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Seton Hall University
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Text Messaging Procedures, Protocols and Guidelines

Messages intended for the campus community are best communicated by Cadence, Emma, Slate,, email accounts, and printed materials, such as digital and print signage.

Text messaging is intended to supplement the Seton Hall University communications strategy, and these procedures, protocols and guidelines are devoted to the texting medium.

The text messaging guidelines apply to any Seton Hall-affiliated individual granted permission to text groups of constituents regarding university-related matters.

These guidelines are intended for every day, non-emergency use. Use your well-formed judgment in case of emergency and contact the Department pf Public Safety with any questions about Seton Hall’s emergency guidelines at (973) 761-9328 or [email protected].

Text messaging (which includes SMS and MMS messages) can be used by authorized university officials to relay information about cancellations, events, admissions and academic requirements or deadlines, registration information, financial aid, alumni giving, and other matters that are time sensitive and necessary for student success. 

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Laws

When it comes to text messaging compliance, there’s much more at stake than just the university’s reputation. Neglecting Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) text message compliance can have far-reaching consequences. Major U.S. telecommunications carriers possess the authority to block messages from sources that are not following proper text messaging compliance for student engagement platforms. This poses a significant risk to the deliverability rates of crucial communications, potentially resulting in missed opportunities for meaningful interactions. Beyond the communication disruptions, the use of non-compliant messaging services can expose educational institutions to legal and regulatory risks.

The fundamental TCPA compliance guidelines for businesses and organizations, including higher education institutions:

  1. Obtain consent:
    Businesses should not call or send messages to consumers without their consent. Companies must obtain explicit written permission from consumers before calling or sending any messages.
  2. Provide disclosure:
    Once consumers opt in to receive messages, businesses must disclose the full scope of their SMS communications and also provide a way for consumers to opt out.

Failure to comply with these text messaging guidelines for opt-ins and opt-outs will result in major consequences. If a unit or user continues to message a student, donor, alumni, or other entity related to the Seton Hall community through the sanctioned Seton Hall text messaging platform, after they unsubscribed or opted out of receiving text messages, whether accidentally or intentionally, will result in immediate removal of access to the text messaging platform.

Teams should send out no more than 5 initial text messages to a single opted-in user a week. This includes all broadcasted text messages and initial, direct one-on-one messages. If the user responds back and provides consent to continue the conversation via the departmental Shared Inbox, or private message thread, subsequent responses by the Team will not be counted to that maximum text message limit.

Types of Messages

  1. Broadcasted Text Messages: a ‘pushed’ message, often sent to a larger, yet segmented, list of subscribers. These will show up as a text message on the user’s phone and they have the option to reply back in the thread. 
  2. Direct, One-on-One Text Messages: two-way message thread, often between the department or individual administrator/user in the designated Team’s Shared Inbox or private message thread, and the subscriber who subscribed to recieve messages from that department. 

Communications Procedure and Schedule

Seton Hall University has developed a Premier Communications Procedure and Schedule for various relevant audiences. With the multitude of events and initiatives that the University produces, experience has shown that sending communications that promote each event individually ultimately —and counterintuitively—works against successful promotion because metrics have shown that open rates tend to decrease as broadcast communications volume increases.

To maximize open rates and engagement, we follow the schedule to streamline our University communications. We ask that event-specific communications continue to be promoted through the main University scheduled messages, focusing on quality over quantity. Text messages should be used in tandem with, or secondary from, the University communications, but should not be used too frequently, nor as the sole communications method.


Below are a few types of audiences the university may text in regards to certain areas or topics. The scenarios listed below are examples and may not reflect the current usage of the texting platform. 

Texting Prospective Students

For prospective student communication, you must ask for permission to communicate via text message during the application process on a request for information form, inquiry card, or on the application itself. Ask them to individually opt-in to each communication channel - text, email, phone, mail - for customized preferences. If a student does not choose to attend the institution, an opt-out should be assumed and they should be removed from receiving future communications.

Staff in the Admissions, Financial Aid, and Athletics departments will typically be responsible for texting with prospective students.

The types of text messages that can be sent to prospective students include:

  1. Application status - submitted, incomplete, missing documents, etc.
  2. Financial Aid status - FAFSA deadline, submitted, missing documents, scholarships, work study, etc.
  3. Campus visit/tour/orientation information - visit confirmation, reminder, survey, etc.
  4. Admission status - congratulations on acceptance, enrollment next steps, advisor introduction, deposit due, etc.
  5. Athletics - recruiting, official visit, letter of intent, etc.
Texting Current Students

When a student decides to enroll at the institution, ask them to update their communication preferences in case they have changed. Remind them of the types of messages they will receive through text and ask that they opt-in to receiving text messages from each department individually. Departments may also obtain an opt-in across multiple teams for a similar use case.

The types of text messages that can be sent to current students include:

  1. Academics - add/drop deadline, major selection, transfer credits, etc.
  2. Class registration - advisor meeting, class registration deadline, etc.
  3. Housing - housing application/deposit, meal plan payment, RA introduction, etc.
  4. Financial Aid status - FAFSA deadline, submitted, missing documents, scholarships, work study, etc.
  5. Events and Engagement - on-campus events, sports, fundraisers, volunteer opportunities, etc.
  6. Career services - career fairs, resume review, internship placement, etc.
  7. Graduation preparation - application for graduation, purchase of cap and gown, commencement details, etc.

Texting Alumni and Donors

Prepare for alumni engagement before the student graduates from the institution, ask them to update their communication preferences once again. Ask upcoming graduates how they would like to stay in touch with the university (email, phone, text), and what types of information they would like to receive.

Staff in the Alumni Engagement and Philanthropy department will typically be responsible for texting with alumni and donors.

The types of text messages that can be sent to alumni and donors include:

  1. Giving requests - Giving Day information, initiative-specific gifts, stewardship, etc.
  2. Donor recognition - acknowledge past donations, share how gifts support the institution, special initiatives, etc.
  3. Alumni engagement - networking events, regional events, homecoming celebrations, mentoring students, etc.

Each department must appoint at least one authorized official to be responsible for monitoring and approving text messaging requests on behalf of their department to ensure compliance.

Opt-Ins and Opt-Outs

Best practices indicate that message senders should gain contact consent and maintain their communication preferences. By gaining consent, you ensure you have an engaged audience for texts--which will yield better results. Although suggested, opt in is not required for students as they are opted into university communications when they are enrolled. 

Opt-ins include students providing their name and mobile number to receive text messages from non-essential departments and ensure their contact information is held by Seton Hall University is current.

If a student chooses to opt out of receiving text communications from a specific department, they are not automatically opted out from other departments. Students must have the ability to text ‘STOP’ or ‘OPT OUT’ at any time to opt out of messages. It is best practice for the administrator of the institution’s texting platform to run regular reporting and update their system of record to manage contact texting preferences. Students can also be notified of these modified preferences and asked whether or not they would like to receive university communications through another channel - email, phone, mail - or if they’d like to opt out of all types of communication.

Consent Collection

Methods for obtaining consent should be documented and provable in the event that messaging activity leads to large spikes in opt-out rates or spam complaints. Doing so will give you a record of all opt-ins.

Places to ask for consent (opt-in) include:

  1. Application or document submissions
  2. Forms that ask for contact information
  3. Websites or student portals
  4. Event registrations
  5. Appointment scheduling
  6. Initial text message to recipient asking for opt-in permission

To obtain consent your collection method should include:

  1. What types of messages the recipient can expect to receive
  2. An indication of the frequency of messages (no more than 5 initial or broadcasted messages a month)
  3. A place to provide a valid phone number

Texting Preferences Storage

Contacts opt into texting on a per-team basis. Each contact should have a separate preference per team or department which is aligned with how opt-in status is stored in Cadence.

Data fields associated with texting preferences should include:

  1. Contact name and mobile number
  2. Opt-in status
  3. Date/time that the status was last updated
  4. SHU ID (will be Cadence Contactid in the system)

Re-Establishing Consent

Obtaining consent to text an individual does not mean that consent is provided indefinitely. Take into account when the consent to text was last established and store a date/time stamp along with a contact's opt-in status. Consent and opt-in should be re-established if a reasonable time (10-12 months) has passed without any messages being sent to the contact. It is encouraged for users to refrain from reaching out to re-establish consent until at least 10 months have passed. 

Text Message Communication and Branding Guidelines

Direct one-to-one messages should be as concise as possible (while still maintaining a conversational tone) and should address the student directly by name or with “you/your.” They should include essential points and, if needed, further instruction (e.g. Check your email for full details).

Guidelines and Procedure for Text Messaging
Authorized text messaging officials should abide by all guidelines and ensure the following:

  1. Content is accurate. Please confirm all details of the message are correct, including information regarding other departments or units. (Think of the ‘Who, What, Where, When and Why?’)
  2. Wording is appropriate and fits the institution's voice and brand
  3. Tone is casual but professional and ends with a question when a response is desired.
  4. List of recipients is correct and relevant to the message being sent (utilize the segment tool to further define your audience)
  5. Information within the message is directly related to the student and/or their studies. Do NOT ask for personal information over text messages, but rather direct them to other secure forms of communication established by the university. 
  6. Message clearly states the action that the student needs to take or how the information impacts the student, and who to contact for additional information.
  7. All messages must be tagged with the appropriate identifiers (your institution's name and department) so recipients can immediately recognize who it’s from.
    The exception being in follow up messages of an ongoing conversation.
    > For example, if an authorized official is sending an initial text message, open with, “Hi Becky, it’s Chris Smith from Student Services at Seton Hall University.” On all subsequent communications, authorized officials can sign off at the end of a text message: “– Chris Smith, Student Services.”
  8. The number of messages received by a student is appropriate to ensure he/she will continue to regard the text messages as important information and does not choose to opt out of future communication.
  9. Messages are sent with adequate time for a response, action, or activity. See Response Timeframe section.
  10. Abbreviations and text messaging lingo are not used, unless established earlier in the conversation.
  11. Emojis approved for use by the institution are used appropriately, with no more than one emoji per message. Not every text message should include an emoji.
  12. Use hyperlinks sparingly, and instead, use text messaging to encourage a student to check their email or your website for more information. When you do use links, it should be the full website URL and not shortened through a service like bitly. Short and/or encoded URLs provided by the Public Relations and Marketing team are allowed.
  13. Initial messages must include instructions for opting out such as “Reply STOP to unsubscribe”.
  14. Auto replies should be set up so the recipient will get an automated text message when they are opted in and opted out with directions on how to opt-out.
  15. University Statements: Do not make any statements via text messages on behalf of the University. Only link to or share official University statements.
  16. Mindful Communication: When engaging online, it's important to maintain a voice and tone that reflects Seton Hall’s mission and values. Please refer to the University’s Brand Guide for the positioning, voice and tone. Ensure your messages are clear and considerate to avoid misinterpretation and maintain positive interactions.
  17. Encouraged Engagement: Actively engaging with followers and the Seton Hall community through the University’s text messaging platform you manage is recommended. Interactive dialogues in direct message can foster meaningful engagement.
  18. Handling Negative Feedback: Should your department face a crisis or receive substantial negative feedback, consult with University Relations for advice. Avoid making unilateral statements on behalf of the University. Only official University statements should be shared (in the form of re-posting or links).

Employee Use and Administration

Employees using text messaging must follow all relevant procedures and guidelines. Administrative rights to text messaging accounts are reserved for university employees, requiring at least two administrators per Team/Department to ensure consistent management. The list of administrators should be reviewed annually. All text messaging accounts must be requested through and accessible to University Relations. Use official University text messaging accounts strictly for University purposes, avoiding personal or private activities.

Emergency vs. Non-Emergency Communications

Text messaging through Cadence should not be used to communicate an essential or emergency message or announcement. Any non-emergency text message may be supplemented by some other means of communication, such as an email, phone call, digital, or paper notice, to ensure that all students, including those who have not opted in, receive the message.

Non-emergency text messaging should NOT be used for the following:

  1. Sole method of communication - to ensure that students that have opted out still receive this information.
  2. Communicating personal or confidential information (e.g. GPA, academic standing).
  3. Sending general information to large populations (e.g. Fall classes start Monday!).
  4. Personal matters (e.g. items for sale, farewell messages).
  5. Appeals on behalf of individuals or groups of students (e.g. to attend social, cultural, or sporting events, unless the student opted in for these text messages).
  6. Sending any messages containing social security numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, or any FERPA-protected data.
  7. *Emergency alerts – PirateAlert is Seton Hall University's primary emergency notification system and is provided by RAVE Mobile Safety and operated by the Department of Public Safety.

For any emergency-related communication, please consult the Department of Public Safety for the emergency communication guidelines at (973) 761-9328 or [email protected].

Response Timeframe

As a best practice, text messages should only be sent during designated business hours (e.g. between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday) to be respectful of a student’s time and your team’s availability to respond.

Any incoming replies to messages should be reviewed and responded to in a timely manner (preferably 24 hours), to provide optimal student support and prevent future messages from being ignored or a student opting out.

If a staff member is out of the office for an extended period of time, they are required to create an “Out of Office” away message or a departmental “Auto Reply” with information about how a student can receive assistance in their absence, such as another staff member’s contact information.