How to write but get it horribly wrong

I must share the following correspondence (identity concealed) I received last night from an organisation I respect … and which had been very badly let down by some crude, thoughtless writing on the part of their marketing communication suppliers.

This is how a mere few words of incompetent writing can create a car crash of bad feeling and potentially significant harm to the organisation concerned. I have edited out the extraneous bits so you get the picture faster.

When marketing communication projects go wrong - how can clients cope with the fallout from the car crash? A classic example of this awful problem for businesses

Is this yet another example of a car crash in marketing communications?

The lessons we can learn from this are very, very valid…

A classic example of ill-informed writing by a supplier who should know better

Here is the email that kicked it all off … and the first few sentences make me feel slightly nauseated. Is it just me, or do they affect you in the same way?

Our venue announcement is finally LIVE – we have been sitting on this big news for ages now. So we’re so pleased to be able to tell you that The UK XXXX Awards will be hosted at the incredible (Hotel,) (Location,) (Date.) 

This year we’ve really focussed on ‘upscaling’ every aspect of the UK XXXX Awards, with this stunning venue, the food and drink we’ll be serving on the evening as well as some other amazing bonuses that attendees will be getting and experiencing when they attend. The UK XXXX Awards has become synonymous with awarding incredible YYYYYs, and we want our event to be worthy of your attendance year in year out. 

Yeah, yeah.

Here comes the ultimate boo-boo …

Reading the following, I still feel slightly nauseated…

Our tickets will be launching on Saturday 24th February and our standard ticket will be £70 but you can upgrade to our incredible VIP ticket for £150.

As a finalist in The UK XXXX Awards 2018 – you get 1 standard ticket (unless there are 2 co-editors managing your XXXX) completely free of charge. However if you’ve got relatives, friends, random acquaintances that would LOVE a night out, then they can get themselves a ticket on the 24th. HOWEVER we will be releasing a limited number of early bird tickets 72 hours before the tickets officially go on sale, these early bird tickets will be £35 each.

This year, in an effort to embrace digital and technology even more, we will also be live streaming the event so if there is anyone who CAN’T attend the awards but who wants to hear our incredible key note speech, and view our interviews with our brands AND to check out who will be the eventual winners of our coveted awards then we’re selling ‘live steaming’*** tickets for only £4.99 each.

ACTION NEEDED: If you are interested in any of the above tickets then please take 30 seconds to fill in our form right here. Don’t worry about the early bird release- we will be notifying everyone on our database when these go live

I’m not a finalist. I didn’t even enter this competition this year. (And *** “steaming?” LOL…)

Writing to email addressees … not many of us are finalists. Email number two…

So sorry- in our last email we said that you were a finalist at the UK XXXX Awards 2018- this is incorrect. You are not.
All other information, facts and pricing is correct though.
Sorry again, looking forward to hearing from you.
The UK XXXX Team

Wow, thanks for breaking it to us so gently. ” You are not?”

… But still buy “all other information, facts and pricing?

My reaction to this is to suggest you do something connected with sex and travel. (The second word is “off.)

Putting things write?

Actually, I feel for the client here who obviously has been fire-fighting the thoughts of irate email subscribers all day and wishes to Hell they had double-checked what their marcomms suppliers proposed to send out before they were allowed to do so.

But speaking as an (ex, sort-of) marketing comms/content specialist … how could the “external agencies” hired in good faith by the client, make such ridiculous mistakes?

I would love to be a fly on the wall at their next progress meeting. In the meantime, though, here is the response the client company shared…

Hi, it’s ZZZZ here, the MD of the UK XXXX Awards. I wanted to send this out as soon as I realised what happened. I am so sorry if we have caused any confusion and offended you with the last 2 emails that we sent out today.

As we’ve got bigger as an organisation, we have enlisted the help of external agencies to help us manage some of the day to day Marketing and we didn’t see the last 2 emails that went out to you until we started getting some upset replies. We were shocked and disappointed by the content and equally by the response that followed.

You are quite right to feel hurt, and I want to personally apologise and to also say that the effort, commitment and determination that you put into entering the UK XXXX awards (if you did) is so gratefully received by all of us here at the UK XXXX Awards. But also the support you show us year in year out on Social Media, the website and in attending our events- well, we wouldn’t be anywhere without you.

So I just want to make sure everything is clarified and clear because I’m sure you’re feeling pretty confused right now-

If you’re mentioned on our website in either the individual or business finalists page then your XXXX has got through the finalist stage of the UK XXXX Awards and as such you will receive a complimentary ticket to the awards. A huge well done for this achievement.

If you, unfortunately, didn’t get through then I am so sorry- tickets will be available on the 24th February and we will be releasing some early bird tickets 72 hours prior to that. I hope we will still see you there, your support means so much to us. However whether you join us on the evening or not, please know that we are so grateful for your continued support and *hopefully your forgiveness.

Thank you so much,


What a written disaster

Is this yet another example of a car crash in marketing communications?

Who do you think might be to blame here?

And how would you have handled a problem like this in your business?

Please share!