A Case for Pubic (Whoops!) Mistakes

By Jacki Lutz
Sensata, Head of Global Marketing and Communications
ACC 2018-2019 President

As marketing communication professionals, in general, we are responsible for a lot of moving parts, every single day. Whether as a team or an individual, it is extremely easy to let a detail or two fall through the cracks, but no one talks about it! I mean, why would they?! We have gotten pretty good at hiding them and we have our whole team thinking we are perfect! But how much encouragement and learning are we missing from having these conversations? This is what having a network of fellow marketing professionals should be all about! So this year, we decided to change that conversation at the Annual ACC Conference.

Traditionally, the first thing we do is go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves. For the third year in a row, we had an incredible number of new attendees in the crowd and I remember from my first ACC conference, it can be a bit intimidating. Everyone in the room is in the same game as you. We are all marketing to the same industry; some people are high up, some just starting out…  We needed a way to get everyone on the same level so that everyone felt comfortable sharing their experiences, ideas and questions throughout the conference over the next few days.

So we had this idea, that after everyone introduced themselves, they would have to admit to one mistake that they made in their career. It didn’t have to be something traumatizing, just something simple to represent the fact that we were all equal.

I pitched it to the board and they loved the idea, but as it got closer, I started wondering if it was really the best way to NOT scare newcomers. “Stand up and talk about a time that you were completely inadequate at your job so that we can associate you with that error from now on”… what were we thinking?! I definitely started second-guessing the idea but after double-checking with the board, we decided to go for it anyway.

I was completely shocked at how well this went over. Some people really went for it! They were admitting to costly mistakes and career-defining moments. Some really had the group roaring with laughter and almost all confessions lead to others admitting to similar mistakes. Things like:

  • Impactful typos, like leaving out the letter “L” in “public relations”, or costly spelling mistakes on apparel and give away items.
  • Overspending on advertising budgets or expensive packaging mistakes.
  • Showing up at wrong airports, missing flights or performing the wrong powerpoint presentations.
  • Accidentally having the webcam on at a home office!

And that is just to name a few. Throughout that 30 minutes, the attendees were laughing hysterically at the expense of others but at the same time telling the person they are sitting next to “yup, been there!”. Even the attendees that are well-known and well-respected in this industry were admitting to making costly mistakes! It was so encouraging!

The point with this exercise was to show that we are all human and we all make mistakes. It ended up being the perfect way to open the conference and get everyone talking. The intimidation factor went out the window and I think the most important lesson is that we all learned from these mistakes and are still growing in our careers.

Mistakes make us more knowledgeable for next time and when we talk about our mistakes verses hiding them, they can help others improve too.  That is really what ACC is all about, collaborative learning for aftermarketers.

So here’s to the mistakes we made and may we make some more,

Sharing is caring and perfection is a bore. Cheers!