Mass Email Communications Policy
Policy: Mass Email Communications
The University recognizes that email is an efficient and cost-effective means for campus groups to reach internal audiences, and use of this method supports the University’s goal to reduce paper messaging. At the same time, members of the University community have expressed an aversion to unsolicited, mass-distributed internal email. Furthermore, research suggests that the overuse of email messaging through all-University listservs negatively impacts the University’s ability to deliver messages of critical importance.
Recognizing these concerns, this policy supports a simple tenet: Notre Dame respects community members and protects the integrity and effectiveness of University messages by minimizing unsolicited, mass-delivered messaging.
Purpose of this Policy
The Mass Email Communications policy identifies instances in which mass email communications are appropriate and allowable, how those messages are approved, and alternatives when mass email requests are not appropriate. Its structure is drawn, in part, from the CAN-SPAM act of 2003, which makes an important distinction about the management of unsolicited email: messages must include an opt-out mechanism. In instances when members of the University community cannot opt out of a message stream, the University has a heightened responsibility to protect recipients from unsolicited messaging.
Scope of the Policy
This policy discusses mass messaging sent through firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com . These four listservs are distinctive in the following ways:
- They reach all faculty and staff (nd-employees) or all students (irishlink).
- Membership is required; these email listservs have no opt-out function.
- They were created so members of the community could be quickly reached with critical University information.
- Historically (through spring 2010), they were available for use by any campus entity to communicate University-affiliated information; no protocol existed to limit their use.
Criteria for Mass Email Approval
In spring 2010, responding to community concern, the University officers adopted limits to the use of “nd-employees” and “irishlink.” The criteria are outlined below. Messages must:
- Be deemed essential by a University officer, and carry that officer’s signature (e.g., Attend the Opening Mass and Picnic; National Championship Team Returns Tonight)
- Be critical, time sensitive, and germane to the University’s mission (e.g., United Way Campaign Begins; Join Father Jenkins at the March for Life; OIT announcements about technology outages)
- Address an issue of campus safety or health (e.g., Crime Alert, Flu Shot Clinics start Monday)
- Address a recommended or required student or employee activity that applies to all or the vast majority of listserv members (e.g., Register for Classes; Renew your Parking Pass; Elect your Annual Benefits through Open Enrollment)
Listserv Ownership and the Approval Process
Management duties for “nd-employees” or “irishlink” are shared in the following manner:
- For Irishlink@listserv.nd.edu and Irishlinkfirstname.lastname@example.org, the Office of the Registrar is authorized to send out messages to faculty and students about managing academic life; the OIT is authorized to send out messages about technology service issues or changes. Other messages are reviewed and approved by the Office of Internal Communications. Messages sent by the elected officials of student government have a high priority. Other messages are evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Internal Communications.
- For email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, the Office of Human Resources is authorized to send out messages related to HR activities; the OIT is authorized to send out messages about technology service issues or changes. Other messages are reviewed and approved by the Office of Internal Communications. Messages sent by the University President, Executive Vice President, and NDSP have a high priority. Other messages are evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Internal Communications.
Best Practices for Email Messages
Entities who wish to distribute critical messages through “nd-employees” and “irishlink” should adhere to the following effective email practices:
- The subject line is brief and descriptive.
- The From line identifies the sender.
- Attachments are PDF-formatted only.
- The announcement uses an official email template designed by the Office of Public Affairs and Communications that signals its status as an official University announcement. The text should:
- Use a minimum of HTML coding and images
- Indicate to whom the message is being sent
- Indicate why the message in being sent
- Be brief, drives recipients to other locations for further information
- Include contact information: an email address and phone
Communicating through Special-Interest Email Lists
Those whose email content is not appropriate for “nd-employees” or “irishlink” distribution have the option of distributing their messages via email through the University’s listserv software (listserv.nd.edu). This software allows campus entities to generate subject-specific or special interest listservs. They tend to be built around a specific identity, such as “Campus Communicators” or those who want regular updates on specific types of events (e.g., the arts, fitness, or employee training). These listservs respect recipient privacy in two ways: members must accept an invitation to join the listserv—thus the email is solicited. Also, the listserv software includes an opt-out function for those who wish to leave the listserv. Content should follow the Best Practices information noted above.
A secondary solution that is increasing in popularity is the use of an inexpensive third-party direct email service. These services have two advantages: members of the lists can always opt out, and list managers can access analytics that indicate the number of recipients who viewed the content and/or clicked through to embedded links. Further information about either of these solutions can be discussed with the Office of Internal Communications.
A Note of Caution
The University highly discourages the creation of email lists comprised of campus members who are included without their knowledge or permission, and notes that creating such lists violates CAN-SPAM legislation. Creators of these types of lists are required to immediately honor an individual’s request to be removed.