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Palantir.net's Guide to Digital Governance: Broadcast Email

This is the fourteenth installment of Palantir.net’s Guide to Digital Governance, a comprehensive guide intended to help get you started when developing a governance plan for your institution’s digital communications.

Broadcast email (i.e. email marketing campaigns, email newsletters, etc.) is loosely defined as email sent and addressed to a group of people rather than a specific person or persons, typically using an email list, contact list, or database of email addresses. It is frequently used for the purposes of email marketing, though it essentially refers to broadcasting a communication to a group of recipients via email to convey information.

When communicating with an external audience, broadcast email typically is sent through an email marketing service (such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, etc.) or through the email platform of a larger enterprise system that may include a CRM and other marketing functions (such as Blackbaud, Salsa, Convio, etc.). Your organization may also have internal mass-email distribution systems in place for broadcast email to internal audiences. For the purposes of this article, we will be speaking mostly about email to external audiences.

Spam

An important issue to address in any broadcast email guidelines is the sending of spam email. Spam email is generally understood to be any email message that is unsolicited and sent in bulk, though whether it is sent in bulk or to an individual is significantly less important than whether the recipients have approved of receiving such emails. This applies to email sent to an address that was not given to the sender explicitly for the purpose of receiving mass email messages from the sender.

Common activities which may qualify as spam:

  • sending a mass email to a list purchased from a company
  • sending a mass email to a list borrowed from another organization
  • sending a mass email to a list compiled by scouring websites for email addresses
  • sending a mass email to a list of recipients to which you have not been given permission to email
  • sending a mass email to a list compiled from a database without permission from the database administrator(s)

Policies

It is critically important to have policies governing broadcast email communication, as it will certainly impact your efficacy in communicating with many of your most important constituencies. Here are many other questions and issues to consider while crafting your governance plan:

  • What broadcast email platforms are available?
  • Who has access?
  • May individuals use their own email accounts (i.e. their personal email account provided by your organization) for broadcast email?
  • Are there multiple lists of broadcast email recipients such as various subscriber lists, audiences, or groups?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining each of these lists?
  • Are permissions and approvals required for sending email to broadcast email lists?
  • Are there any regularly scheduled broadcast emails (such as newsletters)?
  • May an individual add information to regularly scheduled broadcast emails?
  • May broadcast email recipients unsubscribe from the list(s)?
  • Do you have an official unsubscribe policy?
  • May members of your organization create and maintain their own custom broadcast email lists?
  • What are the guidelines for custom lists?
  • Do you have a policy regarding the sending of spam email?
  • How does your organization define spam email?

Balancing Internal Needs vs Constituents Needs

The end goal of a good broadcast email governance plan is to balance the organization’s need to distribute information with the needs and preferences of your various constituencies. It is certainly a fine balance to strike.

Some good practices include learning more about your constituents preferences and providing them with options for configuring their communication preferences. For example:

  • How often do they like to receive emails from you?
  • Do they prefer occasional summary-type communications over daily alerts, or vice-versa, or both?
  • What topics do they like to hear from you about?
  • Do they want to read all of the content in the email itself, or be provided with links to full articles on the website?
  • Would they like to be able to change their preferences as their relationship with your organization evolves?

The more you know your audience, the better you can accommodate their needs and minimize the risk that your communications will be perceived as irrelevant, or worse, as spam.

 

This post is part of a larger series of posts, which make up a Guide to Digital Governance Planning. The sections follow a specific order intended to help you start at a high-level of thinking and then focus on greater and greater levels of detail. The sections of the guide are as follows:

  1. Starting at the 10,000ft View – Define the digital ecosystem your governance planning will encompass.
  2. Properties and Platforms – Define all the sites, applications and tools that live in your digital ecosystem.
  3. Ownership – Consider who ultimately owns and is responsible for each site, application and tool.
  4. Intended Use – Establish the fundamental purpose for the use of each site, application and tool.
  5. Roles and Permissions – Define who should be able to do what in each system.
  6. Content – Understand how ownership and permissions should apply to content.
  7. Organization – Establish how the content in your digital properties should be organized and structured.
  8. URL Naming Conventions – Define how URL patterns should be structured in your websites.
  9. Design – Determine who owns and is responsible for the many aspects design plays in digital communications and properties.
  10. Personal Websites – Consider the relationship your organization should have with personal websites of members of your organization.
  11. Private Websites, Intranets and Portals – Determine the policies that should govern site which are not available to the public.
  12. Web-Based Applications – Consider use and ownership of web-based tools and applications.
  13. E-Commerce – Determine the role of e-commerce in your website.
  14. Broadcast Email – Establish guidelines for the use of broadcast email to constituents and customers.
  15. Social Media – Set standards for the establishment and use of social media tools within the organization.
  16. Digital Communications Governance – Keep the guidelines you create updated and relevant.