Counteracting a sedentary lifestyle at workImproving government communication: Using texts to reach local constituents
A 2011 Pew Research report found 83 percent of American adults own cell phones—of that, 73 percent say they send and receive text messages or SMS (Short Message Service) and 31 percent actually list texting as their preferred method of communication. Even more telling—research shows that 94 percent of text messages are indeed read which may make texting an effective way to communicate to your community.Some local governments have caught on to this and are using texts to connect with the public, provide transparency and get people up to speed and involved. Text messaging may not only provide a powerful opportunity to reach constituents, but it is an inexpensive one, too. If you are looking to give better service through better communication, read on and find out how some local governments are doing so through texting.

How local governments are using texts to communicate
Giving community members the option to receive important messages and announcements via text message is a great way to enhance communication. Plus, it can be a way to reach members who aren’t online regularly or at all. Below are some ways local governments are using texts to update, alert and otherwise communicate with its community members.

  • Emergency situations: Texting can be a fast and effective way to announce important information to the public such as school closings, road closures, public health warnings and even missing child alerts. Let your community members know these types of texts are available to opt in to and promote them in their appropriate venues. For instance, hand out portable electronics cases at city council or town hall meetings—imprint them with a message encouraging taxpayers to opt in to emergency-sent texts. Or, at your public health department, set out a basket of first-aid kits with a printed message promoting the option to receive texts about important health alerts.
  • Updates and changes: For some public sector organizations, information constantly changes. Texting is a quick way to update customers and communicate these changes in real-time. For instance, a San Francisco-based transit system provided its riders with on-demand information via text where they could instantly find out when the next train would be coming through. This concept could also apply to buses, shuttles, subways, trains and more. A key tag or transit pass holder imprinted with information on how to get these important text updates, and handed out at any local transit station, is a great way to spread the word.
  • Feedback: If you’re looking for public opinion from community members, texting is a fast and cost-efficient way to generate feedback. Poll local citizens for their opinions on public services—for example, “Do you feel there are enough policemen patrolling your area?” or “Are you satisfied with the cleanliness of your neighborhood’s streets?” When mailers go out to community members pertaining to these public services, include a magnet with important contact information and the phone number to opt in to participate in the occasional public opinion poll or survey.

Remember, text messaging is a great way to enhance communication between the public sector and those it serves. Providing information and transparency, giving timely updates and generating feedback can all be achieved in part with a simple text.

Smith, Aaron. “Americans and Text Messaging.” Summary of Findings. N.p., 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

Grzeskowiak, Jennifer. “Indiana House Now Texting Legislative Updates.” American City & County Home Page. N.p., 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

Pinkowski, Brian. “Government Use of SMS as a Public Outreach.” Global Transitions. N.p., 6 Feb. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

“The Transformative Power of Communications: Digital Communication Management for the Public Sector.” GovDelivery.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Aug. 2013.

“SMS Text Messaging for Local Government.” SMS Software for E-government, E-voting and Emergency Planning. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Aug. 2013.

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