What you can learn from Garmin’s recent outage

On July 23 Garmin services stopped unexpectedly.

Many think of Garmin as a fitness watch manufacturer, but the company has many more services to offer — most notably in marine and aviation range. As Garmin went black the services we shut down as well; many pilots and captains were unable to download and update maps, with little to no information from Garmin itself.

I’m not going to speculate about the reasons of blackout (which, as some sources say was caused by Wasted Locker ransomware attack), and huge recovery time (four days to put services online in a limited mode, and still limited as for the time of writing — total six days after blackout). I want to talk about the PR strategy and brand communication.

Garmin’s official twitter account tweeted on July 23d (admitting that they do have an outage), and then on July 25th apologising for the “inconvenience”, and on July 27th saying that “all the services are returning to operation”. For 20b worth public company it is a communication disaster. What can your company do to avoid it?

Your disaster recovery plan (like, restoring data from backups or switching to another datacenter) should also include PR and communication plan. You should know when to update and what to tell, and finally — who is responsible for brand communication. In any case, you communication should not look like someone yelled on random guy with twitter access something like “just write something really fast”. All the temporary and FAQ pages should be ready and you should be ready to deploy in minutes — just like major news agencies have written necrologies for most of the famous people.

Don’t keep the silence. Update couple times a day, be reassuring and open. You are not obliged to share all the technical details or share the actual progress but timely updates build brand trust and lower the tension. Simple “guys, we are here and working nonstop, seems like flight data will be on in couple hours” is enough.

In most cases it’s better to tell what happened, leaving no place for speculations. People will always assume the worst if they don’t know what actually happened.

Even if you became a victum of a hacker attack — just say it. Like, guys, we were hacked and asked 10m dollars, but we will not cooperate with criminals and will restore everything from backups instead. ETA 24 hours for flight data, everything else later (we all prefer well flying planes over well working smartwatch, do we?). We will also do a security audit to make sure your precious data is protected.

Don’t act like nothing happened. Share the insight, and assure that you have taken actions so that the same thing won’t happen again. Reassure. Apologise. Go on.

Brand awareness it the same capital as the shares and intellectual property. Managing it in a digital era is as important as managing your assets. Failures are something that people will remember better than successes, so be sure to manage them accordingly.

I write about things I wonder about

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