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Crisis communication is an important part of our DevOps culture, and it’s a critical part of taking ownership of operations. Crisis communication will be difficult, but your customers will ultimately respect honesty. Below, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about communicating during a crisis.
Crisis communication is going to be difficult—it’s human instinct. When you’re having problems, the last thing you want is to draw attention to them. Here are some reasons you might hesitate before communicating a crisis to the public:
Don’t kid yourself. Your customers will notice, and information has a way of becoming public quickly. Once you lose control of the message, it can be really hard to get it back. An old adage in politics and chess says, “If you’re reacting, you’re losing”. So, being proactive about your system’s reliability and communication with your customers will build trust. If you’re spending the day responding to other people’s Tweets or Facebook posts, the perception can become that you’re trying to hide something and information has to be extracted from you.
Your users will reward honesty, candor, and timeliness with loyalty. Every organization experiences failures at one time or another. Customers know that no one is perfect, and they will value a company admitting that. Interactions with customers should be a two-way dialogue where customers see their feedback listened to and acted upon.
Crisis communication takes buy-in from all parts of the business.
There are a few key things that everyone should agree on when it comes to crisis communication strategy.
It is important to speak with a single, consistent voice. Be sure to make your message consistent on all platforms and have multiple confirmations that the information is accurate.
There should be well known, publicized channels for your users to get information. Establish these channels and stick to them. ChatOps tools like Slack, Twitter, email, and the telephone are all important tools to use—especially when an issue is affecting one particular customer. But, Statuspage is a great centralized point of publication for real-time platform statuses.
Crisis communication teams attend training and get certification. They learn how to identify types of crises and handle messaging each time. They’re the people that can set up the templates and the team’s Statuspage so messaging is ready to go depending on the type of incident. They also learn how to plan for crisis communication in advance and identify the key stakeholders to communicate with. Here is a useful resource for crisis communication training and certification.
It’s important to manage crisis communication without disrupting critical work. The best way to do that is to have someone act as a liaison between first responders (Incident Commander?) and the crisis communication team. At VictorOps, we try to keep conversations about crisis communication separate from firefighting by using a different Slack channel. We also have plans and runbooks ready with details on how to get the message out.
It’s important to retrospect on the crisis communication process separately from post-incident reviews. Some good questions to ask are:
It’s also useful for the crisis communication team to be part of post-incident review conversations in order to get a better understanding of the platform as a whole, and raise questions from an end user’s perspective.
VictorOps helps you better coordinate incident response before, during, and after an outage. Sign up for a 14-day free trial to see how you can leverage VictorOps to improve crisis communication during an outage.