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Fostering Citizen Engagement Through Text Messaging Campaigns

This post was originally featured in the GovLoop guide: “Preparing for the Era of Digital Transformation.” The article features an Interview with Andy Krzmarzick, Vice President of Learning and Development, Granicus

Many government employees rely on high levels of citizen engagement and feedback to effectively do their job and improve services. However, this proves difficult when citizens are not responding to traditional channels of engagement. As we move further into the 21st century, mobile engagement has been particularly effective. But with so many channels available, agencies have struggled to develop best practices and standard processes. One tool that is proving popular, however, is text messaging campaigns that reach a broader audience.

To better understand how agencies can optimize texting capabilities for digital transformation, GovLoop spoke with Andy Krzmarzick, Vice President of Learning and Development at Granicus, a platform that offers end-to-end digital communications solutions for government.

Agency programs have three phases that lead to success. First, agencies must disseminate information about the program to their target audience and establish a way people can enroll in the initiative. Second, there has to be a way for the audience to continually engage with the program. Third, agencies have to develop a way to measure outcomes of the program.

Despite this clear path to success, agencies have often struggled engaging their target audience in their programs. Krzmarzick explained that historically many agencies utilized postal mail or email to engage their audiences. However, this was problematic because the audiences they were trying to reach were not using these channels.

To address this issue, Granicus introduced text messaging as an engagement channel for government agencies. Krzmarzick explained that for those using government services, text messaging is really the only technology accessible to most communities. “If you are trying to provide a government service and you are not doing it through text, you are leaving out a huge chunk of people,” he said.

Text messaging is one of the most effective ways to successfully implement agency programs. Granicus works with communications departments inside agencies to open communications to a broader audience, gather public feedback, and promote civic engagement. Additionally, Granicus’ interactive text messaging is supported in six languages, enabling them to reach diverse audiences. These text campaigns allow communications departments to meet these goals in a more efficient and effective manner.

Take the Philadelphia Rise program, for example. The program aimed to help previously incarcerated individuals reintegrate into society. In this circumstance, program staff needed a more efficient way to coordinate services between caseworker and client. To achieve this, the agency sent a weekly text survey to gauge how people were doing. Based on those replies, caseworkers could more efficiently delegate their time according to client needs.

Additionally, a recent construction project in San Francisco highlights the effectiveness of text messaging while incorporating a multi-channel approach into the overall campaign. Krzmarzick and his team explained that the initial campaign consisted of signs posted along the project corridor, prompting individuals to text a number for more information. From there, the text message initiates an interactive survey that offers the person the ability to receive project updates via text message or email in six different languages. The flexibility between channels allows the campaign to proceed in a way that best fits the user, promoting satisfaction and further engagement.

Equally important to better engagement is security, which is why Granicus works to keep the sensitive information as secure as possible. On the other hand, if an agency sends a text message to someone, the message is only as secure as that person’s phone. To keep sensitive data secure once it reaches the end user, campaigns can take a more discrete approach. Krzmarzick explained that instead of text messaging sensitive medical test results, a campaign would send a text message saying the individual’s test results are in and to please call to receive them.

“If people text their friends and families, they should also be able to text with agencies that are providing potentially lifesaving benefits,” Krzmarzick said.

Respecting the power of text messaging campaigns will only become more important moving forward as more and more state and local agencies take advantage of text messaging. Often times, state and local government organizations are under staffed and lack resources, so they have to turn to innovative solutions to get their jobs done. “The problems agency employees are facing are hard to solve, but at Granicus we think we can make a difference with our technology and enable government employees to do their jobs better, more efficiently, and more effectively,” Krzmarzick concluded.