5 Steps for Developing a Disaster Recovery Communication Plan

By: Matt Kanaskie
November 21, 2019

While all the employees and customers of the XYZ Corporation slept soundly in their homes, a mouse was up to trouble within XYZ’s walls, busily chewing on wiring insulation for no good reason. When their teeth punched through, the electricity arced. Goodbye mouse. Hello fire.

The unsuspecting staff arrived to work the next morning, shocked at the destruction they saw. It was gone. All gone. “Now what?” they wondered.

If XYZ had a disaster recovery plan in place, the employees wouldn’t have been blindsided by the disaster. Rather, they would have operated as a well-oiled machine to maintain as much operational continuity as possible. For XYZ and any organization, here are five proven steps to developing an IT disaster recovery plan if a fire, tornado, flood or other disaster strikes.

1. Begin with back-up

Disaster recovery is impossible if a company’s data disappears due to a catastrophic event. That’s why it’s imperative to have all your critical information secure on the cloud. That includes your internal contact information for employees as well as all relevant external information on your customers, stakeholders, vendors and business partners. If your organization gets struck by a disaster, you’ll need to communicate with EVERYONE, and that’s only achievable with proper back-up — which Marco can facilitate for your company.


2. Establish a disaster recovery team

Touchscreen featuring tech icons and backupUpper management and department heads are the natural choices for assignment on your disaster recovery team. Working together, they can map out the ideal chain of communication if the company experiences a catastrophic event. During this phase of your planning, there are two primary considerations:

Internal Communication

Quickly alerting your on-site, remote and contracted staff about the disaster takes top priority. Ensure that the department leaders on your team all follow a pre-developed protocol and understand the importance of urgency as they inform their people about the event.

External Communication

After making sure all of your staffers are safe and informed, it’s critical to reach out to all non-employees who might be affected by the disaster. This includes your customers, stakeholders, board of directors, and in some cases the local or national media. Heads of sales, marketing, PR, legal, etc. are ideal spokespeople as they reach out to their respective audiences.


3. Inform your staff

After your disaster recovery team is set, hold a company-wide meeting to discuss your recovery plan. It’s important that everyone is on the same page and knows what and what not to do or say in the event of a disaster. Make it clear to everybody that external communications will be handled by the department team leaders. Consistent messaging is necessary for successful disaster recovery, and the last thing you want is a lot of people giving non-aligned reports of the incident.

When presenting the initiative, prepare a written plan document and distribute it to every employee. Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the communication chain, particularly those individuals working in customer-facing roles like sales, service and the support desk. Also, if you work with an IT provider like Marco, treat them just like an employee and invite them to the meeting. They’ll be a tremendous asset if you ever have to deal with an emergency.


4. Develop communications in advance

You never know if a disaster is going to happen, or what form it will take. But you can take measures to get out ahead of a catastrophe, and the best way to do it is by creating communication templates in advance.

Some templates to have covered include a press release, e-mails, voicemail messages, call center scripts, social media posts, website notifications, etc. Leave [blanks] in these templates that can be quickly filled in with the relevant details of the disaster. For example:

On [date], [company name] experienced a [disaster] from which we are working to recover. We had a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place, which is allowing us to maintain as much continuity as possible. Our staff, customers and partners are our highest priorities, and we will keep you all informed as we progress. We also want to assure everyone that all of our data is backed up and secure.

Naturally, if a disaster strikes, you may need to add or limit certain details in your templates. But having them pre-prepared will greatly accelerate your communication responsiveness and help preserve trust among your employees and customers.


5. Run a fire drill

Your disaster recovery plan is in place. The lead team members know their roles. Your employees have been fully briefed. Does this mean you’re prepared? Not yet. You don’t want to discover kinks in your plan if and when a disaster strikes. Instead, it’s very important to put your plan through test runs.

Marco can work with you to establish a testing method that’s right for your organization. This will help ensure that your communication plan is robust, nimble and effective. Routine testing will identify weaknesses in your plan and allow for ongoing improvements.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and fires can leave devastation in their wake. When it happens to a business, the results can be crippling. However, with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place, along with a sound communication strategy, your company can survive and maintain a solid reputation among your staff and customers. At Marco, we sincerely hope you’ll never have to put your plan into action — but having one in place can make all the difference.

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Topics: Security