If there is any doubt about whether I am frustrated, cynical or just plain grumpy over this CASL law, the answer is yes to all three. I might feel differently if I was a lawyer, or could have one permanently on staff, but that’s not the case.
As CEO of energi PR, a mid-sized, independently owned, Canadian public relations firm, I am trying to understand why Canada’s anti-spam law needed to be so complicated and costly to implement. The law applies to all individuals and businesses sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) and so, ignorance or a lack of sophistication or resources will presumably not be an excuse to be deviant. And so the rational part of my brain says, wait a minute all you small and medium-sized business that form the cornerstone of the Canadian economy and are trying to do business, win business and stay in business, why would anyone want to penalize those Canadian businesses who do not send SPAM? Ours is the business of public relations. We tell stories. From important medical discoveries to the colour of a new lipstick – and everything in between. Those who take these stories and develop them for their audiences and communities generally want to hear from us and, even when they occasionally might become annoyed by a bit of persistence, they would hardly describe our email communications as SPAM.
Yes, we want to ENLARGE our client’s business and our own, but does this compare in any way with penis enlargement supplements, the latest weight loss scheme or an invitation to meet the woman or man of your dreams?
Make no mistake. energi PR is CASL compliant. We’ve distributed our consent requests, hired one of the country’s most knowledgeable internet law specialists, engaged our IT team, implemented a contact management system, ensured that our email signatures provide an unsubscribe function, trained our team, documented our procedures and anointed a Compliance Officer. Can you imagine any better use of our resources?
As I said at the start of this rant, I am tired and grumpy about all of the machinations and cost that CASL has imposed. But I am also sympathetic to those in PR and in other businesses who simply do not have the wherewithal to jump into the CASL action.. The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms, an industry association that represents more than 25 of Canada’s leading PR firms, of which energi PR is a founding member, has further supported its members by obtaining its own legal opinion that focuses on our stock and trade, including communications with journalists. The Canadian Public Relations Society webinar explaining CASL is another valuable resource for our profession.
I agree that SPAM is annoying and efforts should be made to eliminate it. I also don’t think that the authors of CASL were intentionally mean-spirited. But sometimes even the very best of intentions come back to bite one on the butt. My sense is that CASL will have little impact on the email junk we’ve received to date and convinced that unnecessary obstacles have been put in place for honest, legitimate individuals and companies that want to be profitable and contribute to Canada’s economy and society. I would have much rather have made a charitable donation than pour thousands of dollars into CASL compliance.
As a final note. I started in business before fax machines were invented. Who knows, maybe making the Canadian commercial email message such a villain will force us back into personal business interaction, which wouldn’t be so bad.
Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and Managing founder of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.