Stakeholder is one of those words that would have to be invented if it did not already exist. Without any notions of ownership or relationship or control, it is a catch-all term which describes the whole ‘community’ within and around an organisation.
For a local authority, that stakeholder community is diverse; from its elected members and staff, through Council tax payers to service contractors selected for their ability to deliver value for money. And when the authority has responsibility for education, that network extends out to the teachers and the pupils and their parents.
Communicating with these stakeholders effectively is a challenge for any authority. The vehicles available must reflect the diversity of the tasks. A forward-looking Council will gather round it a complete spectrum of communications, each chosen to give good value. There is no single communications medium that fits all applications, whether post, email, fax or public pages on the internet.
No proven technology can be ignored, however, so long as it is cost-effective and safe and does not compromise the authority’s integrity. And that is how text messaging came to be adopted at Telford & Wrekin Council in Shropshire.
Provided that a coherent system could be deployed to handle text messaging across the spectrum of applications being envisaged, the technology could clearly play a valuable role when the objective was to move small ‘parcels’ of information quickly to a known audience. After comparing the solutions available on the marketplace against the array of tasks for which the technology was intended, Telford & Wrekin opted for the ProcessFlows SMS gateway.
Clare Gough, Project Manager, in the Business Efficiency Team, noted that libraries are a natural application for text messaging. “It means that readers can be informed when a book on request becomes available, for example. It saves the cost and delay of generating and then posting out a letter, reminders for overdue books are another obvious use.”
The Theatre, which forms part of the multipurpose Oakengates Centre known as ‘The Place’ has adopted SMS for direct marketing. Does that suggest that the Council is indulging in ‘spam’ texting to promote its services? Gough was quick to refute that suggestion;
“Everyone receiving a message has already signed up to the service. All of the applications for SMS are still the responsibility of the central development team and a detailed set of operating procedures is being established before any are formally passed over to the user service areas.”
“We recognise that data protection is paramount. The Council’s Information Governance unit maintains a watching brief over all activities involving personal or sensitive information to ensure strict compliance.”