Last week saw some significant disruption for millions of Blackberry users around the world. A problem in a UK datacentre left customers without email for around three days.
Across Facebook and Twitter many comments were the same – “What’s happening?”, “No news from RIM”, “Nothing on the website”
We all know that in times of disaster you can never over communicate, and yet so often we see the opposite. Businesses go into their shell, probably to try and fix the problem – but end up alienating their valuable customers and creating a PR disaster where one might not have been.
How do we avoid it?
Often you will see televised reports of the emergency services coming together for a huge emergency role play – perhaps a terrorist attack, or a rail crash. Teams from police, fire and ambulance services work together, practicing how they will deal with a real incident.
Businesses should do the same.
Firstly – pull together a core PR DR team. Not a big committee, just a handful of people, across departments that you can rely on in times of stress. Yes Marketing are involved, but so are Support, Operations, Finance, Sales. In times of disaster you need to be communicating through all these channels.
Next, write out a list of the top 10 things that could go wrong with your business (this is not an admission of what might go wrong – just a worst case scenario)
- Service failure (.com site fails, train crashes, financial difficulties)
- Personel issues (harassment cases, rogue employees)
- Unhappy clients (social media disaster)
Then for each of the 10, map out on a whiteboard who the affected parties are, and how you are going to communicate with them throughout the disaster. This might be a call to your top clients, with email and social media updates for the remainder.
Commit to a timeline for regular updates should a disaster occur – will it be once a day, will it be once an hour? Ask yourself what you would expect from your electricity company, or phone company if their service went down.
Just as the emergency services do, your PR DR team should practice – perhaps every 6 months, at least every year. Pick a PR disaster, and run a drill for 36 hours. Set up a dummy PR DR email account to receive all notifications (emails and example social media posts). Make sure the right communications are coming out.
Check that as a business you are happy with your response. If you had your Blackberry moment tomorrow morning – are you confident you would keep your clients, partners, prospects and investors in the picture and up to date?
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