With the range of services provided by councils being as varied as it is, the range of threats that can effect those services can also be just as large. Whether it be adverse weather conditions causing school/facility closures, major roadworks notifications, internal IT system failures, or health and safety alerts, forward-thinking local governments should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
There are two main points to take into account for this when planning an effective communications strategy. Firstly – the speed at which messages can be sent to staff/residents, and also the ability to make sure they have been delivered/read. Secondly, making sure that your message can be delivered to every recipient required.
Mobile messaging tools like SMS stand out as an excellent option at this point. They’re delivered almost instantly, and nearly all of the UK’s population now own a mobile device with SMS support.
Why SMS should form part of local governments’ communication strategy
- 95% of text messages are read – and 90% of those within 3 minutes (Esendex / Techjury)
- 95% of UK residents own an SMS-enabled mobile phone (Statista)
- Text messages work for all demographics, including elderly people who are less likely to have a smartphone
- You can receive replies and engage in conversation if it’s appropriate
- Traceable messages mean councils can check when citizens have read messages
- Messages aren’t going to get lost or moved to a ‘promotions’ folder – every text goes into the Messages inbox.
How can text messaging be used effectively by local governments?
Emergency notifications and facility/road closure updates
When an emergency strikes sometimes it’s not feasible to contact affected parties using traditional communication methods. Post is slow and expensive, emails get lost in inboxes and have low open rates, and manual calling is too time- and labour-intensive.
SMS is an ideal alternative for things like IT outage notifications, road closure notices, health advice, and also local facility information, as they’ll be delivered straight to your audiences’ pockets on a device that gets checked on average 58 times per day (Source).
Councils have the option to deploy SMS in one of two ways. Firstly, via an API, meaning that SMS functionality can be integrated into your existing systems. This is great for minimising staff training as the functionality is in a system they’re already familiar with.
Secondly, SMS can be accessed from a secure online platform which offers the benefit of being accessible from any device with an internet connection – ideal in the event of an office closure situation or if your main software programs have been compromised.
To make life even easier, both options support customisable message templates. This means that you can save time by selecting a pre-composed message and personalising it for every recipient by using your own data.
Communications with staff/arranging extra workforce cover
From time to time emergencies arise which require extra staff to deal with it. For example, if there are not enough refuse collectors to deal with the day’s commitments, then more may need to be drafted in to help.
By sending out an SMS notification, you can communicate with non-working staff in a matter of seconds to see if they can help. This avoids the requirement of making calls and sending emails which may go unanswered for hours and helps to eliminate the risk to citizens.
SMS can also be deployed as a 2-way messaging platform meaning that non-working staff can also reply/ask any questions through the platform.
Going the extra mile with SMS Web Pages
For local governments who want to increase their engagement with emergency communications by including images, branding and interactive functionalities, there are SMS Web Pages.
The ability to use multiple interactive buttons which trigger different actions means that once received, an SMS Web Page can act as a resident’s base to manage their digital relationship with that particular council in an emergency.
Links to frequently asked questions, access to the latest information relating to the emergency, or even linking to a chat with a member of staff through the resident’s channel of choice – it can all be accessed through an SMS Web Page.
How local governments can get started with SMS emergency messaging
We’ve worked with a variety of different councils to provide better ways of providing emergency communications.