List Library - Best Practices for Messages
The following are suggested best practices associated with sending email to List Library email lists.
Crafting the Message
- Start by determining who is the target audience. Why are you sending the message? What do you expect readers to do once the email is sent?
- Always use a clear, specific and non-empty subject line.
- Clearly identify in the body of the message the originating unit or individual, the scope of individuals being emailed, and the purpose of the message.
- Messages should be clear and concise. Make additional information available via a web link in the text of the email. See below.
- Be clear about what the audience should do with the information.
- Do not include or attach personal, confidential or sensitive information.
- Include contact information for the individual, group, or organization in the message of the email. For example, "For more information, please contact…"
- Proofread for spelling, grammatical and content errors prior to distribution.
- Carefully target lists of recipients to minimize the number of people who receive any given bulk emailing.
- Send collaborative messages with other units at the University when possible to avoid redundancy.
- Consider additional communication channels to reach those who do not have access to a computer.
- The content of the message should be an appropriate topic and not violate University policies.
Use of Links
If there is substantial content underlying an email message (policy, procedures, news story, etc.) this content should be housed on a website, with URLs rather than attachments included in the email. Use of URLs will also help mitigate the transmission of computer viruses and improve compatibility with email clients. Hyperlinks should include the fully qualified (include the http:// part) protocol to assure that most recipients will see the "active" links in your message.
If the full URL is long, use the URL-shortening tool go.wisc.edu to streamline your message. It will generate a “go.wisc.edu/xxxx” that redirects to the longer URL, but keeps the trusted wisc.edu domain and preserves click data. It is also a good idea to enclose URLs in less-than and greater-than symbols to avoid problems with word wrapping. See Mass Email - Policies & Criteria. If you use the URL shortening tool (go.wisc.edu), you will have open data but not click through data. Test your email prior to sending, if possible, to several people who use different tools to view their email.
Plain Text vs. HTML
In general, email sent within the campus community (to and from campus addresses) will and can be HTML with no ramifications for deliverability or readability. All current email clients, including mobile versions, accept HTML messages without problems. Also, even a simple, copy-only (no graphics) email generated in a current email client or tool is an HTML email.
These tools also usually include embedded code to deliver plain text if the recipient has configured their client to only accept text versions.
HTML messages being blocked for delivery by email systems is, for the most part, an outdated issue and generally not applicable for intra-campus email. Problems will only (potentially) arise when the message contains HTML coding errors – more typical for manually-coded, image-heavy messages used for email marketing.
A best-practice recommendation for employee emails is to create your email within a current email client or tool, with concise copy and minimal use of images. This is not to say images should not be included – see below for use of branded templates – but keeping it simple will minimize load time for mobile viewers and help your copy stand out.
Use of Images
Campus communicators encourage limited use of images in mass emails. Chief considerations when deciding whether to use images are readability, mail-ability and filtering. While they can enhance readability by illustrating a point or breaking up copy, images can also detract from the message, particularly if viewed out of place or disproportionately on a smaller device. For that very reason, always provide alternative and title text. Use smaller image files so the image is neither overpowering nor too small to read. Inserting images can also (depending upon mailer) alert spam filters and keep your message from being delivered. If you use an image (in addition to an html header), test the message by sending it to example email accounts commonly used by your audience.
Language / Translation of Messages
Official Messages, whenever possible, should be translated by Cultural Linguistic Services (CLS) and made easily available to view and print in multiple languages. Contact CLS for further guidance.
It is recommended that Informational Messages are also translated by CLS, particularly when the target audience is the full campus community or a similarly broad distribution. Alternatively, communicators may consider providing Google Translate on their web page(s) corresponding to the informational email.
Managing Subscribe / Unsubscribe
Official Messages – while these emails will use the “no opt-out” list library, all emails will carry a footer that clarifies that recipients cannot unsubscribe and why. The WiscList system will add the following:
You are receiving this communication because you are a UW-Madison employee and included on distribution lists for official university correspondence. Employees are not able to unsubscribe from these lists.
Note: When using digital signatures, the footer must be added manually.
Timing of Mailings
Consider your audience and urgency of your message when determining the best time to send your message. When are they most likely to receive and read it? Consider sending large quantities of bulk email during non-business hours to expedite delivery.
Analytics are not automatically sent to the sender. If analytics are required, the request must be sent to University Communications – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use of the List Library is subject to the UW-System - Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources.