Process, Procedures, and Compliance: A Five-Step Program

“Not everybody is in the direct marketing business to do the right thing,” said Stacey Girt, senior vice president at Newtown, PA-based services provider MKTG Services, during a session at last week’s DMA Directo Days. “If the company you’re working with gets into trouble [regarding privacy issues], the courts want to know that you were doing what you could to enforce the rules.”

To help list owners, renters, brokers, and managers avoid running foul of the Federal Trade Commission (see “FTC Eyes List Firms”), Girt offered a five-step program designed to promote proper process, procedures and compliance.

“This will provide you the safety net you need in case there is an issue down the road with the mailer you are working with,” she said.

Step 1: Train your team
Know the local, regional, and national rules and guidelines, as well as the ethical best practices as outlined by the DMA. Not only should your staff be trained, but training should be ongoing as the rules change.

Step 2: Read and sign list rental agreements
Make sure the offer and usage terms for all clients are clearly stated, and include DMA compliance language. Whether it is a one-off or an annual agreement, make sure there is a signed contract. No contract, no signature, no exceptions, Girt said.

Step 3: Be a gatekeeper
Make sure any and all purchase orders are accurate and that clearances are acquired and reviewed. Institute an internal escalation process to ensure that red flags are raised soon enough to prevent any potential wrongdoing. And also, go with your gut feeling. If someone is offering something that sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Step 4: Seed your lists
Develop a seeding program to ensure that you receive a copy of the final product. Review the sample against the mailed piece, and continue to monitor the mailer’s mailed and sample products over time. Save the seeds along with the sample mailing piece.

step 5: Document, document, document – save everything
Do not throw any piece of paperwork away. Should something happen, the courts would want to see copies of purchase orders, list rental agreements, clearances and e-mails, sample mailing pieces, and seeded mailing pieces.