Spam and the Event Marketer – Canada Style

Image: DepositPhotos
Image: DepositPhotos

So our most awesome neighbors to the north… they are awesome aren’t they… they are the kind of neighbors that would lend you a cup of sugar, bring beer to your party, bail you out of jail..That kind of awesome…wait… wait…train of thought…

Anyway, our amazing neighbors to the north have just signed into being, a new Anti-Spam law and this law does have ramifications for event marketers. The new law covers all Commercial Electronic Messages (CEM for short) and it goes something like this.

  • You need consent from the recipient if you want to send any email, social media, and sms (text) messages that encourages or asks recipients to take part in some type of commercial activity.
  • Commercial activity includes buying a product, hiring services, promoting speakers, promoting organizations…..or….ASKING PEOPLE TO ATTEND YOUR EVENT, CONFERENCE, OR MEETING.

Now, before you have a seizure, stop and think.  Are you a good marketer. If you are, you are probably OK but I do think we should skim the surface and see what’s what because some things are OK and some things are not OK. Some CEMs require prior consent and some are exempt.

For exemptions, here is information direct from MailChimp. I am using their information because:

  • A: I am not a LAWYER and
  • B: MailChimp knows what they are doing when it comes to email marketing…

You should consult your own lawyer because… Really. Don’t trust a bunch of blokes on the internet..

These types of electronic messages are exempt from CASL for various reasons. Please note that not all of these are allowable under MailChimp’s Terms of Use.

  • Messages to family or a person with established personal relationship.
  • Messages to an employee, consultant, or person associated with your business.
  • Responses to a current customer, or someone who has inquired in the last six months.
  • Messages that will be opened or accessed in a foreign country, including the U.S., China, and most of Europe.
  • Messages sent on behalf of a charity or political organization for the purposes of raising funds or soliciting contributions.
  • Messages attempting to enforce a legal right or court order.
  • Messages that provide warranty, recall, safety, or security information about a product or service purchased by the recipient.
  • Messages that provide information about a purchase, subscription, membership, account, loan, or other ongoing relationship, including delivery of product updates or upgrades.
  • A single message to a recipient without an existing relationship on the basis of a referral. The full name of the referring person must be disclosed in the message. The referrer may be family or have another relationship with the person to whom you’re sending.

If your message does not meet one of these criteria, consent is required under CASL.

Now that you know the exemptions, we should probably touch on consent. There is a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo and I will point you to the MailChimp post or to the Canada Justice Laws Website that MailChimp recommends but here is the skinny as we see it.

Implied Consent

If someone has attended your event or conference in the past year, if they have bought a book from your conference website, or if they are a member of your association, you have implied consent. You can send them shit just because you think “Hey, they would love this!”. Sure, it is legal but  just because you can send something it does not mean you should.

Now, you can also use implied consent smartly….. and use it to get Express Consent….

Express Consent

Express consent is always your best friend. Express consent may be more than friends. Express consent loves you.

What is express consent? Here is an example. You build a website, it has a sign up form that says “hey do you want to receive our awesomely amazing emails”,  The attendee checks a box and says (in their head of course, unless they are crazy) “yes, I want this because you are awesome and you are cool” and then they hit a submit button.

This is express consent. They have said YES by taking an action to subscribe to your communications.

Use double opt in

Double opt in is where the person completes the steps above and now they get an email saying “Hey! You have consented, now please click the link to confirm that you know that we know that you know that you consented so that you are doubly sure that you consented and we don’t get sued at a later date by lawyerly type people that will probably make us cry on the stand at our trial”…

Why the Fuss?

The fuss is that Spam sucks and good people sometimes Spam. Look at it this way. If your content sucks so bad that no one wants to WILLINGLY sign up for it, you really need to rethink what you are doing or find a new job.

To put this in perspective, I will share this. I have a client that hosts an event with 500 attendees. They create amazing content and send their email newsletter once a week. They are getting about 5 email sign ups per day using double opt in. Math time people.. 5 x 365.. holy crap. They are getting over 3800 new sign ups a year following the letter of the law with no shortcuts. They simply ask for permission and follow it up with cool content that their subscribers want.

Make no mistake. If you are an event marketer and you have even one lone attendee from the Great White North with an email that ends in .CA, you have to pay attention to this new law.

Here is the good news. If you are already using good practices and following U.S. Law, you are most likely a-ok in protecting yourself and your event, conference, or association.

Now, take it a step further

Here are my thoughts on social media, SMS and this law:

  • Yes, you can still tweet about your event, talk about it on Facebook, and use LinkedIn. The social media side of the law is about direct messages and you should never use direct social media messages (via Twitter, LinkedIn, etc)  to market your event or anything else for that matter. This should be left to the realm of those network marketer icky people.
  • You should never have to worry about the SMS (text message) provision of this law because you should NEVER market via text message ever. Ewww. That is so scammy yucky that it makes me want to take a shower. SMS should be for important event notifications and emergencies (which are cool under the law).

Going beyond the law

I always recommend that my clients, even the big ones, STOP sending email communications from their in-house servers.

Just because Roger in I.T. can send 10,000 emails at a moments notice or someone can BCC 800 people, it does not mean he should or they should. Move your email marketing to a paid service like MailChimp, AWeber, or MadMimi.

Yes, you are spending a little money but you will be sending your marketing emails from companies that are trusted, respected, and know what they are doing and they will make sure that you follow the letter of law, have proper sign up forms, one click unsubscribes, and meet disclosure requirements. We use MailChimp. Why? Because we do. All of the companies I mentioned do a good job and I would recommend any of them.

Anyway. Go forth and event market smart. Because we live in a litigious society I will say this AGAINThis is not a deep dive into the requirements of the law, I am not a lawyer and I do not play one on TV or in the movies (I am an event planner), we have only skimmed the surface (I said that before) of this new LAW and because this is a LAW that could cost you MILLIONS of DOLLARS, you should do your homework by using the links above, by Googling the term “Canada Antispam Law”, and by making your lazy boss call a professional lawyer type person with an actual degree that has passed the bar and practices internet and marketing LAW. 

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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