Your Guide to Sending and Receiving Coronavirus Text Alerts

Your Guide to Sending and Receiving Coronavirus Text Alerts

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus is dominating communications these days, particularly when it comes to SMS messages. Text messaging can be an excellent way to inform the public in an emergency — it’s more immediate than email and more preferable for many people than receiving a phone call. Because of this, many legitimate businesses and organizations are relaying important public health messages via text alerts. While there are some coronavirus text scams to beware of, the large majority of brands and organizations are using texting for good. Here’s what you need to know about texting in a time of coronavirus.

In this guide you’ll learn:

      • When and how organizations started sending COVID-19 text alerts
      • How to sign up to receive local coronavirus text alerts
      • How to send coronavirus text alerts if you a business or organization
      • Coronavirus text scams to beware of

The COVID-19 text alert trend

Through analyzing text messages sent via the mass text messaging platform SlickText, we can see when the coronavirus and COVID-19 started to become more important for brands and organizations to speak to their communities about. 

      • Before February 24, 2020, there hadn’t been one mention of COVID-19 by those using the text alert service (although there had been mentions of “coronavirus” and “virus”). While the term coronavirus was texted about sporadically in early 2020, its use began to take off in mid-February. 
      • Just one coronavirus-related text message was sent using the platform on February 17, 2020, contrasted with 110,599 messages on March 17, 2020. Businesses and government organizations have relied heavily on mass text messaging to keep the public informed throughout the unfolding crisis.

coronavirus texts graph

The typical emergency text message about COVID-19, or coronavirus, is sent from a short code and includes actionable information necessary to keep the public informed about policies or procedures that are changing in real time. Below is an example of a typical text (though not necessarily one sent through SlickText).

coronavirus text alert

Receiving coronavirus text alerts

Texting can be the fastest way to hear about policy updates regarding COVID-19. If you currently aren’t on any text alert lists, here are some places you can look within your community to sign up.

1. Local government alerts

Many municipalities and counties have their own text alert systems to advise residents in case of an emergency. For example, the state of California has a centralized, CalAlerts program that allows you to sign up for text alerts in multiple counties (depending on where you live or work). Here’s how to search for relevant text alerts in your area:

    • State-wide: Go to your state’s official website, ending in .gov, and review their emergency alert options. 
    • County-wide: Investigate to see if your local county has a text alert program. Some counties are initiating text alerts in response to COVID-19. For example, Cook County in Illinois just launched AlertCook on March 19, 2020, which residents can opt in to by texting a text word to a short code. As your county might just be adding a similar program, be sure to check the news section of their website or email county officials. 
    • Municipality: Since your municipality is likely to have updates on local laws, closures and policies that impact you during coronavirus lockdowns, it can be useful to get on their text alert list to hear of changes immediately. Many cities have these programs, each with local names. Here are the text alert websites for the top 50 DMAs in the United States that have text alert programs. You can sign up online to start receiving SMS updates. 

If your city isn’t on this list, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have a text alert system as many smaller municipalities also have an SMS strategy in place for emergencies. Visit your municipality’s website to find out if they offer a similar emergency communication service.

2. Business text message lists

You’ve probably been receiving a lot of emails from businesses telling you how they’re planning to handle COVID-19. While these emails might not be very important to you (especially if you’ve forgotten that you even signed up for their newsletter in the first place) you might find that local businesses you frequent have text message alerts that actually are important to you. As policies are changing daily, updates from these business could change your daily plans. Consider signing up for text alerts from these types of businesses:

  • Grocery stores 
  • Pharmacies
  • Restaurants
  • Delivery services
  • Utilities providers

You might want to consider unsubscribing from updates sent by business you no longer frequent and don’t intend to return to, so that you can pay attention to the news from business that matter to you right now.

3. Healthcare alerts

For updated information on how your health care providers are dealing with COVID-19, sign up for their text list. For example, OptimizeRX has launched a free coronavirus text alert service. The World Health Organization also has a WhatsApp bot that texts you COVID-19 facts. Also, you might want to inquire to see if your health insurance company offers text updates. These texts can give you alerts or reminders about:

  • Appointment reminders and scheduling
  • Testing procedures 
  • Medication refill reminders
  •  Follow up care
  • Two-way texting with a clinician
  • Educational content

Text alerts from various stakeholders in the healthcare field can become valuable resources you as you navigate the healthcare system during the coronavirus pandemic.

4. Church text list

Many churches use texting to stay in touch with their members and keep them updated on services times or changes (this could include live stream coverage) as well as service initiatives and words of encouragement from the pastor. If you attend church and are not on you church’s text list, this could be a valuable resource for you during a coronavirus lockdown.

5. School district mass text messages

Text alerts from school districts (and universities) can provide information on:

  • Changing school closure dates
  • Educational testing procedures
  • Policies for retrieving personal property left behind at school
  • Updates on the school calendar
  • Educational resources

If you aren’t already on your district or school text list, now’s the time to sign up.

6. Workplace text alerts

Some workplaces have enacted text alerts to help inform employees in a succinct manner. These texting strategies will only become more crucial as more workplaces become remote in light of COVID-19 health concerns. Check to see if your workplace has a mass texting list that you can sign up for. 

Sending COVID-19 text alerts

If you are an organization sending texts about coronavirus, here are some key best practices about text alerts to keep in mind. 

1. Use a mass text messaging platform

In order to send text messages at scale, you’ll need to use a mass texting platform. Here are four key things to look for in a text alert service. 

  • Scalable: Your texting communication strategy will likely keep growing as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. You need a texting solution that can grow with your efforts seamlessly.
  • Unlimited team members: The best emergency texting strategies are built in teams. You’ll want a mass texting service that allows everyone from your team who needs access to jump on board. Of course, find a service that also allows you to create role-based security permissions so you can manage access based on individual responsibility. 
  • Intuitive user design: If you’re trying to set up a text alert strategy in the middle of a global health crisis the last thing you need is to spend hours trying to understand how to use the platform. Pick a platform that is robust but easy to use. 
  • Engaged customer support: Events are happening quickly and you’ll need to respond to them in real-time. If you run into a snag with your texting strategy, you’ll need to rely on the customer support of your mass SMS messaging service to help you. Choose a service with reputable customer support reviews.   

2. Watch your timing

Because events are unfolding rapidly during this unprecedented global health crisis, it could be tempting to send text alerts just as immediately. Remember to pay attention to the timing of your alerts, especially if you are a business as most people only expect to hear from businesses during business hours. Unless it is a true emergency, try to send texts within business hours, or thereabouts. 

3. Include CTAs 

If there is a specific action that you want the recipient of your text message to take, be sure to include that within the body of your text. For example, if you have a website that you’re directing people to where they can learn more about a certain policy or procedure, include the link to the website directly in your text. Make it as easy as possible for the recipient of your text to understand what needs to be done and respond. 

Recognizing coronavirus text scams

As text messages about COVID-19 become more commonplace, so too are spam text messages aimed at taking advantage of this vulnerable time. Here are some of the common current coronavirus scams. Report text scams you encounter to help stop scammers in their tracks. 

Free home testing kits

A current coronavirus scam claims to have free home testing kits which can be sent out if you give personal information. Do not respond to this scam. There are no free home testing kits available for COVID-19. 

COVID-19 cure

Some coronavirus spam text messages claim there is a cure for COVID-19 and encourage the recipient to purchase, which if course would require you to share your personal financial information. There is no cure for COVID-19 and you should not click on any links within a text message that claim to have a cure for COVID-19, nor should you send any personal information or funds to these scammers.

Text messages about the Stafford Act and buying food

There is currently a text scam making the rounds that claims the President will evoke the Stafford Act within 48 to 72 hours. The text encourages the recipient to stock up on food and forward the text to others. 

The National Security Council has openly debunked this scam. 

World Health Organization impersonations

Some scammers have been sending text messages or making phone calls claiming to be from the World Health Organization and looking for money to support their efforts in the fight against the virus. The World Health Organization has spoken out against these actions and has urged caution when responding to anyone asking for money over the phone.

Donation scams

Text messages claiming to be from charities, both local and international, can often be scammers in disguise. Don’t click on the links inside a text message unless you’re familiar with a sender. Also, make sure to fully research any charity before you give money to it. 

Government issued checks scam

Some scammers are taking advantage of a possible coronavirus stimulus package and are claiming to be the government, asking for information via text before they will send out a government issued check. If personal checks are sent to Americans, you will not be asked to verify your banking information before the funds can be released. Any claims to the contrary are a phishing scam aimed at gaining access to your personal information.

 

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