CIO Greatest Practices for Speaking about Catastrophe

When catastrophe strikes, your public relations plan may be simply as necessary as your catastrophe restoration plan. Listed below are three greatest practices for CIOs.

Picture: Olivier Le Moal –

CIOs are effectively versed in dealing with the technical points of a catastrophe restoration (DR), however assembly with stakeholders, the board, the CEO, and the general public when an all too seen catastrophe happens is one other matter. What are the very best public relations practices to comply with when you must face the individuals?

I’ve typically mirrored on this once I reviewed my profession as a CIO. Throughout these reflections, I discovered there have been moments that stood out as a result of they had been nice successes, and others when our execution in IT might have been higher.

An instance of the latter was a catastrophe restoration and failover at a monetary establishment. We needed to execute the plan when our space was hit by an earthquake that knocked out all energy and communications. The DR and failover plan labored flawlessly. Much more importantly, nobody on employees or within the firm was injured within the occasion. Regardless of this, what we realized in IT was that good technical execution of a DR and failover was not sufficient.

Here’s what occurred: When the earthquake struck shortly after 11 am on a enterprise day, all techniques and communications went down on our company campus and all through the area. We moved to battery backup as a part of our catastrophe restoration plan. However battery backup did not resolve each drawback as a result of regional information pipelines had been down and third-party service suppliers had been struggling to get them up.

As a monetary establishment, we had quite a few banking branches unfold all through the world. Clients had been anxious and wished to do enterprise, however techniques had been down. The incapacitated techniques pressured extra skilled supervisors to take over, as a result of they nonetheless remembered easy methods to manually file transactions on a written ledger. These manually recorded transactions might be hand-entered into the banking system later when communications had been reestablished and the system was again on-line.

We knew {that a} robust public relations coverage was a part of any catastrophe restoration plan, and we had proactively created and skilled everybody on a communications tree for workers members and managers to comply with throughout a catastrophe. This tree supplied all the small print about who was approved to talk to the general public and stakeholders a couple of catastrophe occasion. The aim of this PR plan was to forestall uninformed and/or inaccurate statements from getting out to the general public.

If this sounds good, it was. However here’s what we didn’t do.

Whereas IT’s technical catastrophe restoration plan was reviewed and practiced absolutely or partly on a quarterly foundation, the PR plan by no means was. Whereas all of the departmental managers and staff had the catastrophe restoration PR procedures, and people procedures had been filed in a central HR coverage and process folder, this PR plan was seldom referred to or reviewed.

It subsequently got here as no shock when a well-meaning teller at one in all our branches tried to reply a buyer’s questions in regards to the system throughout the earthquake catastrophe. This teller innocently advised the shopper that she wasn’t certain, however she had heard that each one of our techniques and the info middle had been destroyed. This information acquired to the native press, which in its hurry, didn’t examine sources. The information acquired out, and clients started to attract their funds out of the financial institution.

Suffice it to say, our administration crew had rather a lot to elucidate to the board and to stakeholders for damages that now went effectively past the bodily harm of an earthquake. It took us a number of weeks to get the corporate again on monitor. The incident indelibly etched in my thoughts how necessary it was that the general public relations portion of any DR plan ought to be given as a lot consideration because the technical system restoration itself. 

This incident and the circumspection that it created in our administration crew had been instrumental in producing a revised set of public relations greatest practices for catastrophe restoration occasions. They embody:

Apply PR as Effectively as DR

Push for normal opinions of a point-by-point public relations plan that spells out the who, what, the place, when, and why of speaking throughout  a catastrophe. Common opinions and apply of the PR plan are important as a result of people neglect the plan if it’s not frequently introduced to them. It’s equally noteworthy that in a catastrophe occasion, employees and administration are naturally anxious. They will not be pondering clearly themselves. Having a step-by-step PR plan that particulars how and when to speak, and that they will confer with and be aware of, helps.

Develop Step-by-Step Communications Procedures

The communication steps within the public relations plan ought to be easy and simple to grasp and execute. These steps ought to describe who communicates what and with whom throughout a catastrophe occasion, when communications have to be forwarded to the subsequent degree of the communications tree, and who throughout the group is allowed to talk to the general public.

Maintain Your PR Plan Up to date

Immediately, there are social media retailers in addition to phrase of mouth and the normal press. Many staff frequently use social media in an off-the-cuff method. They could not suppose it issues in the event that they report that operations are disrupted of their firm on social media. IT, company public relations/advertising and marketing, departmental managers, and higher administration ought to be cognizant of this to allow them to clearly tackle acceptable and inappropriate makes use of of social media throughout the time of a catastrophe.

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Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally acknowledged expertise commentator and President of Transworld Information, a advertising and marketing and expertise providers agency. Previous to founding her personal firm, she was Vice President of Product Analysis and Software program Growth for Summit Info … View Full Bio

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