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When Your Utility Makes a Mistake, Own Up to it Right Away

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Andy Gotlieb 32426
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 33 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
  • 982 items added with 481,510 views
  • Jan 24, 2022
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Weber, the outdoor grill maker, sent out its recipe of the week email as usual on Jan. 21, suggesting that its legion of customers consider grilling meatloaf on one of its products.

Seems pretty innocuous, right?

About 99.9% of the time, you would be right.

But Jan. 21 was also the day that most of the world was learning that a singer named Marvin Lee Aday – better known as Meat Loaf – died the day before.

Granted, Weber had likely written that email days early, and the company certainly wasn’t making light of anyone’s death, but some people may have thought it was in bad taste, no pun intended.

That’s why Weber was smart to immediately issue an apology to recipients of the recipe.

“At the time we shared this recipe with you, we were not aware of the unfortunate passing of American singer and actor Mr. Marvin Lee Aday, also known as Meat Loaf,” Weber said. “We want to express our deepest apologies for this oversight and for any offense this email may have caused.”

Was Weber going to face a huge backlash from an unfortunately timed email? That’s doubtful, but by reacting quickly, the company appeared both responsive and engaged. And subsequent media coverage was light.

So, when your utility commits some sort of faux pas, inadvertent or otherwise, it’s always best to get ahead of the situation.

If the misstep is significant, trying to cover it up or ignore it generally makes things worse – just ask President Nixon.

The public generally tends to be forgiving, so admitting a mistake shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Acknowledging a mistake is the first step in getting the incident in and, more importantly, out of news cycles, which should be your goal.

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