The Government Digital Service (GDS) is asking public sector organisations how they write effective emails, text messages and letters, as part of research on improving communications sent through its GOV.UK Notify system.
The public sector has used Notify to send 1.55 billion messages over the last four years and GDS wants to add support for improving them.
“Our hypothesis is that better means shorter, easier to understand and more engaging. When it comes to sending messages, these are all things that can save departments time and money,” writes Karl Chillmaid, a senior content designer at GDS, in a blogpost.
As an example of how not to do it, he adds that one public sector team used to get a telephone call in response to every letter they sent, frustrating the public and costing the organisation money to deal with the calls.
GDS has looked at data on the number of messages sent, the length of text messages and emails and the number of replies to text messages. On the last, it has found that a third of teams that send text messages never receive any replies. “Until we know if the senders actually expect a reply, we can’t say for certain whether this is a good or bad thing,” says Chillmaid.
Call for feedback
The service is inviting feedback from public sector organisations on how they write messages, measure their impact, the challenges they face and what support they would find useful. Those responding do not need to use Notify.
GOV.UK Notify is open to central government bodies, local authorities and NHS organisations. It is mainly used for email, with 1.41 billion sent since May 2016, along with 133 million text messages and 4.2 million letters. From March, the system sent daily text messages to more than one million people identified by the NHS as needing to self-isolate.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0