Integrating Disaster Recovery and Crisis Communications

When your business experiences a major interruption, a disaster recovery (DR) plan is essential to keeping systems up and running and restoring business-critical data if necessary. 

It’s also important to keep your customers and stakeholders in the loop about what’s going on within the walls of your organization and how that affects them — especially for an isolated crisis such as a data breach. That’s where a crisis communications strategy comes in. (We talked more about creating a crisis communications plan in a recent webinar with DRJ. You can watch it here.)

The Problem of Isolated DR and Crisis Communications Plans

The challenge is that both plans aren’t always handled by one department. The IT department takes control of DR, and the PR department or another business unit typically manages the crisis communications strategy. Ideally, these strategies should be developed as part of an overarching business continuity (BC) program, but for businesses without a documented BC strategy or poorly governed BC programs, the DR and crisis communications plans can develop independently of each other. In a crisis scenario, this could result in a disjointed response strategy, which can make the business seem flighty and untrustworthy.

If your organization struggles to integrate DR and crisis communications, you may be wondering how you can break down the silos between the departments who handle each of these plans. Below are our recommendations.

Remember the Common Goal

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that both the DR plan and the crisis communications plan should have a common goal: to protect — or even enhance — your reputation throughout a crisis. To accomplish that goal, there needs to be a collaborative initiative involving both personnel and technology.

Identify Specific Objectives

For the DR and crisis communications plans to work effectively together, it’s critical to first identify the desired outcome. For instance, what are your recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives? Are there any compliance requirements you have to meet? Do you have any service level agreements tied to business deals? What are your corporate goals? When deciding what objectives you need to meet, be sure to avoid general answers and agree on specific, measurable criteria.

Implement the Right Tools

Both plans will continually evolve as the business’s objectives, strategies and technology change. That’s why it’s crucial to document current versions of finalized plans, as well as any crisis communications information (media contacts, drafts of press statements, executive and corporate bios, etc.). In addition, each team member should be aware of their unique responsibilities as well as what other teams are working on at that moment. A cloud-based business continuity planning software solution is a good way to organize this information in a central location.

Because time is of the essence during a crisis, also consider implementing a mass notification tool to communicate quickly with key team members. Some tools integrate with BC planning software platforms, which can further streamline plan implementation. Once the crisis communications team defines what it wants to accomplish, the IT group can suggest technical options that help support that strategy.

Despite the challenges, integrating the DR and crisis communications strategies is indeed possible — and necessary. What barriers have you encountered when trying to integrate DR and crisis communications? How are you working to overcome them? Let us know in the comments!

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