readers whenever I feel like I did something wrong..

    but another perspective is you should feel that you made a mistake (like here Darren felt) as many a times people think they are right and hell with others..

    such an attitude should be avoided.

  11. Neil Duckett says:

    Why anyone would actually get ‘angry’ over receiving that email i will never know.

  12. Bibokz says:

    I’m sure lots of people will going to love this blog, nice way of correcting common error.

  13. Darren Rowse says:

    well people do get angry about email and the idea of it being abused by spammers so I totally understand their angry responses. Most have been understanding though.

  14. Stan Dubin says:

    Keep us posted on how things go with AWeber. I use them as well and so far, it’s been a smooth ride.

  15. Cyndi says:

    Oh my goodness! It’s funny how people get so fired up about a simple mistake.

    It sure does remind me of an email that went flying around the internet a few years back. It was about flaming in a group (forum). It goes something like this. One person posts something off topic, then someone calls them out. Next thing ya know, there are a thousand unwanted messages flying through the group.

    I’m glad you posted this apology about your mistake. I’m off to sign up for your newsletter!

  16. Ryan McLean says:

    Do you find you make much money from your newsletters?
    A post on how to monetize newsletters would be a great asset darren

  17. Tess says:

    This is such a great example of an apology. Well done. (And I, too, am going to hop over to take a look at subscribing to the photography newsletter!)

  18. No Probs Friend..To err is human

  19. Mike says:

    I didn’t really think anything of it. I am not so interested in photography but I love the DPS blog. Does everyone want to take better pictures? Surprised also that people actually got angry about it???

  20. Good article. Good points. Better than ignoring your readers. They will also feel more important if you contact them and tell them about the problem.

  21. Jim says:

    Had a case of this at my day job. A user with his own domain was tracking all of his mail by using specific addresses each time he registered. So when he got spammed he knew it was from us! What had happened was that one of our 3rd party suppliers (whom are customers know we pass details to) had leaked the email address.

    The chap was understanding enough after a personal investigation and apology, but not before he had sounded off on his blog :(. No one likes spam but I do wonder if people need to get SO angry about it!

    Spam can be managed with the right tools, personally its nolonger something that bothers me at all. Like Darren, I use well defined email rules to manage incoming mail from different sources. Spam is a fact of life and with some simple housekeeping you need never worry about it!

    And I liked that people replied to say they were greatful for the mistake! Let us know if you get a subscription spike on the DP blog after this post!

  22. blog4net says:

    What you did is right in toto and you did that because you know that honesty and integrity are your foundation.

    with those two things any one can shape himself what he wants to be, especially his internet presence.

    i appreciate your timely response and you have not lagged behind of what is expected from you.

    comiing to the anger of some people, dont take it to your heart.

    waiting for your announcement of problogger newsletter.

    well, i am not among those that got the wrong letter :-)

  23. So mistake gone good for you :)
    I agree, if you make mistake then you should tell about that and not hide.

  24. Muscle Post says:

    It’s always best to admit your mistakes and be honest and sincere. This helps your credibility and also establishes you as a person of good character.

    Blogging would not be nearly as popular if people were insincere and spammed all the time, so when mistakes like this happen, the way you handled it is the best way. Classy and apologetic, and people will understand.

  25. Eric Go says:

    Admitting a mistake is very important. Since it is the only way that allows you to move on.

    Otherwise, when you do not admin, it prolongs the issue.

  26. Anima says:

    Well this open honest post just pushed me over the edge – I finally checked out your digital photography blog and signed up. I’m excited to get reading and learning. Thanks!

  27. Ginkgo100 says:

    Another way to promote a blog post is to use Australian slang that Americans don’t know. It makes us read the post to try to figure out what “stuff up” means! Just teasing a little, Darren. I always find the difference in English slang in different parts of the world interesting.

  28. Kelvin Kao says:

    Thanks to your mistake, I looked up and learned what “stuff up” means. It’s like last time another Aussie blogger Craig Harper replied to my comment and said “your shout” and I had to look it up, hehe.

  29. Luis says:

    Damn it, I didn’t receive the newsletter. Can I compliant. I’m subscribing right now.

  30. I did something very similar at work the other day. An email that was supposed to go only to me as a test went to 1000 people or so. I immediately did an apology email because I know that sticking your head in the sand is not the option.

    People were really good about it. A few wanted further information about stuff, and some said we all make mistakes and thanks for letting us know.

    My boss and all my immediate colleagues know about it and I don’t think I’ve done any lasting damage. I have also learned from this mistake.

  31. Lee says:

    Glad to see this stuff happens to the pros to! LOL. Great informative article. Thanks

  32. Eric says:

    Life happens, and as long as it was an honest mistake, and you admit and move forward, most people will be ok.
    Good call Darren to apologize right away and let others learn from a mistake.

  33. Darren, I think you handled the situation very well. We all make mistakes, and on the whole this was a pretty harmless one. It’s not like you accidentally double-charged 1,000 people’s credit cards or something. A non-spam email is easy enough to deal with.

    I had been meaning to sign up for the DPS newsletter/blog because my pitiful digital photography skills almost resulted in my boyfriend not agreeing to get our new house (he’s abroad for work and only had access to my photos). Once he saw it in person he had a good laugh as my pictures apparently led him to believe the large, completely remodeled house was more of a dingy shack.

  34. Tech blog says:

    Good job! I really liked the way you turned a negative experience in a psotive blog. I also recently deleted a lot of posts from my blog accidentally and i think I should do the same thing and have an article about it!

  35. A couple of days ago I started a thread on a well known forum that didn’t make a lot of people too happy with me.
    So a friend of mine gave me advice that I should apologize with a post; so I did, and it brought in great results.
    Many of the users angry at me forgave me and even apologized back for being a bit harsh :-)