Set expectations before others do it for you.

Set expectations before others do it for you. We have all seen angry mob mentality online, and it can become quite serious for you and your brand. Similar to change management, it's natural for people to freak out when they don't know what is happening, and how they will be affected. This relates to the next point

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To address the fears of the stakeholders and set expectations

To avoid any more damage, it's important to address any fears that stakes holders may have such as security or loss of business. Again, it's the fear of the unknown that can create an irrational situation. Using the recent major outage with Living Social as an example, all communications we're quick to point out that user data had not been compromised.

So that your stakeholders have something to tell their stakeholders

Everyone that is affected has their own targets, their own manager to report to, or even their own clients, so it's important for them to be able to report on why they can't get their work done.

Create a communication plan in advance

The number one tip for surviving an unplanned outage, is having a solid plan in place in advance that can be put into action quickly. Plan for the fact that everything will have an outage, either planned or not, eventually.

Having a well documented plan is also most effective when you have buy-in from your most important stakeholders. Having this buy-in can pay off big, it is a what are these guys doing? versus These guys have it all under control type scenario.

Here is what you need for the plan

A nominated spokesperson(s)

When a crisis occurs one of your biggest enemies is time. The last thing you want to be doing is figuring out who is going to let the users know, whilst that time could be spent sending the actual message. It is important that these people have great communication skills, and have enough product knowledge to be able to answer basic questions.

Crisis communication works much better if the person fixing the problem, is separate to the person in charge of communicating. Secondly, communication should only have one owner per issue. 'Too many cooks in the kitchen definitely applies here.

Knowledge of your stakeholders (The who)

who they are and how they would be affected. This also includes how to contact them in an outage. This is also very important when it comes to creating the actual message to ensure that it will be interpreted properly.

Predetermined methods of communication (The how)

What is the quickest and most effective way to communicate an outage to your stakeholders?

The vehicle depends on the service, and the audience. Enterprise would be email, or even something like Yammer. If it is an external web service, maybe a blog, or twitter similar to what Zendesk does.

Certain stakeholders (CEO, CIO, Vice Presidents) may require a direct phone call as well. Either way, know how to contact your stakeholders in a crisis.

How often will you communicate (The when)

Again this depends on the impact, urgency, and the knowledge of the stakeholders. A good guide for P1 outages is hourly if possible.

After the initial message, communicate regularly enough so that people don't start wondering what you are doing, and keep the information easily accessible.

And lastly, tell your team about it

The nominated spokesperson may not be the person who is alerted first that an outage is currently taking place. It is important that everyone knows what to do, and what to say when an outage first happens to avoid damage.

What do we do now?

Be the first to let people know, not the other way around.

This goes back to the point about protecting your brand. Nothing screams incompetence more than when it appears that the owner of the service doesn't know what is going on. To longer the gap, the more potential for damage.

Response time is key to minimising the damage, so use holding statements if you have to.

Tailor the message to the audience (The what)

This is what is happening, it's under control, you will be kept informed until it's fixed

  1. Use the appropriate level of complexity. There is no point putting a router traceroute into the communication to aid your case, if the recipient of the message isn't technical.
  2. Pre-empt any questions your audience may have
  3. Address any fears that the stakeholders may have (security, loss of business)
  4. Tell them what is happening next
  5. Tell them who is looking after it, and where and when up to date information will be coming from

Holding Statements

Again to save time, create a couple of holding statements to buy you more time if there is still uncertainly on root cause and information. For example:

IT is currently investigating root cause, and more information will be communicated as the situation progresses

Tell them when it's fixed

Good news! Make sure you tell people when everything is back to normal. Again, preempt any questions people may ask, and set the expectation before others do.

At the end of the day, protecting your brand is also about marketing. A great tip from Seth Godin is to remember, your story is all that you have. So if you say you have the best uptime, make sure that you invest in delivering on the uptime promise that you just made.


  1. Have a well documented unexpected outage communication plan in place first
  2. Response time is key to setting expectations and keeping everything calm
  3. Tailor the message and communication vehicle to the audience

Working in IT is not like it is in the movies. We don't get to create computer virus's to to take down alien invasions, or turn down 3 Billion dollar cash offers from Facebook. Ok, that one did actually happen.

In the real world we have budgets, deploys services that people don't choose to use, and need to involve users in change management.

Ever heard this one?

Why does it take the IT department so long to do anything, what are they doing all day? The department managers

or this one?

IT costs our company $XYZ,000 per month, we have all these people sitting there, but I just can't see what I am getting for my money! The CEOCFO

or my personal favourite?

I call up, and they have no idea what I am talking about The users

Some of the answers to these issues lie within an Internal Marketing strategy. In this five part series, we are going to define what Internal Marketing is, how this benefits IT departments, and how to get started.

So what exactly is Internal Marketing?

Internal marketing is not the same as creating external (to the business) customer demand, it is focused on employees. Although the concept has been around for over 25 years, there isn't a single unified agreement on what exactly internal marketing is.

An all encompassing definition is the following:

  1. To develop motivated employees and foster a customer focused culture . This is the most widely recognised definition, and means that superior customer service rely's on motivated employees
  2. Marketing tools and techniques to enhance team image and gain internal support . It is a lot easier to gain company or cross functional resources if the perception of your team is high.
  3. To foster alignment with external marketing efforts, and internal cross functional teams . In other words, ensuring that your team can deliver on what is being advertised externally, and provide customer value.

Why does IT need Internal Marketing?

To increase awareness, build momentum, and buy-in

For IT departments still relying on the past strategies of inward facing control and policies, there is the risk of sliding down a slippery slope that you don't want to get into:

  1. Be seen as nothing but a cost centre, then
  2. Fail to get budget approval for upgrades, then
  3. Be blamed when systems deteriorate, which creates
  4. A mutual dislike between IT and the business, and then
  5. Other departments start running their own guerilla IT

Have you seen this happen before?

Competition for resources with other departments and teams

These days, everyone has something to promote. If your department needs resources and support, you have to compete against other departments and sell your vision to whoever holds the purse strings.

Competition with external providers

We are now competing against technology outside of the office. Companies we have long used as suppliers such as Microsoft, are in some ways also competitors. Armed with a credit card, business users are spoiled for choice, and are abandoning centralised IT in droves. The success of and Amazon Web Services are symptoms of the failures of corporate IT

Given the choice, why would your customers buy from you?

But isn't marketing just advertising?

I admit it, the notion of using marketing for IT departments sounds weird. In fact, internal marketing has usually been associated with marketing and communications teams, and MBA students. But Internal Marketing is gaining popularity, and the relative obscurity of it (so far) means that it gives your team the edge over rivals.

Of course, nothing erodes trust with the business quicker than making a grand promise, and then failing to deliver. The natural method is to downplay expectations, and then try to 'over deliver' on the final product.

This is still applicable for internal marketing, it is very important to ensure that what is being communicated is actually being delivered (or about to be). The difference is that these techniques set you up to control perception and demonstrate value, build a motivated and customer orientated team, and systematically know your customers.

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Posted in Cleaning Services Post Date 01/01/2020