TV personality Keith Olbermann recently returned to work after a brief suspension over campaign donations. As a fellow journalist, I understand why this was a problem for his employers. Members of the media are supposed to remain unbiased and objective in all of their coverage.

Whether you agree with what happened or not, there is a lesson to be learned from Olbermann’s mea culpa. Upon his return to his MSNBC hosting gig, Olbermann immediately apologized. He also ran a mash-up of all the late night jokes about the situation.

Email marketers should pay attention. Mistakes happen in emails, no matter how careful we are with them. A simple typo can throw off your whole message or even offend your subscribers. Maybe you offered too big of a sale or gave your email list recipients the wrong date for an event. An apology is always the first place to start. Take ownership of your mistakes. Customers will respect and appreciate that. In addition, humor is another great approach. Take a self-deprecating tone. Keep it light, but don’t be afraid to poke a little fun at yourself or your situation.

Olbermann did both of these things well. He got back on TV, looked right into the camera and said he was sorry. Step one, complete. While humor isn’t the only way to smooth over a rough patch, it does seem to be a universal language. Olbermann let others do the joke telling, but he let his viewers have a laugh over his low spot and moved on. Email marketers should have been taking notes.