Universities finding text messaging not the panacea they thought

I commented earlier about the rush of universities to adopt phone-based notification systems in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy. I also predicted that there would be another wave of purchases made by universities once they realized that notification alone is not the solution. (You can read my White Paper: Notification is Not Communication).

Now there is some proof that universities are indeed recognizing that text notification is not the panacea they thought in the rush to find solutions. Here’s an article from the Examiner.com about a campus security conference in Baltimore.

Our point has simply been that when you need to reach multiple audiences in a hurry you need a single communication platform that will allow you to communicate in all modes (push, pull and interactive) and distribute (push) in multiple modes including text, phone, email, fax, special purpose website, and RSS feeds (which enables distribution to social media sites as well). And that you need to include the media in a simultaneous distribution because frankly some people still use radio and tv to get information–plus news websites. So instant, comprehensive communication management is the key. Reliance on one method alone is certain to disappoint.

6 thoughts on “Universities finding text messaging not the panacea they thought”

  1. Shortly after the Virginia Tech tragedy our Public Relations group at the University of Oregon discussed what the best form of communication would be if we needed to be notified about an emergency like this.

    Of course radio and television statements were discussed but everyone agreed that a text message would be the best form of communication. Personally, when I was living in Eugene I never listened to the radio or watched TV before my 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. classes. The only way I would receive information like this is after I showed up to class.

    Another great point that was brought up is the students who walk to class. It’s not uncommon for a student to have a 25-minute walk to class from their house or apartment. How would that student receive a message on his daily commute?

    I think every university should have a phone based communication system as a part of their crisis management. Being capable of sending out a text message blast could save hundreds, even thousands of lives.

  2. I would have to dig up the reference, but I think I heard that one University used chalk messages in addition to all of the other channels.

    I am really with you 100 percent that we need to use ALL available channels in order to reach the most people.

    NPR also have a great reverse 911 story yesterday concerning the fires in California.

  3. I gave a presentation at a conference recently where I suggested Twitter (once it becomes more reliable) as a fantastic tool for pushing out information in a crisis.

    Not only does it push out to IM and text messages, but you can integrate it with a blog using twitterfeed, embed it in social networking sites and its RSS lets people subscribe to updates quickly.

    There are challenges (reliability, ensuring people opt-in, etc), but it’s a very powerful tool for crisis communications in my opinion.

  4. I agree. As we supply crisis communication technology here at PIER it is one of the technologies we are looking at. This world keeps changing, but it is essential to keep up with it.

  5. I was in the same class as David, and I participated in the discussion concerning emergency notification systems.

    I agree that for college-aged students, the only way to reach someone instantly is by SMS text messaging. Many students only check their emails every couple of days, but I’m willing to bet most students keep their cell phones on or near them at all times.

    This is not to limit other forms of communication. A simple survey could be distributed, asking students what their preferred method of notification would be in a life-threatening emergency. The top three chosen, for instance, could all be administered.

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