Election season is here, and it’s critical to reach voters now. Texting ensures your message gets read, and the carriers tend to be nicer to political messaging. But there are hoops to jump through—especially for “local” long code. And while robocalling is popular with politicians, the FCC would prefer to minimize it. Watch now to hear a candidate’s communications options and how to optimize them.
Scott Navratil, Commio VP of Customer Retention & Growth, walks through each voice and SMS format, including:
- Calling vs. messaging (and short code | long code | toll-free)—and which one’s ideal for your use case
- The current compliance requirements for a political campaign…and the impending FCC messaging requirements
- What a politician has to do to register a 10 DLC campaign, and where Campaign Verify fits in
- Tips and tricks for getting your campaign approved and optimizing throughput
- Rich Communication Services (RCS) like WhatsApp
- The latest legal restrictions on political robocalls and texts
- Where ringless voicemail (RVM) fits in
As promised in the webinar, here’s a list of helpful messaging resources, as well:
- Campaign Verify
- The Campaign Registry
- Commio Tips for Growing Your Opt-In List
- Commio Messaging Tips
- Messaging Checklist
- Commio Messaging Overview (Get a Demo)
- IRS Site to Obtain an EIN
- CTIA Messaging Principles & Best Practices
- CTIA Political Messaging Information
- Commio Political Text Messaging Information
- FCC Rules for Political Campaign Calls & Texts
- Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
- TCPA World
- T-Mobile Code of Conduct
November may seem far away, but the primaries are here. Be heard. Watch now!
Need answers pronto? Consult our specialists directly.
Tim: Well, good afternoon everybody, happy 2024 and welcome to our 2024 election countdown. I know everybody is so excited to hear more about the word election. Right, Scott?
Scott: It’s that time again.
Tim: It’s here. It feels like every two years or so, we do some webinars, we talk to our folks out there who are in the cloud communication space about the opportunity of the elections. Off year elections are nice, but presidential elections are even better. So with that, I’ll start with kind of the same recent look back that I did for our last one. And that’s that I’ve received, I think, 4 sets of text messages so far that were politically leaning. I think all three of the top GOP folks have hit me up and I’ve gotten one from the Biden camp. So I feel like we’re off to a fast start and we’re 4 or 5 days away from the first caucuses. So what we’ve got ahead of us, and I know you’re going to run us through all of this is that, the election’s not till obviously Q4, we’ve got a ways to go. But in the meantime, these devices are going to be full of messages. So I’d love to get your background on how many messages were sent the last go around? What are we looking for this round? And how can everybody who’s attending potentially participate in this process, right?
Scott: Yeah and if you’re already seeing 4 messages, it’s going to get worse. Yeah, there’s so much money that’s going to be thrown into this election. I’ve read quite a few experts’ opinions on it. And they’re saying that, it’s going to be probably the most money in a general election cycle in decades.
Scott: Some of the numbers that I read were like, as much as 10 billion dollars are going to be spent on basically getting the word out to constituents nationwide for both sides.
Tim: Wow. 10 billion. That’s incredible. Well with that, Scott, I’ll let you go ahead and let’s dive right in.
Scott: And so it’s one of those things, like Tim just said, right? We’re just getting started. And messaging, I think we’ve already started to see that. I’ve seen some TV ads, I’ve seen some email ads and so forth. So that’s typically, when we get into this type of election cycle, general elections, especially, you’re not going to basically get any kind of break from the political marketing for probably another 12 months. We see it typically go even through December and early January if there’s any runoffs.
But one of the things I think it’s important to understand is that there’s a huge potential here. There’s a lot of opportunity for anybody who’s in the communication space, especially if you have text messaging as one of the channels that you generate revenue from. So there’s a lot of things that we’re going to cover here; what you can and cannot do. I know there’s a lot of questions regarding some of the new rulings or opinions that have been released by the FCC, how the carrier is going to respond to this type of political traffic, et cetera.
So this first slide right here, I think it’s clear, messaging is by far and still is number one when it comes to the best way to get a message out to voters.
And so that’s going to be the primary driver. It’s still SMS, MMS. In fact, we’ve seen MMS has been kind of the lead on political text messaging for the last several years. And I’ve heard recently that even some of the big political messaging platforms might even start moving some of that back into just standard SMS. So there’s definitely a lot of options around that.
The RCS: Rich Communication Services, I think it was December or November of last year where Apple said that they were going to support RCS. And RCS is really just a very enriched type of messaging solution. If you’re using Android, you’ve probably been seeing it for quite some time. And then, of course, on iOS, you have Ichat and you have a lot more flexibility with images, and video, and things like that. However, Apple did say that it was going to be sometime in 2024. So the question is: Is RCS going to be something you can use before the election, or is it going to be something that will actually land in December a year later? So stay tuned for that. We’re going to have a lot of information on what our plans are and what the carriers are going to do with RCS. So definitely it’s good news. And I think that’s something a lot of us in this industry have been waiting some time for.
Another thing too, that this is a ringless voicemail and that’s a LCR, an outbound voice type of product we’re seeing a lot of interest in and people using that. I’m sure you’re going to be on your phone and all of a sudden you get an alert that says, “Hey, you got a voicemail.” Voicemail? I didn’t get an inbound call. And you’re going to look at the voicemail, you’re going to listen to it. I have iPhone and iOS and it actually transcribes it, so I can actually read the message, which is nice. But you’re going to see that you’re probably going to get political messages through your ringless voicemail channel. So we’ll cover a little bit of that, what you can and cannot do.
There’s a lot of different options and I think the one thing that I would hope that everybody walks away from is that, if you’re not doing political messaging now, you should be looking at this as an alternative channel. Obviously there’s been a lot of constriction and a lot of focus on restricting Lead Gen and affiliate marketing. So for those types of companies that are looking to kind of pivot a little bit and recover some of that revenue that’s been lost over the last 6 months due to the changes in the industry, political is going to be a really solid option for you.
So that’s a perfect segue into this next slide: I-voice. Messaging is still by far the best way to engage a voter or consumer. And so that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. So as we previously mentioned, I mean, this is going to be an all out frontal attack on your senses for the next probably 12 months. So you’re going to definitely look at getting a lot of calls and there’s still some advantages to calling, voice is more personal. Right now, I think most of us, right, we’re seeing a large influx of our inbound calls being filtered out as unknown caller, potential spam, right? Because if they’re not in our contact list the carriers are just saying, “Well, we don’t know who this is. And we’re telling you that we don’t know who this is.” So most of us don’t typically answer those. And so I think that’s one of those areas where ringless voicemail is good because you’re probably not going to be able to talk to that subscriber because they’re not going to pick up, but you can still leave them a voicemail.
So that’s something that we do offer at Commio. We do have a really nice solution for RVM. And if you’re looking for some options or more information on that, we can definitely get that to you.
There absolutely are stricter rules for robocalling in place. And that’s something you have to consider when you’re looking at outbound calling for political purposes and we’ll go through that a little bit later as well. But I think the primary focus for what we’re going to talk about today is really political text messaging.
So I think Tim, you did the research on this one, right?
Tim: Yeah. 50 per phone.
Scott: Yeah, 50 Billion political messages in 2022, and we know that that is going to escalate considerably for 2024. It’s easily going to exceed 50 messages per phone. Right? And as previously mentioned, text messaging is still by far the best option for engaging with constituents and voters. So 39 to 1 is a huge ratio. So I think if you’re on this call, you’re in the right place, right? I think you’re hopefully realizing that this is a great opportunity for you.
Tim: Scott, I was going to say, I actually kind of feel like that number should be 39 texts versus 1 call versus 0 emails, because I don’t know about you, I said this last time I haven’t gotten any political emails. So hopefully unless you subscribe, like if you go out of your way to say, “Hey, Mr. XYZ candidate, sign me up for your emails,” I’m not getting them. So we’ll count that in the win column.
Scott: Yeah, I think that’s typical for most people. I think I’ve received one.
Scott: And we’re in this business, right? So I know that I’m on some of my customers’ lists. So the fact that we’re just getting started, there’s a lot to do. So I think obviously text messaging is the default way to engage and get the highest conversion and really get your call to action in the hands of your voters. So that’s the first and foremost thing that I hope you walk away with. And then the thing that you also have to be aware of, of course are the rules, but then there’s also some best practices that we’re going to cover. And one of the things too that you have to remember is that, what’s your reaction when you get a political text message?
It’s like (deep sigh). It’s that people are not really happy, they’re not looking for it. And so you have to be real careful with your content. You have to make sure that it’s relevant. You have to make sure that all the legal requirements are there, but also the best practices. And then make sure that it’s in a format that really is going to engage with that subscriber. And it really is not something that they’re going to immediately flag as spam, or they’re going to opt-out of. That’s the ultimate goal.
Tim: Yeah. And I would say this to anybody out there who wants to work with the campaign and are going to send messages, if I reply, “Stop,” and I don’t immediately within a few minutes–sometimes it takes a few minutes–get confirmation that I’ve been unsubscribed, you’ve lost my vote. So let’s just be clear. You got to make sure that that stuff is actually working on the backend.
Scott: That’s a critical component. I mean, we know the TCA requirement that is, ‘Hey, you have to support an opt-out mechanism’, typically the industry standard is ‘Stop’. But as Tim pointed out, that’s fantastic. You are allowed to send a confirmation text message and you should send a confirmation text message to that subscriber, letting them know that, “Yes, okay. We’ve received that and you have been unsubscribed from this list.”
Tim: Right. You got it. Actually, Scott, before we dive into texting, we already got a question, Rue’s asking: What are some of the legalities around ringless voicemail? Also consent with respect to political campaign for text calls or RVM?
Scott: Those are good questions. I’d say maybe we can hold off on that until we get through this. Because I’m thinking that most of what we’re going to cover will actually answer those questions.
Tim: Okay. Sounds good.
Scott: Great questions though. So this applies not only to political text messaging, but this also applies to pretty much any type of messaging, whether it’s enterprise, B2B, if you’re still doing Lead Gen or affiliate marketing; there’s three options for text messaging.
And the first one is shortcode. Everybody, I think, is familiar with shortcode. That’s when you receive a text from a 5 to 6 digit number. And so shortcodes, they’re fantastic: Primarily driven for high volume broadcast type of messaging. I think most people use shortcodes for 2FA and OTP: Two factor authentication and one time password type of traffic. The shortcode process is expensive and it’s lengthy. And so we do support shortcodes and at any given time we have dozens of applications that are in flight to get approved with the carriers, but it is a long process.
And so you can expect at least 3 months for a shortcode to be approved and go live, because it does require individual carrier approval. So each one of those shortcode applications have to be signed off by the big mobile carriers, or the ones that you specified that you want to have it supported on Verizon, AT& T, T-Mobile, U.S Cellular, et cetera. However, once that shortcode is live–and there’s a very deep vetting process to get it–basically you have incredible throughputs. There really aren’t any restrictions. I think we’ve got a slide. I mean, it’s the next slide that talks about: What is the throughput options that you have with each one of these? shortcode is by far the best. There are some limitations. We’ll cover that as well.
But moving on to toll-free. We’re seeing a lot of people pivoting from 10DLC to toll-free. Recently, I think a lot of it has to do with just the continued changes in the industry on 10DLC for registration and the carrier surcharges, and it’s almost something that’s changing daily with it. So a lot of people have pivoted to toll-free and it’s fantastic. But there’s also some limitations that you might run into and some things to consider if you want to look at that option. It definitely is much quicker to get a toll-free number verified than it is a shortcode. Commio, we can typically on average, I know there’s been a lot of, depending on who you submitted to, what carriers you’re using, and so forth, some people I’ve heard saying it takes at least 4 weeks to get a toll-free approved. Typically for us, that’s anywhere from about 5 to 7 days. If you’re an existing customer, and you have a dedicated account manager, and if you have a business critical toll-free number you need verified, we could probably expedite that to maybe just 2 to 3 days. So it’s definitely an option. No guarantee, but something to consider and the costs, especially the acquisition costs are much less than a shortcode.
And then the third option, of course with RCS coming, that might be our 4th category that we have on the slide. But now it’s the traditional long code or 10 digit long code or 10DLC. And that’s just basically sending your messages from a local telephone number. In the industry of course, we call those DIDs, right?
Scott: So there is a much more stringent registration process with that. You have to go through the campaign registry. You have to have basically a registered brand and then you have to basically register a campaign. And then that’s going to fall into a particular use case. Political is one of those use cases that you can select. And then, once that’s approved, you have to sign the numbers to it. And then hopefully within a short period of time, you’re allowed to go ahead, and it’s verified, and you can start sending traffic using those local numbers. There are some additional steps for the political use case.
We’re going to cover that in one of these other slides. It’s not too bad. There’s only a couple extra requirements that you have to do, but it’s something that is a little bit, 2 steps added to another 5 steps. Something you have to consider. So shortcode, toll-free, long code, currently are your options for messaging.
Tim: And Scott, we had a tip here that if you do choose toll-free, that you need to get a token from Campaign Verify, right? To use on your whitelisting app?
Scott: I highly recommend it. Because the toll-free is right now and again, this may change in the future, there is no campaign registry for toll-free and/or shortcode, right? So there is still a deep vetting process. And so if you’re submitting toll-free numbers that you want to use for political purposes, in addition to all the required components, the data that you have to provide to the DCAs and to the carriers, having a campaign verified token really just says, “Hey, this is who I say I am, or this is who that political candidate or PAC says they are. Here’s their Campaign Verify token.” You put that in the special comments or additional information, and it really helps getting those campaigns approved. So it’s a good tip.
All right. So we’ve been talking about Campaign Verify for the last couple of minutes. So there it is right there: CampaignVerify.org. So if you decide that you want to go with the 10DLC route, you want to register a political campaign, before you can do that you have to go to CampaignVerify.org and you basically have to get this campaign token. And so the couple of requirements that they have for that are, you want to have to be eligible, you have to be a 527 tax exempt organization. If you’re trying to register political campaigns under a 501 C3, that doesn’t qualify for political. And so that might be something you want to make sure that you have in order; that whoever your customer is, or if it’s you who’s registering directly that you have that 527 tax exempt ID. And then the next thing that you need to do is, you have to be registered with the federal elections commission and there’s a link there on this slide. So you go there, you register. And so when you ask for that token, they’re going to verify your 527 and they’re going to look, they’re going to do a dip through the FEC database to see if you’re actually a registered FEC candidate. If you check those 2 boxes, then basically you get that token.
The token can be instant or it can take a couple days to get. And then once you finally get your CV token, then you’re ready to move on to the campaign registry and then start the rest of the verification process. So that is unique to 10DLC. As Tim brought up, it’d be fantastic if you’re going on toll-free to make sure you have that verified token, that always helps. But 10DLC, this is those extra steps that you have to do.
Scott: And there it is. There’s the throughputs. I know there’s a lot of people on the call who love speeds & feeds and we do as well. And I say that starting with shortcode, 100 messages per second, that’s the threshold that we usually start with. Not to say that that is what you could be limited to. So if you are looking to get a shortcode and you need much higher throughputs than 100 messages per second, that’s something that you can work with the Commio account managers or are not, and under certain situations, we can absolutely get you much more than 100 messages per second.
So again though, are you going to get the deliverability and conversion with a shortcode? Probably not, especially when you’re doing political messaging, you want something that’s a little bit more personal. Toll-free is even kind of riding that line. Shortcodes and toll-free numbers are typically used for commercial text messaging and any type of entity or brand that needs to send messages nationwide. So toll-free is probably a really good option for national presidential candidates. But is that a good fit for your local or state candidate? It’s definitely doable and it’s a path of least resistance but long codes may be better for those local types of races and candidates.
Toll-free–kind of similar to the shortcode–it’s a hundred messages per second by default. We can increase that, but we don’t have as much flexibility with increasing that throughput. There is a cap to that. It’s not like it’s open ended. There’s no really volume limit with toll-free and/or shortcode, but again, it comes down to throughput. So shortcode has the highest amount of throughput, toll-free has really good throughput, but it does have a cap on that. And then the other thing that you want to consider when you’re looking at toll-free is that it really is 5 toll-free numbers per campaign. You can request to get additional toll-free numbers added to a verified campaign, but you really have to provide a pretty good reason to the DCA and the carriers of why you need more than 5. And typically, if it’s 6, 7, you’re probably going to get away with that. You’ll probably get that approved. If you’re looking to add 30, 40, 50, 100 toll-free numbers to a campaign, 9 out of 10 times, that’s going to get rejected. So I think that’s kind of important to recognize there. And then of course, the long code numbers, the 10DLC, one message per second. And you’ve got maybe up to 3,000 messages per day. You can do additional vetting through the campaign registry. And if you get your brand score increased, you could actually get that number raised. I’m not sure, I don’t have it memorized but I think it could be an additional 10,000 messages per day with the extra vetting.
But the reason we’re here, right, is political messaging. So even under 10DLC with all of the restrictions and the limitations, political messaging still has the highest throughputs for any use case of all of them. And I think right now T-Mobile still flags it as, or listed it as uncapped and AT&T, it’s the highest potential threshold. It could be, off the top of my head, it’s at least several 100,000 messages per day that you could get through AT&T. Don’t quote me on that. We have all of this on our website, by the way, all of these 10DLC facts and figures.
Scott: Am I going too fast?
Tim: No, you’re fine. We’re 20 after, we’re right on schedule.
Scott: Perfect. All right. Well I’m hoping that we’ve given you some kind of ideas of what’s the best option for you. Now we move on to, really, how do you format your messaging? What are the things you need to make sure that are just basic? These are things that are required. These are things that are expected, and these are probably, in many cases, the most important parts of your text message. So, when you’re sending it, and again, this applies to everything, not just political, but it’s really important to have it in your political messages. You gotta always state who the message is from. So if you’re Writing out your content, you want to say, “This is the pack or I’m so and so, XYZ candidate for president, XYZ for Congress.” Be really clear who the text message is from. And you also have to have the TCPA required opt-out, right?
Industry standard is ‘Stop’. Some other people have used other things like ‘No’ or ‘Cancel’ or something like that. We recommend ‘Stop’, but that’s not to say that you only can use ‘Stop’. So really important to make sure that that is included with all of your messaging. And it also needs to be included in your sample messages that you’re submitting for approval.
So when you’re writing your text message, every one of those three options for shortcode, toll-free, and 10DLC, you have to show the carriers that this is the text message I’m going to send to these voters. And if they don’t see clearly the brand identified, if they don’t see the mandatory opt-out, they’re also making sure that they’re going to look for keywords in your message that go against the CTIA, forbidden words shaft, they’re also going to make sure that you have all the other critical components in there. They’re going to check your links. They’re going to maybe even call the phone numbers you list. So you want to make sure that your message is really optimized for approval and optimized for deliverability or delivery to the consumer.
One of the things that we always recommend, and this may not always be an option for everybody, but simple things you can do if you’re writing up this content, use spell check, use grammar check. If you have access to a copywriter or professional script writer, have them write this for you.
We see so many campaigns get declined right out, before they even get going because the message content it’s not legible. It looks suspicious. The URLs aren’t optimized, you’re still using that bitly shorteners, or using alphanumeric combinations. And so those are the things that you really want to have in order before you submit the campaign for approval. We’ve also promoted this on other types of ebooks and our webinars: Submit your final version. Don’t submit your draft. “Yeah, I’m going to be sending this message. It’s going to sound something like this.” Don’t do that. Make sure that what you are ready to start sending out to the subscribers is exactly what you’re providing in your sample messages on your applications.
Did I miss anything, Tim?
Tim: No, you got it. And I think these last couple of bullet points are important. You need to go out there and make sure you understand the rules, the TCPA, the CTIA, and I’d love that we added this, make sure that you’re up to snuff with platform and carrier rules. T-Mobile at a minimum, because if you go to our website, go under resources, look under the surcharge page for SMS, probably three quarters of that page is devoted to T-Mobile and their–I’m going to use the word onerous–list of potential penalties if you go run afoul of their rules. So T-Mobile has the most strenuous rules about what they will and won’t allow on their network. If you follow them, you’re pretty much going to be in line with the other ones as well.
Scott: That’s accurate. Yeah. And I’m glad you brought that up. I mean, when it comes to text messaging, that’s something that you really have to make sure that you keep in mind is, that it’s the carrier’s network. It’s their rules. It’s AT&T, and T-Mobile, and Verizon, and U.S Cellular’s. It’s their rules. And so you really have to be aware of those, even though you think that, “Hey, well my message meets TCPA compliance. I follow the CTIA best practices. Why am I having issues? Why am I getting blocked? Why is this not getting approved?” Because maybe there’s something in there that specifically goes against T-Mobile, or Verizon, or AT&T’s acceptable use policy. And so there are certain things that are allowed under TCPA, but the carriers said, “Well, we don’t really want that traffic.” We’re starting to see that with the Lead Gen, we’re starting to see that with third party lead sharing, insurance. Financial marketing was the most recent one, right?
So there’s certain things that the carriers really don’t want to see on their networks. And so you got to make sure that you’re aware of that before you start trying to submit these for approval.
Tim: That’s right.
Scott: All right, so you’ve done all of that. Political messaging by default or by its nature, it’s going to be a little more volatile and it’s definitely more sensitive. So the number one thing that you’re probably going to see is higher opt-out rates. And political messaging being flagged as unsolicited spam. So that’s why it’s really critical, and Tim brought up a great point; make sure your opt-outs work before you start sending the traffic, make sure your opt-outs work before you even submit it for approval by the DCAs and the carriers. And then make sure your system is set up to send that confirmation text message that they have been opted-out. One of the things that’s so critical here is, opt-out has such an impact that the mobile subscribers have so much power to really cause problems for everybody who’s in this business.
So the best thing is that if they don’t like your message, they’re just going to hit Stop. Right? If they hit Stop, you tell them they’ve been opted-out and they never see another text message. It’s probably the end of it. But if the opt-out isn’t working and you’re not taking them out of your contact list and you keep sending them text messages at that point now, they’re a little more aggravated and they’re more likely to escalate a complaint with the mobile carriers. And if it goes beyond that, then they could be contacting TCPA attorneys and now you’re really in a mess. So really making sure the opt-outs are solid, making sure that everything is tested before you start sending.
And then direct opt-in, we’re going to cover a little bit, there’s some gray area around opt-in with political text messaging. Best practice is always to have direct opt-in where possible. So making sure that, and even under the new FEC order, they really want to see a one to one direct opt-in. So the subscriber opted-in directly to the brand that they’re receiving the text messages from. If you’re a reseller of messaging services or communication services, make sure you keep track of that opt-in; having detailed records. There’s a couple out there that do like a hosted third party: Trusted Form, I think is one of them. If you’re not using someone like that, and I think this is going to be more critical as we move into the next several years with compliance, is keeping really detailed records of who opted-in and when. And making sure that if audited, you can actually provide that data.
Now I’m saying it’s really more important now, but it’s always been something that’s been required. It’s always been important to keep that. So if you haven’t been doing that, now’s the time to really focus in on making sure you have everything tidied up for keeping opt-in records.
Tim: Yeah. Two things, Scott, before we continue, one is somebody is asking: Where can we find the most up to date carrier rules?
Don’t worry, we’ll actually include links to those in the follow up email to the webinar. We’ve also got them on our website and lots of different places, but we’re happy to provide those to you.
The other thing is that earlier you mentioned a really important word, which is sort of the percentage of ‘Stops’ that one of our potential customers will receive. So we call it a Stop rate. So can you remind people what is an acceptable Stop rate on a campaign?
Scott: Right. So I’m glad you brought that up. What’s acceptable? If you go in and actually read T-Mobile’s AUP or their acceptable use policy, they actually state that opt-outs that exceed 0.5%, one half of 1 percent is considered unacceptable. So I can’t imagine, I mean that in a perfect world, yes, opt-out of zero that’s where everybody wants to strive for. We all want to strive for that. What I’ve actually seen and what I’ve heard is that typically 2 percent is the cliff. And we’ve actually seen that, because typically anything over 2 percent gets monitored and then all of a sudden your traffic, they really crank up the spam filters on any traffic that has an opt-out that exceeds typically 2 percent.
So if you have that flexibility within your platform to set some goals and some parameters, set some alerts. If you see traffic that’s past 1.5 percent. Your goal really should be less than 1 percent. At 1.5 percent you should be probably triggering some alerts, ‘hey, get some eyeballs on your traffic, on some of the responses you’re getting’, maybe something’s off. And look at why that opt-out is so much higher on your traffic. At 2 percent should be pretty much at that point, you should be pausing your campaigns and really digging in to see why that opt-out escalated above 2%. Best case is that you’re going to get it filtered. Worst case is that you might trigger an RCA from one of the carriers. Then you have to really explain why your opt-out is so high.
Tim: Yeah. I feel like I’m a standard user of text messaging. If I opt-in to something and I get a message and I suddenly decide I don’t want it anymore, if I say ‘Stop’ and I get a thing back saying “You’re good, we’ve unsubscribed you,” and you don’t text me again, I’m not going to report you. It’s not going to happen. But if you hit me even one more time, I’m going to do that. And you and I have been in meetings where we’ve literally been shown a list of 4 or 5 customers of ours that had one of those requests for information come back about a ‘Stop’ that wasn’t properly handled and we had to explain that to the carrier. So you can prevent heartburn on our side, but also run a better campaign just by following the rules, just by making sure these things work. And it is interesting to have it in the back of your mind. It’s only half a percent that can get you potentially in trouble.
Scott: Yeah, that’s where they say that they want it to be. So yeah, absolutely. If you can really work hard to keep it under 1 percent, that’s fantastic. Political messaging, as mentioned earlier, by default, it’s a little more volatile, a little more sensitive. So you’re probably going to have a little bit higher than normal opt-outs on that, so you just have to be aware of it. We’re aware of it. Our DCAs are aware of it and the carriers are aware of it.
Tim: That’s right.
Scott: So yeah, really good point. We’re moving on to robo rules and regulations for politicians. And that’s something that’s really interesting because a lot of the existing rules for political marketing–if you want to call it that–really revolved around voice; robocalls or outbound calling. Political calling by default has been exempt from the “Do Not Call” list. And there’s an issue that if you’re using an ATDS, an Automated Dialing Telephone System–I think that’s the acronym–if you’re using an automated system to broadcast the calls or the dialer then you actually have to have consent. And so that’s the important part. We have this on our website. There’s a lot of good content about what’s; there’s express written consent, there’s implied consent. What’s the difference? So if you’re using an automated dialing system to make your outbound calls, you have to have consent.
Now, however, one of the loopholes that we’ve seen with that is that if the system is being hand-dialed, and that’s for calls and even text messaging, you don’t typically need consent to do that. So we’ve seen a lot of people who specialize in political messaging who actually have a platform that allows those messages and those calls to be initiated from a SIM card from a handset or another mobile phone. So that is kind of, I just want to call it a loophole. That’s how a lot of people get out of being able to send text messages without the consent component. Now, Tim, you mentioned you’re receiving text messages. You’re like, “I didn’t opt-in for that. Why am I getting this? I didn’t opt-in for this.” So that’s probably why you’re getting that text message.
Tim: Yep. Absolutely. I was going to say, too, as you and I both know too, the FCC said in December, “All right, guys, we’re now going to call the ‘Do Not Call’ list also the ‘Do Not Text’ list.” So that’s something new. And we said it here that you want to be ingesting that list and leveraging it before you start making outbound calls or texts.
Scott: It’s a best practice. So political calling is exempt from the “Do Not Call” list and also be aware there’s a national DNC database. There’s probably two or three now. And then there’s also individual state DNC databases that you have to be aware of and actually have to make sure that if you’re calling, you can’t be sending calls to people on either one of those databases. And there’s some really good 3rd party services out there who actually can get you this data. You can go into their portal, you can scrub your lists against the DNC databases, TCPA litigators, of course, removing landlines or what they call on PSTN numbers out of your contact list. So, political, you’re exempt for calling and then when they eventually kind of make that rule that you can’t text to someone who’s on the “Do Not Call” list. I’m pretty confident that political text messaging is also going to be exempt from the “Do Not Call” list.
Tim: Scott, a good follow up to this notion of using ‘Stop’ is sort of the standard. Somebody’s asking: Well, what about using other opt-outs? Like, what if someone literally replies with lose my number instead of Stop?
Scott: Okay, so those are great questions. And I think a lot of people in this industry have come up with a solution that’s using AI. So the AI basically looks at the inbound responder, and it’s looking for key words or phrases. So, yes, you can build an, they call a responder list of those specific keywords, but a subscriber who responds and they could be using some profanity, “Hey, never blah, blah, blah, me again,” then that’s their message. Well, the AI can look at that and say, “Oh, it sounds like you want to opt-out. We’ll go ahead and remove you from our subscription list and you’ll never hear from us again.”
So I think really that the solution is having some kind of AI that can actually interpret what that outbound, or that ‘Stop’, or the opt-out responses from the subscriber just to be safe.
Is there anything we missed on that last slide?
Tim: No, we got it. Got them all. We’re good.
Scott: Okay. This is a new thing that kind of, again, really more applies to political robocalling. Very important if you’re a business, if you’re a platform that basically uses messaging, voice, and maybe other things, social media, et cetera. This is something to make sure that you’re aware of. And we have all of this information and links to where this is located on the FCC’s website. These are just kind of making it really clear.
They don’t want to have people blasted, automated opt-out. I don’t remember what the solution was for automated opt-outs. I don’t know if the subscriber could just press a button and it automatically takes them out, or they just say “Stop” over the phone and it recognizes it and opts them out.
But there’s additional rules here that you need to be aware of, very, very important. And as far as I know, none of this applies to political text messaging. So we know that text messaging is going to have a little more restrictions industry wide over the next 12 months or so. But right now, I don’t think this is applying to text messaging, just voice.
Tim: Yeah, the 3-call max in 30 days, we call that responsible dialing and there’s lots of content out there about what that means. So if you’re doing any kind of automated calling, you have to make sure you’re responsibly dialing, which keeps tightening as time goes on, for the right reasons.
Tim: Here we go. Here’s the new stuff.
Scott: Yeah, I know a lot of people are wondering about this and there’s a lot of good information out there about what this means, what I’ve learned, and we are kind of entrenched into a lot of this industry, the messaging, the high volume performance marketing industry, really kind of try to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on. I would definitely recommend that if you’re doing any type of high volume marketing, voice or messaging, and you’re really not sure what this means, does this really apply to you? There’s fantastic resources out there. Go talk to a telecom attorney, pay for one session. What we’re talking about here is really just kind of how we’re interpreting this. We’re not telecom attorneys, so it’s always best practice to make sure you get a professional opinion of what this means for your business. But here’s what I can tell you, based on what I’ve read is that this new order is really targeted at Lead Gen and affiliate marketing and some of the loopholes with this. I haven’t sensed anything in this that really is targeting political text messaging. So that’s really what we’re here for today.
For a lot of the things that this new order kind of talks about, Commio has really been promoting over the last several years as best practice. One-to-one, having verifiable consent, having the records of that subscriber’s consent, making sure that you follow the TCPA and CTIA best practices. Tone, content, all of that stuff. So a lot of the things that they’re doing with this new order really are targeting more of that third party lead sharing. Like if I go to a website and I opt-in to receive a text message from a particular brand, that I’m not going to get two days later, hundreds of text messages from all the people that they’re partnering with.
Now, one thing I can tell you, there’s been a lot of backlash on this particular order and primarily from the small business administration, chambers of commerce. And so this is really not just affecting the legion businesses, the performance marketing businesses, but this is actually going to impact a lot of small and medium sized businesses and probably some large enterprise businesses as well.
There is a lot of stuff going on in the industry. And there’s a lot of pushback on the FCC for this. I also read that this is actually looking at going into effect within 12 months of the actual release of the order. So I think this went out and went on December 13th. And so I would suspect that you’re not going to really see any enforcement on this, official enforcements on this by the 13th. And a lot of that has to do with some of the other components that require the carriers, the service providers to have additional mechanisms, like we already have in place for STIR/SHAKEN. And that takes time. That takes technology. The DNC database has to be built right if it’s going to be separate from the voice. So there’s a lot of other things that have to happen. And I think that’s why there’s a little bit of time to kind of get things in order for this particular one.
Tim: Yeah, I was gonna say, we got two questions about that. These are not in effect today, but basically this is what the FCC does. They kind of lay down what they think their next set of rules are going to be. And then they ask for input. So they’re not in effect, but that input, right Scott, we see it usually does kind of shave the rough edges off of these things. So it’s a long time frame here. So these things will probably not kick in until the earliest next December. But expect there’s going to be some pretty significant changes because to be honest, this puts thousands of businesses out of business. Anybody involved in Legion, anybody involved in financial marketing, it would basically bankrupt them. So that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to see better adherence to this one-to-one opt-in, that when you’re opting in to one brand, they shouldn’t be able to make that trickle down to other brands. But what does that mean? Like sometimes a bank will own two or three other associated businesses, how far should it go? So they still need to figure all the nuances out. So don’t worry about that yet, but there are still rules you have to follow, CTIA, etcetera.
Scott: Yeah, and as a followup to that I thought was kind of favorable is that the FCC also kind of stated, “Hey, we get it. We understand that this is really going to affect legitimate businesses. So we’re going to work to make sure that this is amicable. It’s really only affecting those who are maliciously using third party Lead Gen.”
So don’t think it’s the end of the world if that’s your business. There’s a lot of other options. You just have to make some adjustments and that’s really the big thing. And we work with a lot of companies who are in the Lead Gen space and we’ve been working for the last probably eight months, we saw this coming a long time ago, not this particular order, but just based on the amount of traffic and the amount of responses and issues that we’re seeing with the mobile carriers. The mobile carriers really started pushing back on this stuff a long time ago. So this is really just solidifying what was already in place. And it adds a handful of other components that are really more aligned to really blocking these messages from actually hitting the network in the first place. So identifying really bad actors, blacklisting them and then making sure none of those messages get across to any of the mobile carriers. But again, those things are in place for STIR/SHAKEN today and I think that’s really what this is trying to align to.
Tim: You got it. Yeah and I think last but not least, Scott, you and your team in particular, our account managers have really been working closely with our customers who have added political messaging in particular as a new product to their repertoire. And we’re here to guide you all the way, we’re the ones who have to keep up with all these new rules, make sure that when you’re applying for your campaigns, your brand registrations, we have all these tools set up to make you successful and do it as fast as we can.
So that’s really what you need in 2024. There’s a lot of people who say they do this just like we do, but we’ve got the expertise, we’ve got the team, and my hair was not this gray when I started five years ago at Commio. And I think it’s because of all–
Scott: –I actually had a full head of hair five years ago, Tim. And I really want to kind of just chime in on that. And it’s not just the sales team; our sales teams, our account management teams, our CS teams, we are on the front lines of this every day. Every different type of business use case, every use case that you see that are offered in the tent Campaign Registration, the TCR, every customer we have is checking one of those boxes. So I can’t imagine that anybody out there is really working as hard and fighting in the front lines as much as we are. And we work directly with the DCAs, in many cases directly with the carriers. So I think that’s the value add that we bring, and if you have any questions on any of this stuff, myself, if you have an account manager, CS or not, we’re always happy to do what we can to jump on a call with you or do things via a ticket, or email to make sure that you have all your questions answered, and understand how to make it work with all of these changes.
Tim: Yeah, so Scott, I know we’re running a tiny bit long, but that’s okay. We do have a few questions, so I’ll just put them in. So back to the question about: What are the legalities around RVM? And what about consent with respect to political campaigns for text calling and RVM?
Scott: Okay, I always want to use the best practices. You really need consent. RVM in fact, it’s something that not a lot of people are using, but we do have a lot of people using it for other types of use cases. And I think for those particular customers or anybody who wants to consider RVM for political, there’s definitely a couple of things that you want to consider. In fact, I wrote myself some notes on these.
RVM: Ringless Voicemail. Best practice, make sure any number that you’re going to call or text, make sure you scrubbed it. So RVM being a voice component, does fall under the robocall requirements and you want to make sure that you scrub your contact list against the DNCs. Remember, there’s more than one DNC database, federal and state. You want to make sure that you also remove anything that is a known TCPA litigator, if you want to avoid a bunch of grief and then of course, removing PSDN numbers.
So I’ve actually seen this quite a bit recently, certain customers have been sending large volumes of texts to numbers that are just bad. They’re not good numbers. And so the code that we get back is it’s not a reachable mobile number. Or there’s some kind of an error with that. Well, the carriers look at that. If you’re getting a bunch of failures because your calling list is bad, that may trigger an audit, that may trigger an RCA. So really make sure you have clean lists. Make sure that when you’re out there making these RVM calls, make sure the numbers that you’re using are source DIDs, whether it’s a local number or a toll-free number, make sure that those numbers actually can receive text messages and that they can actually receive callbacks. We’ve seen that before. I’m leaving my bunch of voicemails, the subscribers are like, “Well, I’m either interested or no, I want to find out how to get off of your list.” So they try to call the number back and the number doesn’t route. It hasn’t been configured in the trunking. So make sure those things are working before you start dialing.
And then this kind of goes along with also what you have to do with the text messaging, clearly identify who you are when you leave that voicemail, “Hi, this is Scott from Commio. Just wanted to follow up on your inquiry regarding the political messaging campaign. You can call me back at this number, or you can reach me at this email address. If you would like to opt-out from receiving further voicemails, you can text ‘Stop’ to our 800 number, or you can go to email@example.com and so forth.” Those are the components. Literally, what I just gave you as an example of what if you’re bringing those voicemails needs to say. So you identify who you are. You need to confirm that they have actually opted in to receive that. You can’t just be like, well, ”Hi so and so, I’m so and so and here’s my link and give me money.” That’s not the carrier you’re looking for. And if you get a complaint on that, they’re going to flag that and you have to make sure that the confirmation of opt-in is there, and then you make sure that you have a clear and compliant message. No profanity, make sure it’s useful. Tone, voice tone is critical. Do the Marketing 101, look through all of that to make sure. Just like messaging, words have meanings, and what you say, and how you say them are going to be more impactful than you know when you’re doing RVM and text messaging.
Tim: We were asked too: What’s the best source to get a TCPA litigator list?
Scott: Blacklist Alliance. I don’t have those. And I’m not saying you have to go use Blacklist, there’s quite a few out there that do that. But that is your best option for someone who specializes in leads, DNC, TCPA litigator, and then of course, they have some ability to do carrier lookups to see if the number is an actual mobile number, or if it’s an actual landline type of number.
Tim: Yeah. So, Scott, what I keep hearing and I don’t mean to be a broken record, cause I feel like I am is, if you dot your I’s, cross your T’s, do your due diligence, scrub your lists, make sure that all your messages are final before you register, you got to run this as a professional project, right? It’s a professional product outreach, whatever you’re adding to your business, you’re probably going to be okay. It’s just the people that rush it. Sometimes you give a technical person something where a writer or an editor would do a better job of making sure that the stuff is– anyway, you get the idea. Everybody just needs to take a breath and slow down and make sure that they know the rules, follow the rules. And we have hundreds of businesses that are doing great things with texting and are staying not afoul of the rules. And anyway, I just had to say that.
Scott: Can I add something to at?
Tim: Yeah, please.
Scott: And so one of the things that we really didn’t cover too much and we’ve covered this in previous webinars and we have eBooks on this, but when you’re registering campaigns and you’re going to be sending a text message and you want that subscriber slash voter to go to your candidates website or the packs website. The website has to look professional. Perception is everything. So it’s really critical that you have very clear and concise opt-in language. We have that. If you’re not sure what is clear and concise and what’s compliant, we can provide you samples of what that should look like.
The other thing too is that, put some effort into it, make it look nice. If someone sent you a text message and you went to it, you don’t want to be like, “Oh my God, that’s a cheap logo, or there’s no logo at all.” And it was made on Windows 95, you’re getting all these errors and links and there’s broken links or links that don’t exist, you’re going to get that perception this is a scam or it’s not compliant. So put some effort into your web property.
And then the other critical component is having your privacy policies, your terms and conditions, if possible adding mobile terms and conditions. We have samples of mobile terms and conditions that you can look at. If the DCAs and the carriers see this, that’s really what they’re looking for. If they see it, they feel much better, they feel like you’re more of a safer type of campaign for them to allow in their networks. So we have a whole bunch of information on best practices around web properties and things that you should do. You have a checklist too, don’t you, Tim?
Tim: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, we’ll add that to the email as well in reply. And by the way, somebody said: Hey, TCPAWorld.com is a great resource. Are you familiar with that site, Scott?
Scott: I’ve heard of it, yeah. So that’s fantastic, thank you. We’ll add that to our collateral that we have on our site. And so again, eight carrier AUPs. Make sure you understand what the carriers want on their networks, what they feel is acceptable. CTIA, TCPA. It’s your responsibility to understand all of that.
We’ve got a lot of the lifting for you. We can help you understand that, but it’s also important that you know the rules.
Tim: Yeah, and by the way, Scott, you said something earlier. I want to repeat it and then add to it which is: You really need to make sure that you’re consulting your own telecom attorney about all these legalities. Because we’re not legal people. I don’t do that for a living. We do our best to follow the rules.
Oh gosh, I knew I was going to forget the second thing.
Scott: Compliance manager?
Tim: Thank you! You rescued me.
Scott: Yeah, I had a sense you were going there.
Tim: So yeah, the next thing is this might be the year that you’re going to have to hire a full time or part time compliance person on your team. Cause they’re the ones who are going to have to marinate in all this information to help keep you up to date.
Scott: Yeah. Absolutely, great.
Tim: Thank you for rescuing me.
Scott: Yeah, get a consultant, an attorney, or find someone on your staff who can dedicate the time and resources to become a subject matter expert on compliance. Sounds so fun.
Tim: It’s hard to believe we’ve come from jamming P2P traffic down A2P rails 5 years ago to you got to hire a compliance person. And there’s 85,000 rules and you got to register. I mean, we’ve seen the whole thing go from soup to nuts. Oh by the way, last question, because I know we’re really going over now is, somebody asked: Do we offer XMPP interconnectivity?
Scott: I’m not aware, we used to, I don’t think we offer that anymore. But we can confirm. So Tim, if you can get their contact information. I’m going to probably lead with unfortunately, no. But let’s confirm.
Tim: Okay, well, great Scott, we’ve done this webinar now once before. We’re going to do it every 2 years probably, going forward. And then in the interim, Commio’s here to be your partner. We’re not here to sell you something, but we’re here to consult with you. So maybe there’s a fit. Maybe we can help. Maybe not. But as 2024 starts and this campaign is now 10-11 months down the road, if you’re thinking about doing political messaging or you’re already doing it, we can definitely help you send those messages. We can extend your capacity as well as help you get started. So Scott and his team and our sales team is here to consult with you and look at your use cases and let you know what this current state of the state is, give you advice and help you in any way that we can. So that’s what we’re here to do.
Like we say, there’s a better way and Commio could potentially be a good fit for you as a potential vendor. So you see our email down here, firstname.lastname@example.org or even email@example.com and we can answer your questions. We did record this webinar. We will be sending out that recording. Feel free to share it. And if you have any questions, just reply to that email. All those questions come to me, including any questions we didn’t answer during this time together and I’ll get them to Scott and we will reply to you one-on-one. So, we’re here to help.
So, Scott, thanks again for your time. I know you’re super busy. And everybody else happy presidential election year.
Scott:That sounds good. Thanks, everybody. Appreciate your time.
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