Texting: Striking A Balance Between Risk & Reward

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Earlier this year, three articles about texting were published in Radio Ink. And in his column titled “Everything You Need to Know About Texting Your Listeners” (June 10, 2016), attorney John Garziglia covered specific questions on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to further educate stations on what creates liability.

In the wake of these articles, many stations sought legal advice or contacted their texting provider for best practices. Thankfully, it isn’t all doom and gloom for stations interested in continuing their current texting programs or for those interested in the benefits of texting. When texting is used in its simplest form (peer-to- peer) it does not inherently create a liability for radio stations. Radio stations in all markets and formats are reaping the relational and monetary benefits of texting with their fans.

There are two primary approaches to texting in the market:

Landline/Toll-Free Texting/VoIP (stations use their branded request line):
Benefits:
Uses the same number for peer-to-peer texting
Cost-effective
Simple and easy user interface
Drawbacks:
No mass marketing
Comparatively limited contesting functionality

Common Short Codes (5-6 digits, random or selected).
Benefits:
Mass marketing
Drawbacks:
Rarely personal
Clunky user interface
Custom codes are expensive
Listeners must opt in
Non-intuitive

Landline/Toll-Free Texting:
The back-and-forth functionality used by landline texting gives stations the ability to excite and engage listeners in real time, using one promoted phone number. Since listeners are not receiving marketing messages back unless they send in a specified word — i.e. “soda” to participate in a contest for a local soft drink distributor — they do not have to opt in. The key here is that stations are replying to requests, questions sent in by listeners, or keywords that are specifically related to the on-air call to action. Landline texting is subject to TCPA regulation, so stations need to enact good common sense and best practices to remain compliant.

Short Code Texting:
The majority of short code platforms are built for mass marketing. This is a good tool to broadcast one message to the masses, much like Twitter. This continues to be a good choice for stations focused on bulk marketing campaigns to subscribers who opt into a database. Since short codes require that stations market a separate, 5- or 6-digit number, the on-air use case requires that jocks differentiate between the studio phone number and text number. While they are sometimes used in conjunction with studio lines, short codes are often isolated to text-specific campaigns.

Landline texting and short codes both have revenue generating functionality that can be pursued and explained by the appropriate platform experts.

Best Practices (our opinion): If your provider doesn’t provide these, it’s time to look for a new texting vendor.

TCPA gives customers control over how businesses text them by requiring consent. Consent requirements vary by the type of communication. To clarify, think of texting in three different categories.

Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation that takes place over text. If the customer texts you first and you respond quickly with a single message, it’s conversational. As long as the customer initiates the conversation and the business simply responds, no additional permission is required. Conversational messaging should be handled in a polite, common sense manner.

Informational messaging is when a customer gives a business their number and asks to be contacted in the future. Appointment reminders, welcome texts, and alerts fall in this category because the first text sent by the business fulfills the customer’s request. Systematic alerts, beyond conversational information, should be specifically approved by the customer.

Promotional messaging is just what it sounds like — a sales or marketing promotion. Adding a call to action like a coupon code to an informational text may place it in the promotional category.

Before a business sends promotional messages, the customer must agree in writing to receive promotional texts. Businesses that already ask customers to sign forms or submit contact information can add a field to capture consent.

It is possible to find a business texting platform that utilizes industry-leading safeguards to support companies in meeting TCPA standards. Radio stations have the opportunity to choose the perfect texting tool that aligns with today’s mobile environment, personal communication preferences and their mission. Happy texting!

This article is not legal advice and is not written by attorneys. Companies interested in any texting technology should consult an experienced attorney.

This article was written by industry specialists from the Zipwhip Radio Team: Nick Cameron, Erin Wilson, and Kelsey Klevenberg. Questions or comments, please text or call 855.947.9447 or e-mail radio@zipwhip.com. Texting: Striking A Balance Between Risk And Reward.

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