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Growing New Audiences with Text Surveys

A major construction project is scheduled to begin this fall in San Francisco that will overhaul a two-mile stretch of urban state highway from sidewalk to sidewalk, from 15 feet below the ground to 30 feet above, and all the utilities and roadway in between. The Van Ness Improvement Project will fully transform one of San Francisco’s most important north-south arterials, which serves as one of the region’s major employment and commercial centers.

Some of the challenges a project of this scope presents are how to inform a broad and diverse audience about the project and its construction, and how to cultivate these relationships and continue to provide them with information throughout a three-year construction schedule.

Car cards installed on bus at Sunday StreetsTo tackle these challenges, the project team launched a multilingual interactive text messaging campaign utilizing GovDelivery’s Interactive Text platform in April of this year. The initial campaign consisted of signs posted at bus stops along the two-mile project corridor and was expanded to include signs posted in buses within three months.

Poster sets include six taglines—each in English, Chinese, Spanish and Filipino—highlighting a different benefit of the Van Ness Improvement Project and asks, “Curious about what’s happening on Van Ness Avenue?” Readers are prompted to text a phone number to find out more.

The text message initiates an interactive, in-language text message survey that asks if the person would like to receive project updates via text message or email, and includes demographic data collection.

Through this campaign, the team has been able to engage a wide audience and increase digital subscribers by 12 percent.

It has been an incredibly effective way to reach new audiences as 75 percent of survey respondents have said they were unfamiliar with the project and 73 percent have signed up for project updates.

Contacts who opt into text message and email updates have more opportunity to interact with staff and learn more about the project. They receive invitations to in-person events like walking tours and a monthly speaker series, continuously drawing new audiences to those activities.

The campaign has been highly effective in growing the team’s list of contacts. As the start of construction gets closer, the team will continue to look for new ways to expand the campaign to keep neighbors informed and engaged throughout construction.

We have been inspired by the results and look forward to using text messaging in new ways to engage our audiences.

Kate McCarthy is a Public Information Officer at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and was a guest spokesperson on GovDelivery’s recent webinar “10 Tips for Text Messaging in the Public Sector.”