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The Four Most Impactful Types of SMS Messages for Government Communicators

Outreach and engagement between governments and the communities they serve have significantly changed over the last five years. Whether due to forced changes that disconnected in-person interaction or grown from the changed behaviors brought by an increasingly online world, governments find themselves continually adapting to best meet the needs of their changing audiences.

Digital government provides both the basis for philosophical shifts and, more importantly, the tools to help achieve these goals and better connect with citizens, meeting their needs. One area that highlights these impacts for government communications is in the ability to deliver messaging through multiple channels, moving beyond websites to include options like social media and SMS/text messaging.

These alternative outreach methods increasingly will become the norm. SMS and text messaging offers a cost-effective way to increase the inclusivity of outreach and encourages greater public interaction as messages reach citizens where they are most likely to see them and act. In fact, the general public has grown increasingly reliant on mobile devices over the last decade, further pushing the urgency for government to adapt accordingly.

Messaging meets increased accessibility demands

Inclusivity is only one benefit of SMS/text messaging for government communicators. In a time where one in for low-income individuals rely solely on smart phones for digital access, mobile-friendly government communications become a necessity for reaching vulnerable populations. On the federal level, the Equity Executive Order put in place by the Biden Administration places a top priority on providing accessibility to crucial public services.

Trickle down from this federal focus will certainly increase public expectations from state and local communicators, though already more actively engaged with SMS/text messaging than their federal counterparts, to step-up their messaging strategies. In all sectors, aligning outreach methods to reach marginalized populations stands as a necessity, and SMS/text messaging provides the means to make significant impacts in that outreach.

Implementing messaging to target specific outcomes

The opportunity for expanding SMS/Text messaging tactics exists for communications in all levels in government, as both federal and state/local communicators saw an 11% increase between 2021 and 2022, per Grancius customer data.

Any type of text message can be optimized for interactivity. Understanding these common message categories, however, will help narrow focus and targeting:

  • Message 1: Calls to Action
    Imperative messages that get people to take action, such as a sign-up link or calling a phone number for more information. These messages encourage communicators to focus on the immediate need for action, but also clarify the benefit for taking action or the lost opportunity for inaction.
  • Message 2: Subscription Benefits
    Understanding the topics that spark user interest can also lead to increased subscription rates. By using a text-to-subscribe message within outreach messages that speak to popular topics, users will be compelled to subscribe directly from the text message to continue receiving valuable related information. This quick response will improve the image of the agency as meeting the user’s needs.
  • Message 3: Promotional
    Promotional messages inform citizens with program details that may not require immediate action. This can include program benefits or overviews. Promotional messages can be used to encourage users to request more information on a website or external resource.
  • Message 4: Reminders
    Automated text reminders of important dates and deadlines are a targeted way to increase participation in programs and encourage users to keep program requirements front of mind. This can also help build the relationship between the agency and the user, reinforcing the image of the agency program helping citizens.

Why tone is important

SMS messaging presents a unique channel for engagement largely due to the context in which users interact with messaging. Messages are received in a personal space offering a differing experience from sitting down at a computer and conducting research on a website. Because of

this change in dynamic, the tone and the content of the messaging must be reflective of that more intimate experience.

Personalizing messages can boost engagement and reaffirm intent. Messages should be concise (within 160 characters) and use plain, understandable language.

Recipients should be able to quickly comprehend the message to better facilitate an experience respectful of their time. Focus on including essential information and be clear about what next steps, if any, need to be taken. Simple reminders about deadlines, event locations, or links to additional resources are effective ways to encourage engagement, as well.

Implementing a SMS/Text messaging campaign

Understanding which type of SMS/text message can provide the best impact, and the tone in which to create it, is only one part of creating an effective campaign that uses SMS/text messaging as a tactic.

Learn more about how to build successful SMS/text messaging campaigns for government communicators in “How to Leverage SMS in Citizen Outreach Strategies,” a downloadable guide for federal and state/local communicators.