How to ask for a correction

Your boss is bearing down – “Get this fixed.”

You’re already super-bummed because you worked so hard to place the story . . . and now you can’t share it because the factual errors make your organization look bad.

And you know that journalists get unfairly accused of inaccuracy so often that it’s challenging to find them open-minded when you try to point out a legitimate mistake.

All that makes asking for a correction one of the most loathed parts of our jobs.

So that’s what we covered in my latest training for my Inner Circle members. Here are some of the quick takeaways, courtesy of Hailley Griffis, head of communications at Buffer. She recently succeeded in fixing an unflattering software review and successfully requested revisions to her executive’s paraphrases in a large tech outlet’s piece. Here’s how she did it.

  1. Assume best intent. Coming out guns blazing about bias just makes people defensive. Start from the position that they didn’t know about the missing facts or perspective. Turns out the software reviewer actually hadn’t seen key features when he initially wrote the review, which didn’t post until months later.
  2. Acknowledge positives sincerely. Show that you’re reasonable by pointing out efforts the journalist made to get other things right in the piece. Hailley was genuinely pleased to be included in the roundup of reviews of her category.
  3. Request the specific correction. Might soften the message to use terms like “adjust” or “amend,” especially in the majority of cases where you don’t actually need a formal correction at the end of the piece. You just want them to fix the online version.
  4. Give the journalist ways to see for themselves. Hailley offered the reviewer (who hadn’t contacted her before writing the piece) temporary free access to the paid version of her software so he could see with his own eyes that the features he thought were missing were actually included. Another example would be pointing to third-party resources or people who will verify what you’re highlighting.

Those steps worked for Hailley, and they’ll work for you, much of the time. But when issues are more complicated or journalists dig in their heels, you need more strategies. That’s what we learned from:

  • The PR pro who turned the tide of negative publicity by convincing her CEO – against his initial decision – to keep agreeing to interviews and answer every question.
  • Another communicator who actually reversed a narrative that permeated her entire industry into the accurate story that favors her organization.

That training is only available to current members of my Inner Circle. But you can get access to snippets of some of our best previous trainings . . . and be alerted as soon as we open up access to the “How to Help Journalists Get It Right” session.

Just click here and register and watch for the free bonus tips to hit your inbox soon.

This article was originally published on May 18, 2022

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