incident response best practices

Want to improve your incident response plan? Focus on better incident communication.

Resolving the incident is only half the battle when it comes to responding to incidents. For many teams, incident communication is an afterthought, leaving stakeholders inside and outside the organization guessing what happened.

But ensuring that important information about the incident is disseminated clearly and quickly is essential. Internal incident communication helps streamline every stage of the process and resolve the incident more effectively, and external incident communication keeps stakeholders informed and customers satisfied.  If you’re ready to level up your incident response plan, putting more emphasis on your comms practices might be the key.

How to improve your incident communication practices

1. Establish communication owners

Whose responsibility is it to let the CEO know that your team has identified the source of the incident? To let customers know that there’s been an outage? If you’ve established communication owners before the incident occurs, they’ll be able to act more rapidly, and you’ll de-risk the possibility of leaving stakeholders in the dark. 

Be sure to designate backup owners for communication, just in case something happens while a key communicator is offline!

2. Set expectations for timing and cadence

Incidents might be over in a flash or take longer to resolve. Whether your incident timeline is only a few hours or a few weeks, keeping stakeholders informed is essential for keeping the situation in control and preventing customers from being frustrated. Give your communication owners clear guidelines for how frequently they should communicate status updates with stakeholders to ensure that no one feels like they’re left in the dark.

3. Provide templates for incident communication

Whether composing emails, Tweets, or internal messages, writing every message from scratch takes time and can introduce opportunities for errors. Providing templates for your team to customize and use lets them communicate more clearly and quickly. 

These communication templates should be easily accessible from within your incident playbook to ensure everyone involved in a specific incident has them at their fingertips. 

4. Revisit your communication process during every retrospective

Incident response processes are always a work in progress and will likely need to evolve — and incident communication is no exception! Take time during your retrospective to review your communication practices and evaluate their effectiveness. Was the team able to find the information they needed quickly? Were customer communications sent out promptly? Did they have the click-through rate you expected?

Whether everything went smoothly or you ran into unexpected problems, don’t forget this critical step in your incident playbook! Every incident retrospective gives you an opportunity to improve incident communication for next time. 

Learn more about incident response best practices

Want to optimize your incident response processes further? Check out our new guide, Best Practices for Improving Incident Response Workflows, to learn more about building the foundations of a robust, actionable incident response plan.  

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Ashley Dotterweich is the Head of Content at Mattermost. Previously, she ran content marketing for Heavybit Industries and Rainforest QA.

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