How to Be Humble When You've Messed Up

I couldn't wait to share this email that I got from Kirsty Hall. With her permission . . .

This email shows that Kirsty is human (she messed up, she admits it, and she's embarrassed). The title line “Er, I think I messed up” is catchy and humble.
Kirsty also apologized.
Then she explains that you're going to have to do some work to stay on her list:

I love the line “I'm not going to promise that I'll never email you again because hey, I might know you in real life and need to invite you to my birthday party or something.”
Then she concludes with:

Terrific letter.
If anyone were to ask me how to make this a stronger letter, I might have put an offer to resubscribe even before the apology — at the very top — in bold. And added bold text to key areas to make them stand out more — especially the part about just having 1 week to act.
The subject line was “Do you actually want to be on my email list?” is okay, but “Er, I think I messed up” might have been even stronger. Or “Would you like to keep hearing from me?” Or “3 Sept deadline for staying on my email list.” I think it's the word “actually” that got in my way. Thoughts on this? (I just finished an article on subject lines, so I'm tuned in to how difficult they are to get right.)
Regardless of these minor suggestions, Kirsty had my attention from the get-go. I certainly subscribed right away!
If you'd like to join Kirsty's list, you can do so here.

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8 thoughts on “How to Be Humble When You've Messed Up”

  1. Thanks for the thoughts, Alyson. You are so right about the word ‘actually’, I’ve got a bad habit of using. I think I may have to start banning it from my blogging. 🙂 And I always struggle with titles for emails and blog posts – it’s a definite weakness that I’m trying to overcome.
    Here are a couple more things I learnt from sending this:
    1. I thought I was being helpful by including the link twice so that people wouldn’t have to scroll back up but at least one person was confused by it and couldn’t work out if they should click twice.
    2. I should have offered to manually include people on the list if they preferred – I had one email from someone who’s not very computer savvy who found it far too confusing but did still want to hear from me.
    3. I should have made it clear that I’d changed my email address. I’d been having email problems this week, so I switched to my alternate email address but I didn’t realise that people were used to hearing from me from the other address.
    4. When I linked to this post on Twitter, I should have made it clear that if people had signed up on the website, they were already on the new list.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Kirsty: I think everyone overuses actually. I love what Marcia Yudkin says about qualifiers:
      Great thoughts on your lessons. Here are some thoughts on your 4 points.
      1. I wonder if using the same words in the link wherever you placed it would have been less confusing? I wouldn’t have thought of this in advance, but seems like a good idea now.
      2. Great idea! Providing that service for your list would have been a good move. Again, I wouldn’t necessarily have considered that.
      3. So you sent this message from a different email?
      4. Can you tell us how you used Twitter here? I don’t see a blog post about this on your site ( are you going to do one? ). So did you link directly to the sign-up form?

    2. 1. It’s possible, Alyson. I think what I’d do in future is just make it more explicit i.e. “and here’s that link again, so you don’t have to scroll back up”
      2. It hadn’t occurred to me that there was a need for it but it’s easy to assume that everyone finds the internet as easy to navigate as we do and this goes to show that’s not always the case.
      3. Unfortunately I had to, the server my usual email goes through has apparently been blacklisted and the company is struggling to fix the problem. I’ve been having a ton of undelivered mail this week. Obviously I didn’t want my message to bounce but I hadn’t realised that anyone would notice the email change.
      4. I retweeted this article on Twitter this evening & one of my subscribers thought she had to resubscribe but she’d joined the new one from my website, so you didn’t. I’ll probably blog about it next week because I think it raises some great issues.

  2. I just loved Kirsty’s email! Meant to email back (sorry I didn’t) just to say how nice and human it was. So very glad you’ve used it as a good example Alyson. 🙂 (needless to say I did resubscribe too)

  3. Pingback: MAKING A MARK: August 2010 – Who's made a mark this month? | Oil Painting Singapore

  4. Pingback: MAKING A MARK: August 2010 – Who's made a mark this month? | Online Singapore Art Gallery

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