Adam Waitkunas

BOSTON, MA—Data centers providers at some point may experience a downtime event, network outage or some other public relations crisis. How an organization communicates during this tumultuous time can shape its reputation in the marketplace for years to come.

“You would never operate your data center business without a disaster recovery plan, workers’ compensation or professional liability insurance. Shouldn’t the same apply when it comes to your reputation in the data center space?” says Adam Waitkunas, president of Milldam Public Relations, which recently launched its Mission Critical Crisis Communications Practice, among the  first crisis communications practices dedicated to the data center ecosystem.

“We have seen a lack of planning from a communication perspective from data centers,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “Most of the time, there is no communication apparatus.”

Examples of various crisis in data centers include electrical outages, weather-related events, construction or hardware mishaps, human error and security breaches.

“It is important that owners and developers have a plan in place if an issue comes up,” Waitkunas says.  “You don’t want to become one of those companies where an issue occurs and several unauthorized employees are speaking to the press or transcribing their thoughts on online forums. This happens more than you think.”

From e-commerce to ride sharing apps to air travel, critical infrastructure plays an important role in our day-to day lives making it important for data center operators, plus the vendors servicing them, to posses the communications tools needed when there is a downtime episode or other cataclysmic event linked to data center operations.

If a crisis occurs and a communication plan is not in place, an organization’s reputation can be irreparable and negatively affect them for months and even years after the event is resolved,  according to Waitkunas.  “In this era of digital proliferation, critical infrastructure providers need the tools to respond to negative news and take actionable steps to alleviate the concerns of all stakeholders, while maintaining a unified message following an event.”

As an example, he tells of a February 2019 data center outage at a national bank. Numerous employees were going rogue—speaking to the press and posting on online forums. “This confused the market and contributed to unflattering stories.”

Typically, a crisis communications plan involves employees, external stakeholders, the press and analysts plus a series of mock run-throughs with key executives. There can also be a post-communications campaign that highlights policies the company will institute moving forward.

“It is important that vendors working with data centers also have a crisis communication plan,” says Waitkunas. “If you are linked to a data service center and they are experiencing turmoil, you need to be able to quickly and competently respond as well and if needed.”

As data centers continue to play a more important function in our lives, a communication crisis plan will certainly become even more critical.