Emergency Notification Systems and Crisis Communication – Blog

Emergency Communications User Management : Opt-In

Eric Polovich By Eric Polovich

As we discussed last month, the goal of any critical communication plan is to reach as many members of your community as possible with most organizations still emphasizing communication methods like text messaging or email. Reaching your audience directly is usually perceived as the most effective form of communication. The biggest barrier to effective direct communication is the collection and maintenance of personal contact information.


Organizations typically follow one of two different methodologies: 


Opt-In - Where each subscriber maintains their own information within the communications platform; or 

Opt-Out - Where the organization itself is responsible for collecting, applying, and maintaining that data.


A few weeks ago we spoke about an Opt-Out subscriber management style. In this article, we’ll be exploring the specifics of an Opt-In platform setup.


Going Opt-In

An Opt-In approach to subscriber management is by far the easiest way to get up and running. It requires less work for system administrators since your subscriber database is largely self-maintaining. An Opt-In platform places data management responsibilities directly in the hands of the people who will receive the system’s notifications. Opt-In systems of various complexities can be deployed with relative ease.


Unrestricted Opt-In: Your emergency notification system vendor should include tools that allow you to deploy a self subscription model very quickly. Since there’s no data to cleanse format or upload, your only tasks are to create self-subscription groups and customize the subscriber pages to your liking. This requires virtually no setup effort, other than notifying employees, staff, or students to its availability. This does; however, require some communication and promotion of the system since your recipients will need to understand how and where to self-register. The better your communication to your recipients, the more informed they will be about how and why they should Opt-In.


While it’s all very easy to deploy, the “no-frills” nature of an unrestricted option does have drawbacks. Since there’s no way of enforcing usernames or passwords, it can be difficult to track the identity of subscribers. 


Single Sign-On: Incorporating your organization’s existing single sign-on solution to your Opt-In system allows your local systems to control access for your subscribers using the same usernames and passwords used for your local logins. This allows you to track who’s registered in your system; as well as, restrict access to only those individuals with network logins. Since subscribers access the system from within your environment, the registration process becomes seamless and painless. This also builds user trust and acceptance.

Other methods of Opt-In can be used alongside SSO options, so you can make accessing the system easier for your organization’s members and still offer access to other community members who don’t have credentials.


Mobile Opt-In: One final option for signup is by using your mass notification system vendor’s mobile Opt-In capability. This allows you to create an easy-to-configure “keyword” that can be used to enroll in your system with a simple text message from the subscriber. This provides the fastest and easiest registration path and avoids the need to point potential subscribers to a web address. Subscribers can also easily unsubscribe from the notifications if they are no longer affiliated with your organization.


It also collects the smallest amount of information on your subscribers and doesn’t require a username, first name, or last name. It’s also limited to SMS text message only, as in most cases there’s no way to associate the account with an email address. This means that, while mobile Opt-In is perhaps the easiest method of signup, it may not be suitable for all situations.


By allowing subscribers to self-register for your ENS, you put the user management responsibilities in their hands resulting in less time and IT resources needed for set-up and less time managing user data over the life of your system. An Opt-In system typically enhances subscriber list accuracy and requires less testing or user data since self-subscription includes device validation. The only real drawback to Opt-In is that you will likely see lower subscriber levels to start. Instead of instant “100% coverage”, you do need to spend some time promoting your ENS to your community. As time passes these concerns become less of a factor since subscribers will simply extend their account as a part of normal business.


To take a deeper dive into the differences and individual benefits of Opt-In and Opt-Out user management, please download the white paper User Management: Opt-in vs. Opt-out.

Read the White Paper

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