So You Want to Start a Text Message Program?

Public health agencies are charged with the unique task of communicating important, personal messages to lots of people. TV, radio, newspapers, and the Internet cast a large net, but those outlets lack a personal touch. And, as technology advances, vulnerable populations are often harder to reach through these traditional media.

Text messages can help bridge the communications gap created by mass media and technology, allowing you to share customized messages with thousands of individuals.

A good texting program requires the following components. We will discuss each of these in this toolkit.

  • A web-based platform or cell phones
  • A vendor for your platform (if needed)
  • Staff to implement the program
  • A budget
  • A marketing plan
  • An evaluation plan

How Do You Use This Toolkit?

Feel free to follow along with us as we move step-by-step through this toolkit using the Next arrow at the top and bottom of each page. If you know what you're looking for, use the navigation buttons at the top of the page to jump to a specific section. The pages within each section are shown as tabs along the top.

Hold your mouse over terms that have a dotted underlineThis is how glossary definitions will appear in this toolkit. to reveal definitions, tips, and extras.

What Will You Learn From This Toolkit?

By the end of this toolkit, you will be better able to:

  • Explain how text messaging can be a valuable communications strategy in public health practice (see Why Text?)
  • Plan a public health text message program (see Program Planning)
  • Identify types of text message users (see Audience Research)
  • Market a public health text message program (see Getting Subscribers)
  • Craft text messages for a public health audience (see Crafting Texts)
  • List legal and security threats to a public health text message program (see Legal & Security)
  • Describe the methods for sending text messages and how the technology works (see Technology)

Target Audience

Public health officials and professionals, including program managers and communications experts.

To get started, you may continue reviewing the resources in this section, or go directly to Why Text?

Person texting