Oh No! There's a Mistake. How to Ask for a Correction in a Published Feature

Jul 10, 2023

Seeing a massive client feature go live feels amazing…until you see the massive error in it. Don’t give in to the instinct to panic! It’s not uncommon for stories to be published with errors, especially with how quickly editors put out digital pieces these days. Requesting a correction to a published feature can be intimidating, but you just have to ask the right way to get the error fixed. 

How to Ask for a Correction with Factual Errors 

Tons of PR pros think that getting an article corrected is impossible, but that’s not the case! It’s the complete opposite, actually: journalists want to provide their readers with accurate, valuable information and are ready to fix inaccuracies. Here are three things you need to keep in mind when asking for a factual error correction. 

Lead with Kindness

Sometimes typos are missed during proofreading sessions and a piece is published with the incorrect product price or a misspelled name. When this happens, show empathy for your media contact. Editors are humans, too! And they’re focused on factual information, so you know this was simply an oversight. 

You should always maintain a calm, professional, and respectful tone when requesting a factual error correction. Show your media contact that you trust them and know they’re a credible, reliable journalist in your niche. They should never be made to feel bad or embarrassed about a small error! It’s water under the bridge and you’re already moving onto bigger and better things as collaborators. 

Be Specific and Simple 

When requesting a correction for a factual error, it’s best to just outright say what’s incorrect in the article. Copy & paste the full quote with the error, clearly point out the inaccuracies, and state exactly what needs to be updated. If there’s a broken link in the article, include the exact link that needs to be replaced and each full quote that includes the incorrect link. 

Don’t beat around the bush in the name of politeness or offer vague descriptions of the feature’s incorrect details. That just makes everyone frustrated. Journalists write and publish five or more articles every single week — an error is going to sneak in here or there! Get straight to the point so they can fix the error, deliver correct information to their audience, and move on to their next piece. 

Show Your Gratitude for the Feature 

Okay, so what if there was a small error in the article? It’s still a great feature! Express your gratitude to the journalist for writing the piece and including your client. Let them know that everyone on your and your client’s team appreciates the opportunity and is excited about the piece. Sending a separate thank-you note to your contact is a great gesture as well! 

When you reach out to request a correction, acknowledging what the journalist got right goes a long way. Compliment them on how well they explained the technology behind your client’s latest product, especially if there’s some tricky information in the article. If the piece was an interview between the journalist and your client’s founder or expert, hype up how well the conversation read on the page! As long as your praise and gratitude are genuine, your contact will feel your appreciation through the screen.

How to Request a Correction Based on Context 

Asking for a factual error correction is fairly simple, but requesting a correction based on context? Not so much. Anything from misinformation to old samples to faulty demos can affect your client’s feature. If you’re asking your contact for a context-based correction, focus on these three areas when you reach out. 

Remember that Corrections Aren’t Retractions 

Look, not every feature is going to be positive. Sometimes, product reviews just won’t go your client’s way! So, when you request corrections or updates to a piece based on missing context, you should never request a full retraction

Asking an editor to change their opinions and the editorial nature of a story is inappropriate and downright unprofessional. At times, clients will request that unfavorable articles be changed or retractions be issued, but you need to push back! Asking for retractions gives off the impression that you don’t value journalistic integrity, which can seriously damage your media relationships. 

Context-based corrections are about misinformation only. Did the editor not have access to key product information (like an ingredient list or additional tech features behind a paywall) when they wrote their piece? Did the editor not receive updated samples between writing their piece and the product launch? A negative opinion is not misinformation and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Related: 7 PR Mistakes You're Making With Your Pitches to Journalists & Editors

Let the Journalist See for Themselves 

If your media contact was missing the proper context when they wrote their article, then it’s up to you to present them with the information they need. Whatever they were missing before, get it to them ASAP! Send out updated samples or provide the journalist with a link to your client’s latest program or app, or supply them with a full ingredient list, final packaging, or all products in a bundled set. 

If your missing context requires a bit more explanation, ask to chat briefly with the journalist to explain your request. Everything you’d do when requesting factual updates holds true for this meeting. Be polite and kind, state your context updates clearly, and show your gratitude not only for the feature but for them hearing you out at all!

Put Your Media Relationships First 

I’ve got to be honest: these types of correction requests are really tricky to navigate, but they’re a lot easier when you have a solid relationship with a journalist! Sometimes, they’ll deny a correction even after you’ve supplied the necessary context. When this happens, just accept the outcome and move on. The ball’s in your court now, and you may want to consider posting a statement responding to the piece on your client’s owned platforms. 

No matter what happens with the feature, your priority should be maintaining your strong relationship with your media contact. If your client continues to push for a retraction or correction even after the editor has denied your request, chat with your client about resetting media coverage expectations instead. There won’t be any features to speak of if your media relationships take a hit from retraction requests!

How to Prevent Needing Corrections in the First Place 

The best way to handle feature corrections is to not need them in the first place. (Obviously!) But with a speedy media cycle and editors’ fast-paced work schedules, it’s hard to prevent errors 100% of the time. Luckily, you can use these two strategies to avoid the most common feature errors before they get published.

Fact-Check Everything Before You Pitch 

This seems super obvious, but it’s so important: you need to get your facts right the first time! Do your research before you pitch, not while you’re writing your email. This includes getting the latest and greatest info from your client regarding products, formulations, sales/promotions, and the like. Every little tidbit of information you provide to the media needs to be totally accurate. 

You can also implement a system to ensure even the smallest errors are fixed before you hit the send button. Getting a second set of eyes on your pitch is crucial — AI programs like Grammarly are a great way to catch spelling and grammar errors in a pinch, but your best bet is to grab someone on your team to read your pitch. They can spot spelling and grammar mistakes, fix any minute details about your client that may have gotten mixed up, and suggest ways to improve the pitch and more clearly communicate the nuances of your client and their story. 

Thorough fact-checking is a necessary step, too! This can be done by yourself after you write the pitch, or can be done by another team member as they check the completed pitch for errors. 

Related: How to Use AI in PR for Your Clients (Is It Even Ethical?)

Keep Your Client’s Website Up to Date

Editors and journalists will often pull additional information from your client’s website, so you need to make sure all aspects of the site are fully up to date. Double-check all links are active and lead to the correct pages, and make sure those links aren’t changing any time soon. If you run into any issues, reach out to your client to make sure their web department is on the case. 

If a journalist needs clarifying info, they’ll likely check your client’s website before they ever reach out to you. Make sure you’re plugged into any updates at your client’s company (like personnel/staffing changes or shifting launch dates) so you can consistently deliver the latest and greatest information to your contact

Asking for a correction to a published feature doesn’t have to be intimidating! Approaching the situation with empathy, clarity, and a commitment to your media relationship is the best move. You’ll cement your connection with your contact, show your respect for the media, and secure a feature correction along the way.