Great technical disaster recoveries are like better mousetraps. If nobody knows about your engineering brilliance, your work will go unappreciated. Worse, without the truth as their reference point, others may imagine all sorts of things.
With people’s natural tendency towards criticism rather than praise, you can guess how your image and that of the IT department and possibly the enterprise may suffer. So, public relations should ideally be part of your disaster recovery plan, internally as well as externally. Where should you start?
Start by talking to the experts, like your PR department if you have one. Get their point of view on how employees and external observers see IT disasters in the absence of any information from the IT department, and which points should be brought out for a balanced, yet positive communication of the facts to those who need to know.
Include a PR person in your next table top exercise or simulation (which you do on a regular and frequent basis, right?). Know who to call on if a real IT disaster occurs.
If you don’t have the luxury of a PR person, take a few minutes to see how other IT disasters were handled, whether they occurred because of system failure, power outages, IT security incidents, or other.
It may be easier to start with what not to do, as these cases often make bigger news. Thus, and for example, don’t unnecessarily delay communication of information (Equifax hack), fail to respond (Azure outage), or try to disown responsibility (it’s your fault, so deal with it).
Alternatively, you may find news items on how other entities got it right, like certain UK public utilities using social media (Twitter especially) to immediately make customers aware and to reassure that the problem was being dealt with.
Don’t expect to become a PR expert instantaneously, but a little diligence can go a long way to help you avoid the bigger pitfalls and contribute to safeguarding your good reputation.