Are you ready for July 1st 2014 and CASL?

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opt-in only keys

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A few years ago the Canadian federal government passed a new law – Bill C-28 – the Electronic Commercial Protection Act. It’s taken a while to get itself organized but the new law takes effect July 1st 2014… thats not too far off. The law, sometimes referred to as CASL – Canadian Anti Spam Legislation – has been described as draconian by some and confusing by others. Still other have applauded it as a massive step towards consumer protection. So what – you say. Well if you are a business owner, marketer or salesperson who uses any kind of electronic communication to connect with customers or prospective customers AND you don’t have a million bux to spare… well you should pay attention!

The cost of not knowing

Three federal agencies will be ensuring compliance with the new law – The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. From the legislation, it looks like the CRTC will be able to fine individual violators up to 1 million dollars and corporations may be fined up to 10 million per occurrence. Ouch!

You can read the details of the legislation on the official site or on the slightly friendlier official site. No really, you need to read the full legislation and then maybe go see a lawyer, depending on how much of your business relies on email marketing, content marketing or online prospecting.

This law is complex with lots of exceptions. For example it looks like political parties and charities will be exempt and if you have an existing two-way relationship i.e. co-workers and family, you should be ok to email them. It also looks like you are ok to email the business contact that gave you his/her business card – just be extremely fastidious about documenting that you were given the card and invited to email him or her. Ya, right… sales folks documenting… hmmm

The upside is that it also looks like the CRTC will not go after you or your business unless there is a complaint – so be really, really nice to everyone from now on, just in case.

The gist of new law

First I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I am still trying to wrap my head around the greyer areas of this legislation myself. So take the following as a place to start and with several grains of salt.

This new law, as it applies to online or digital marketing – there are other parts to this legislation that apply to other things – is based on consent. In many ways it’s permission marketing at it’s finest. The very basic message is that you can only send commercial electronic messages (CEM) in digital format, to people that have given you either express consent or implied consent. Recorded voice and faxes are not included but pretty much everything else is, including text and SMS.

Express consent – has to be clear, ask for an opt-in to specific types of communications – consent can be written, electronic, or verbal (keep records!)

Implied consent –  applies if you have an existing business relationship – current customers within past 24 months, people who have made an inquiry within the past 6 months – best to get express consent as soon as possible

Exceptions – if you find an email address on a public website and they have not stated that they don’t want to receive unsolicited communication then you can contact them provided the contact relates to their official capacity

Referrals – you can send one message to someone that has been referred to you as long as they have an existing relationship with the person you get the referral from and you identify the referrer in the message

Proper sender identification – in all cases you need to include who you are, the physical address of your business (could be a PO box if you run a home based business), your contact information and a functional unsubscribe option

In Canada, to Canada – if you send an email to an American prospect who has not opted in but has not opted out (the US as opt out legislation) and that person is in Canada when they receive your email – you are in violation of the law

Due diligence – there is wording in the legislation that suggests that as long as you are exercising due diligence you will be ok. That also means you have to be diligent and clean your email list and not be spammy

Some examples

the right way to ask for an opt in


Business card drops – You have a bowl set up for a prize draw and ask people to drop their business card in for a chance to win. You can still do that but can you use those email addresses or phone numbers to send emails or text messages intended to solicit business. Maybe? You could email the winner… I think.

Pre ticking an opt-in box – Don’t do it. The example at left is from the CRTC website. Note that the box is not pre-ticked and there are clear links to  the company’s privacy policy.

Undated signup forms – If you use a paper document that asks for customers to sign up for your email letter, the document they signed up on has to clearly define what they are signing up for and it ought to be dated AND you ought to keep that original document.

Sending LinkedIn inmail and Facebook mail and maybe even DMs on Twitter – The law applies. Does not appear to apply to public updates however.

Need more information?

There are some really good things about this legislation and there are some things that are really unclear. Fortunately there is a lot of information available online.

I found this great webinar on YouTube. The video features Shaun Brown, @emarketinglaw on Twitter, a lawyer, author and privacy expert explaining CASL ins and outs. I have to say I found Shaun’s group blog to be really interesting and useful, so do check it out. Constant Contact has a one page cheat sheet well worth a look also.

So what do you think? Confused? Ready for it all? Let me know and please, if you have a clear and easy to understand resource, share it in the comments or in a tweet to @justinsite or @jamiebillingham


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Publish your own Daily Paper with

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A few days ago I got a request for more information about The Chilliwack Daily, a self publishing, online paper that I created with a free content aggregator/curator called If you’re interested in more background here is a bit of history.

I’m not sure how many people actually read The Chilliwack Daily or any of the other’s I have set up. I originally created the Chilliwack Daily for myself. I have it set up to search for and add Tweets about Chilliwack so that I can read it and see the news that I may have missed during a day. It never fails to offer up news and posts I have missed.

Who should use is a great tool for small businesses and not-for-profit associations. Once you set it up, it publishes itself so no one has to put any extra time or effort into it. It a simple way to get your name and interests out there. I have a few’s including one set up for Thoughtstream on Stakeholder Engagement that just publishes Tweets, YouTube videos and blog posts that have to do with stakeholder or community engagement. I also have the Jamie Billingham Daily (it’s embedded in the sidebar on this blog) that focuses on leadership, learning and technology.

To see how easy it is to set up a check out this great how-to video by Ian Cleary from Razor Social. quick tips

If you decide to set up one or more’s think about these things in advance.

1. What will you name your Think of something short and descriptive. Have a couple of options on hand.

2. What sources will you include?

3. Where will you publish to? Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin? All three or just one or two? This is how the posts look.

Facebook and LinkedIn option on


Chilliwack Daily Tweet

4. What time of day will you publish? You can publish weekly or daily or even twice daily and you can specify the time of day? When are your people on Twitter?

5. What do you NOT want published in your Paper/li? One of the things the video doesn’t touch on it that you can filter out content that you absolutely don’t want included. filters is a tactic not a strategy

If your goal is to get better known in your geographic community or within your community of interest there are a few really simple things you can do and might be a tool that can help you. Before jumping into, or other tools for that matter, it’s a good idea to have a full plan in place.

Here are two resources that can help with that – Social Media for Non-Profits – First Steps  and Creating a Marketing Communication Plan.

Want more great ideas about marketing your small business or non-profit association? Get in touch today!


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