Magazine article Communication World

On Message: Caribbean Audiences Are Coming Together, One Text at a Time

Magazine article Communication World

On Message: Caribbean Audiences Are Coming Together, One Text at a Time

Article excerpt

Text on the beach. In the Caribbean, this is not a cocktail. It's the reality. Mobile messaging has the Caribbean in a tight grip--and the Caribbean is gripping back. On Trinidad and Tobago, the number of text messages sent per day exceeds the size of the population (1.3 million), and companies are increasingly bringing the technology into their communication mix to keep internal and external audiences texting to their own beat.

Mobile phones are as common in the Caribbean as beautiful beaches. Larger islands such as Trinidad and Tobago boast mobile-phone penetration rates of more than 100 percent, with most users having more than one active mobile phone. This is due largely to low rates for usage and the decreasing costs of handsets. Text messages cost less than US$0.10 each, and in some instances you can text for free. Add a voracious appetite for information (which travels fast in small communities), and you'll see why the Caribbean is getting hooked on text.

Though the use of smart-phones such as BlackBerry devices and iPhones is increasing, the average mobile phone user in Trinidad and Tobago prefers texting to e-mail or e-based mobile communication. Today, you send a text to find your mas (Carnival) band on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, get the movie schedule, or vote for your favorite soca star (soca is a modern form of calypso music).

The convenience of texting is carrying over into the workplace--but not everyone appreciates it. "In the Caribbean, we are already a Laid-back people," says one Trinidadian in her 60s. "Now you are waiting in line to conduct business and seeing customer service staff texting away on their phones."

"It's easy to sneak a text at work," says Janine, a clerical assistant at an insurance company. "The irony is, sometimes I'm texting my boss!"

The initial response from employers? Antiquated, but not altogether unexpected: Many companies banned mobile phones at work. Schools set rules to confiscate phones on campus. But still, text usage is up.

Txt @ work ?

But text messaging isn't all about personal chit-chat. It also has applications for business. Enter the employee text program. As in North America and Europe, companies in the Caribbean text customers. People text each other. Wudn't it be GR8 if U could leverage txt @ work?

U can.

For less than the cost of printing one issue of an employee newsletter or outsourcing the design of an e-magazine, you can fund an employee text program for a year and drive traffic to more content-rich channels. In challenging work conditions, texting can provide easy solutions to stressful situations, with

a high return on investment.

On the customer side, texting can provide real-time information, drive customers to your web site or even engage them in social responsibility initiatives. For example, the Caribbean mobile companies Bmobile (affiliated with telecommunication giant Cable & Wireless) and Digicel held text-based fundraising campaigns for Haitian earthquake relief that continue to raise millions of dollars.

Text messaging is also playing a role in disaster aversion in the Caribbean. The Office of Disaster Preparedness in Trinidad and Tobago is testing text communication for emergency response, and plans to link it to social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Synergy between the communication channels is considered the key to the success of the planned launch of this campaign. "We affirm that text messaging combined with social networking media and other tools such as web sites must be used to keep citizens updated on how to plan and prepare to safeguard the lives of their friends, families, community and country," says Dike Noel, public information specialist at the Office of Disaster Preparedness.

The synergistic approach crosses island borders. Due to the size of the territories involved, emergency response often involves a multi-territory approach that is more easily coordinated with text messaging playing a supporting role to other communication channels. …

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