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How to save your subject line

February 17, 2012

It’s Friday afternoon, and the pressure is on to send the final campaign of the week. You have spent a long time perfecting the copy, no spelling mistakes - check. You’ve inserted the links and tested them; they are all live and working - check. The correct data set is in place - check. The sales team are prepared for the promotional campaign to be delivered – check.

Phew, the campaign is sent. Time to pack up and start getting ready to enjoy your weekend! But what could possibly go wrong?

Just as you’re about to shut down your computer, your phone rings, and it’s your manager asking, “Has that campaign gone out to all our contacts? Have you seen the subject line?” Uh oh, here comes the fear.
 
You open your copy of the email and immediately notice the error in the subject line. This campaign is to notify customers about an upcoming spring 2012 promotion, but instead the subject line reads ‘Welcome to our Spring Sale 2011’.
 
Meanwhile your manager is still on the phone, “Are you still there?” What do you do? People usually react to this type of situation in one of three ways:
  
1.       Act immediately with a follow up
 
Try and rectify this issue as soon as possible. You might suggest sending out another email to the same contacts, as soon as you can. Make light of the situation, and apologise for the error by inserting some additional text in the subject line and body.
 
2.       Ignore it
 
Try not to draw any more attention to the issue. Sending an additional email might highlight the error to those who haven’t even noticed it.
 
3.       Wait, and react based on feedback
 
Finally, allow time for the campaign to reach the participants and weigh up the response. You could send a follow up a few hours or a day later with another email correcting the error.
 
Stay calm
 
It’s important that you evaluate what people’s opinions could be. The majority of the time your audience will laugh it off and empathise with you, or perhaps not even noticed it. Or you could get a handful of replies pointing out your error.
 
Sometimes you need to bide your time and remember that it’s not the end of the world (because it really isn’t!). I have actually experienced a case where an error in the subject line, has resulted in more opens and replies than ever – none of which were negative.
 
Whatever you decide to do, my advice is to remain calm and confident and don’t let the situation build into something that it isn’t. Think about all the above options systematically, and work out which is likely to give you the best outcome.  
 
Prevent human error
 
Of course human error means that errors within a subject line can happen, but you can reduce the risk.
 
If there is a ‘copy campaign’ button in your email software, don‘t use it. It will automatically copy all of the campaign details, including the subject line. Best practice is to have a series of templates set up in your account. So rather than copying from campaign to campaign, you upload a fresh, clean template from your directory every time.
 
Always remember the first thing we all see is the subject line. Get a second pair of eyes on it to be sure and then at least you double the chances of spotting it. Also you would have someone else to share the blame wink
 
I was once told that making a mistake isn’t the problem; it only becomes a problem if you don’t learn from it! Ensure that it doesn’t happen again as next time your audience may not be so forgiving, and neither will your manager. 

Posted by Paul Latham
General, Writing copy


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