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Modern, Effective & Fast: SMS Communication for Municipalities

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SMS Marketing Software | Automated and Engaging Messages

7 min read

SMS Communication for Municipalities

“As effective as ever” is the best way to describe the impact of SMS (Short Message Service) messages in the modern landscape of communication. In fact, modern technology turned SMS communication from mundane texting into one of the undisputed main communication methods in the era of digital media. Why SMS is well regarded as one of the core communication channels is answered by Tech Jury with these facts:

  • Over 66% of the world’s population can be reached via SMS
  • 75% of consumers consent to receiving SMS messages from brands after opting in
  • SMS campaigns get a response rate 209% higher than phone, email, or Facebook.
  • Just within three minutes, 90% of SMS messages are read


Why Municipalities Should Use SMS?

The reasons why municipalities should include SMS in their existing communication plans are manifold. Municipalities need to look after a lot of amenities such as libraries, parks, community water systems, local police, roadways, and parking. Managing these resources requires extensive internal communication. Municipalities also must engage citizens about town hall meetings, surveys about certain issues, and during moments of crisis such as weather alerts, civil unrest, and crime. A fast, yet effective, communication channel like SMS can boost both external and internal communication processes.

In case you still need convincing, according to this article by Business2Community, the average open rate of a text message sits at about 98%, while the open rate for email campaigns is about 20%. On top of that, the average response rate for SMS is about 45% compared to only about 6% for emails. Actions are taken after opening an SMS take around 90 seconds while for an email, the average time to take action is 90 minutes. This means if you want people to take action after reading a short message, SMS should be the primary channel.

Here is a list of SMS communication features that can potentially supercharge communication processes for municipalities:

Personalized Messages to Citizens

Who doesn’t love a personal touch? This is a reason personalized messages get more attention than regular, generic messages that sound like a bot speaking! Personalized messages can attract citizens to open, read, and take action. For instance, a municipality wants to send season’s greetings to all the citizens. Instead of sending a generic message, using an SMS communication tool, you can include citizens’ first names, last names, or other personal details in the SMS body. A CRM tool can be used to organize citizens’ details such as their first names and then an SMS marketing tool can be used to send those personalized SMSs in bulk to those contacts.

Campaign Automation

SMS campaigns can be easily automated using a communication automation platform. You can schedule a chain of personalized SMS messages ahead of time. With constrained resources and manpower, municipalities face immense challenges to communicate with citizens, especially when the communication needs to be tailored. Automation can reduce the workload by eliminating repetitive tasks from the communication processes. You can also set criteria for further steps in the campaign. For instance, if someone wants to opt-out, the citizen can simply text STOP and they will be automatically removed. Automated SMS responses is another feature a municipality can use. Using this feature, pre-set replies can be sent automatically to citizens based on their responses.

Keywords & Shortcodes

Keywords and shortcodes are unique features of SMS communication. Organizations can reserve a specific keyword for a specific campaign. Their audience will have to send that keyword to a shortcode number to sign up for that campaign. Shortcodes are shorter version of a 10-digit cellphone number. For instance, instead of sending a keyword to 9021111111, citizens can send that text to a designated shortcode, such as 123456. Shortcodes are simple and engaging because they allow people to act with just a few keystrokes. The best use of shortcodes is for events such as promotions, charity, and contests. For example, a keyword can be ‘alert’ for municipalities. If citizens type ‘alert’ and send it to shortcode, they will be signing up for future alerts during crisis moments.

How Can Municipalities Leverage These Features?

Nearly every municipality can use SMS communication alongside existing communication channels for regular and emergency communication purposes. Among a plethora of scenarios, here are a few examples:

Regular Communications

Civic Events

Civic events are important for any municipality. Sometimes it is difficult to engage all citizens at all stages of a civic event. With SMS communication, municipalities can easily set up sign-up options for an event and set a series of reminders prior to the event.

Use case: Bruce Williams, a super active high school student, takes part in all the quarterly fundraising events organized by Bridgetown Municipality. He never missed an event because the moment he receives an SMS message asking for volunteers, he responds YES and he is automatically signed up for the event. Not only that, but he also receives two reminders: one week before and one three days before the event so he doesn’t miss out. Bruce loves SMS communication as he does not have to call the municipality office every now and then to check if they have started recruiting volunteers for their upcoming events.

Raising Awareness

Often, local government needs to address certain issues to the public. Alongside a press release and a public statement, an SMS campaign could also help to raise awareness among citizens.

Use case: Nathan Pollard, mayor of Seaford Municipality, recently discovered that the crime rate in a certain neighborhood has surged over the last couple of months. The mayor understands that in order to fight the crime rate, citizens should help the law enforcement agencies. Nathan decides to launch an awareness campaign that will send a series of tips on crime prevention to citizens in the selected neighborhood. He asks the communication team to create a list of citizens residing in red-flagged areas and send them 16 text messages (two per week). Nathan expects to have positive results from this awareness campaign.

Surveys

Often, municipalities need to conduct surveys to understand citizens’ reactions to amenities and items. These surveys are often done over the telephone. Using SMS, quick surveys can be conducted. For instance, people can reply to certain questions by replying Yes or No or other customized options.

Use Case: Brenda Rogers, the manager of Roads & Highway department in Derby Municipality, recently received a series of complains about the conditions of the children’s playgrounds. Before making any move or taking on any big project to improve them, Brenda wants to understand the priority areas. However, she doesn’t have many resources to launch a telephone survey campaign. So, Brenda decides to put out a mass SMS survey campaign. Under this campaign, citizens will have the option to sign up for a survey. Once they sign up, a series of questions, such as “are you satisfied with the condition of the playgrounds?”, will be sent to them. Participating citizens will have two options “Yes” or “No”.  At any point, if anyone wants to opt-out, they can send STOP and they will no longer receive further questions. With this automated SMS survey campaign, Brenda expects to see a substantial number of responses to find out the priority areas to improve.


Emergency Management

Weather Update

Every year, hundreds of lives are at risk due to a lack of information about imminent extreme weather conditions. There are scenarios where services (government and private) were closed due to bad weather and families had difficulties with unavailable services. Also, it is risky to stay outside when a storm is imminent. If citizens are alerted about extreme weather or any incoming natural disaster earlier, they can easily take preventative measures. To deal with such cases, pre-set SMS weather updates could be sent to everyone just by activating the campaign with a click.

Use Case: On a fine Friday evening, Gary Simson was resting after a long day’s work. His wife asked him to get baby formula as they are running out of stock. Gary asked if the current stock is okay for the night. Getting a positive note, Gary decided to go to the superstore the next morning. However, at around 8:00 pm, Gary received a weather alert that states that there will be heavy snowfall starting from 3:00 am and residents are requested to stay inside for the next two days. Gary immediately drove to the nearest superstore and bought next week’s stock thanking the municipality for the weather update.

Traffic Management

Maintaining traffic is one of the primary concerns of municipalities. Often, there are issues with traffic, for instance, broken roads, blocked streets, or maintenance on sidewalks. All these issues hamper the regular traffic flow. Municipalities can send notifications to citizens as soon as they detect any major issue in the traffic system so citizens know to avoid certain areas and then notify the citizens again once those are resolved.

Use Case: At 8:00 am, Pinehouse Municipality got a report about an accident on the main bridge that blocked a major way between the downtown and the residential area of the city. As lots of people travel over that bridge, the situation might get worse if they are not notified in time. Fortunately, Pinehouse Municipality had a list of contacts who signed up for traffic disruption notifications. So, they activated a pre-set campaign that immediately sent SMS notifications to everyone who previously opted in. The same SMS was sent to bus drivers so they could take an alternative route. The municipality then took steps to fix the bridge issue, and when the issue was resolved at 2:00 pm, they sent another notification to the subscribers. By taking this quick response, they were able to save lots of time and avoid unnecessary situations.

Alerts

Local governments can send instant alerts to specific areas addressing critical issues. For example, if a municipality detects substances in water in a few areas they can segment the residents living in those areas from a mapping interface and send customized SMS messages with instructions to boil water before drinking.

Use case: Donna Lambert lives in Brighton, which is a rural municipality. Donna, as well as her family members, use well water for drinking and other household works. Recently, Brighton Municipality was able to detect bacteria in the underground water. An immediate general alert was sent to every municipal resident to boil the water for the next two weeks before they drink it. A set of instructions on how to properly boil water was also given.


Which Platform to Use?

The SimplyCast platform can help your municipality redefine your engagement activities with one of the fastest-growing communication methods. This platform allows you to organize SMS campaigns with easy SMS marketing campaign creation, automated personalization and unsubscribe management. You can also discover how to improve your campaigns by reviewing detailed reports so you can boost engagement.

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Keywords:

SMS Marketing

Municipalities

SMS Communication

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