My Biggest Gaffe: How one little typo can lead to massive embarrassment

Kevan Barber, creative and insights manager at Grayling, on how a simple slip of his finger while sending a press release resulted in humiliation - for his boss.

Sex comedian climbs Everest... kind of (©GettyImages)
Sex comedian climbs Everest... kind of (©GettyImages)

This gaffe has the bonus of its impact not affecting my reputation in the slightest. Instead, my boss had to deal with the flak. Here's how…

In my first PR job we would use Cision to distribute press releases to the masses, and when I say masses we’re talking 500-plus journalists at once. Not only is this a little impersonal, it's also fraught with danger; one typo and the country's media are all aware.

But a typo can only be so bad, right?

What if the typo is in the subject header of the email to the hundreds of journalists? What if, instead of writing 'six', you write 'sex', and the full title becomes 'Sex comedians set to climb Everest'?

I could take a few smirks and oh-so-witty responses from media. However, the email hadn't been sent from my Cision account, but from that of my boss.

Not only had I slipped up with a fairly major faux pas, but my boss, proud of her attention to detail and reputation, was now receiving these questionably witty media responses and social-media posts. Any humour attached to a story about comedians was lost quickly.

And the release was for a charity, a pro-bono project – not quite the publicity we promised it.

The lesson: just don't use mass-media distribution tools, and definitely don't use them to send from each other's email addresses – way too much is at risk.

But hey, at least a release about comedians will have achieved a few giggles.

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