ITL #339 A quick text: the real value of SMS to PR practitioners

7 months, 4 weeks ago


Given that SMS delivers immediacy and impact, more PR professionals should incorporate it into communications programmes. By Alain Grossbard.

There is a real and significant growth in the popularity among PR practitioners and ultimately businesses of using Text Messaging Services (SMS) as the best means of communicating a message. Whether it is for communicating a crisis issue using alerts, for confirmations or for reminders, just to name a few reasons.

PR practitioners should consider SMS as an alternative or updated version of an email but with a more succinct and direct effect on the reader. It can be used in similar ways through its automated and scheduled approach and in a timely and engaging way, but SMS creates greater awareness, is more disruptive and brings near immediate attention to the end-user.

Key benefits of using SMS

The key benefits of SMS distribution by UK businesses can be summarised in four points:

  1. It is an immediate way to communicate – text messages are sent to mobile phones within seconds of the order to distribute. Very important for alerts, warnings, time-sensitive messages and announcing a new product or service.
  2. It has a direct effect – text messages are distributed directly to a specific mobile phone number thereby assured that it will be highly seen by the end-user.
  3. It will be read – nearly all mobile users will open every text message within 3 minutes of receiving the SMS.
  4. It features are wide – text message can be used for prompt, succinct communications for alerts, confirmations, reminders, deals and special offers

SMS is the fastest growing communication tool

Text messaging is now recognised as the fastest growing communication vehicle means, reaching millions of mobile users every day. Here is some interesting recent statistical evidence collected about the growth of SMS. Statistically,

  • Over 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of receiving them. Interestingly, most users read the message as soon as it is sent to their mobile.
  • Around 98% of mobile users are likely to have read the SMS by the end of the day.
  • Only 20% of emails are opened by the end of the day
  • Over one third of mobile users are attracted and read their mobiles immediately after waking up.
  • Number of SMS messages sent monthly has increased a whopping 7700% over the past 10 years.

As an example - mobile users in UK are ever increasing

Some 48% of the UK population now possess a smartphone, which equates to around 32 million people having such a device.  With a forecast of the number of mobiles increasing steadily with an additional 14 million new users in the next 5 years to 38.7 million (increase by 11%), they have become a significant part of people lifestyle as a communication device. 


Take the example, from a communication perspective, 44 million consumers received a business SMS in 2018 in the UK.  Consumers want to receive SMS from businesses as an easy to follow and quick way of communicating some form of information, idea, product or service. 

The issue is why do businesses only use some 38% of their communication capacity in sending text messages considering the power and range of features of SMS communication? There are so many opportunities that should be taken advantage of in using SMS to communicate with their customers, clients or staff.

When reviewing the top five services of mobile devices in the UK, SMS is the highest with over 54% of users engaging with a text message from a business. This is followed by browsing the Net with around 25% clicking onto a web link and followed by another 25% by using Emails. Mobile camera and weather updates are less accessed, but popular with mobile users. 

This type of statistical information shows that SMS is a very powerful communication tool. Not only for personal use: the data above also indicate that businesses are noticing the value of SMS as a reliable and effective communication source.

The effectiveness of SMS to communicators and businesses

From a public relations perspective, over three quarters of all businesses in the UK believe customers want some sort of SMS information, and 1 in 4 customers prefer a SMS from the business rather than a phone call. 


Using the information provided by eWeek, 80% of people are using texting for business while one-third of business professionals cannot go more than 10 minutes without replying to a text message. Many UK companies who have call centres prefer to use SMS as their best way of contacting people.  According to a 2018 Contact Babel report, SMS texting has decreased the price of a UK customer service calls from pounds to pennies per session.


So what do end-users think about receiving SMS?  Mobile Behaviour Report research has shown that of the 91% of mobile users who read their texts (who are likely to be Millennials), 64% of consumers believe businesses should use SMS more and 70% believe that a SMS is a more interesting way to attract their attention.  And equally interesting from a communication perspective, 77% of mobile users have a more positive attitude of the business when provided with text as a communication tool.

What does this mean for public relations professionals in the future?

The statistics provided indicate that SMS Is a very viable and effective means of communicating directly to each end-user, whether it is a customer, consumer, client or employee. It is a more effective way than the business website (64%) and display advertiser (59%). Businesses surveyed indicated that they plan to continue to increase their SMS communications over the next few years.


We now live in a world of instantaneous demands at any time for information, updates, news, ideas, better products and improved services. 35% of us check our mobile phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning, with 70% using our mobiles during meal times.

If that’s not enough, over 90% of us read an SMS within 3 minutes of receiving it. That’s why SMS is the most effective communication tool available for business effectiveness and efficiency now.

The Author

Alain Grossbard OAM, FPRIA is co-author and developer of international SMS comparison sites for UK, USA and Australia. He is a Board member of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA).





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The Author

Alain Grossbard

Alain Grossbard OAM, FPRIA is co-author and developer of international SMS comparison sites for UK, USA and Australia. He is a Board member of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA).

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