University Communications (UC) has assumed responsibility for distributing campus-wide broadcast email messages (“mass emails”, “blast emails”) to faculty and staff. This service is provided to the campus on behalf of the University’s administration.
The guidelines attempt to strike a balance between the speed and ease of use of mass email, the desire to reduce reliance on paper-based mail where appropriate, and the impact on each member of the University community receiving email messages on a daily basis, with common sense as a guiding factor.
Defining mass email
Mass email, for the purpose of these guidelines, is a message sent to members of the University community using the University’s “mailman” email system.
Mass emails are intended to support University employees by providing them with the information needed to perform their jobs and to engage them in the work of the University. As such, messages must be in regard to University business, of general interest and importance to a sizable number of staff and faculty, and significant to the University as a whole.
The information in the email should be of significant value and newsworthiness.
Categories of mass email
Mass emails generally take two forms:
Official messages from the University’s senior administration
These official messages may come from the University’s administration or its representatives, to be sent to the entire University community.
Example: The President’s Quarterly Community Update
Informational messages to the university community
Various on-campus organizations may request to send a mass email to the University community. These emails must be pertinent to the University community’s shared interests.
Examples: Town Hall Meeting reminders, Co-operative Education Council requests for WatPD course designs
When messages being distributed to employees are determined to be of significance to students as well, UC will work with the Registrar’s Office and/or Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs to see that the same message is distributed to student audiences in a timely way.
Messages directed to all faculty members by the Office of the Provost or another vice-president, associate provost, or associate vice-president, regarding the academic work of the university will be sent directly by those offices to appropriate mailing lists without the direct involvement of University Communications.
Human Resources will continue to send its messages directly to the appropriate employee group.
Mass emails to undergraduate students are delivered by the Registrar’s Office. Visit the Registrar Resources for Faculty and Staff website for instructions on requests to send a mass email (requires CAS login).
Mass messages to graduate students are sent through the Graduate Students e-newsletter. Guidelines for sending messages and the e-newsletter submission tool are available on the Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA)'s website. Questions should be sent to Communications Officer Tasha Glover at email@example.com.
Requests for messages to postdoctoral fellows should be sent to Marta Bailey, Assistant Director, Graduate Communications & Postdoctoral Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requests for campus-wide surveys should be directed to Daniela Seskar-Hencic, Associate Director, Institutional Analysis and Planning, at email@example.com and Jana Carson, Manager, Institutional Evaluation & Accountability, Institutional Analysis and Planning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These guidelines do not apply to individual email-based distribution or Faculty and department-level discussion groups (listservs).
Sending a mass email
Requests for distribution of a campus-wide message should be directed to the mass email moderator, the Associate Director, Internal and Leadership Communications (Brandon Sweet, email@example.com, ext. 32726).
The moderator consults with the email author to determine whether mass email is the appropriate communication channel for the message and may suggest one of the following alternatives:
- An announcement provided to the Daily Bulletin
- An event post on the UWaterloo Events Calendar
- A call to action button (CTA) on the future student, faculty and staff pathway pages on the university’s website
- The University of Waterloo’s official Twitter account
The moderator will also ensure that multiple messages are not sent on the same day unless absolutely necessary, so as not to create overload on system infrastructure or for email recipients.
Distribution list options for UC-moderated mass faculty and staff emails
The list normally used for messages distributed by UC is firstname.lastname@example.org, which includes all employees at the University of Waterloo, both faculty and staff, union and non-union, with appointments of one year or longer, including all people active in the pay groups listed below:
- FAC - Faculty
- STF – Staff
- BW – Regular biweekly
- BWP – Plant Ops biweekly
- TEM – Temporary
- CAS - Casual
The following staff segments are not included in mass emails sent using the email@example.com address:
- Joint University Faculty (not paid by UWaterloo)
- Daycare staff
- Accelerator Centre staff
- Canadian Water Network (CWN) staff
- Undergraduate students with no pay.
University Communications requires a lead time of two business days to evaluate, approve, and send out mass emails from the UC-moderated email lists.
Formatting mass emails
All messages will conform to a mass email template [DOC] that includes:
- The University signature
- A "from" field that clearly indicates the name and title of the university official sending the message*
- The name of the office or individual issuing the memorandum*
- A subject line
- Notation indicating whether the email message is for action or for information
- A notation at the close of the message such as “Supervisors, please post for the convenience of employees without direct email access.”
* Please note that on occasion the University administration will send messages to the University community from an institutional sender and not an individual sender, and most commonly, that institutional sender will be University Communications.
Messages are to be sent as text along with the University signature. Other attachments (documents, etc.) are not permitted.
Based on the limitations of the mailman system:
- Message text must be submitted in a Word document
- No tabs, indentations, superscripts, or footnotes can be used
- All messages will be edited and fact/spell-checked by the sender prior to submission
For more information about issues such as privacy, please refer to the Guidelines for use of email.
Mass email content guidelines
Provide a heading for each paragraph that clearly indicates what each paragraph is about. Headings help readers scan memos. Headings also help you write clear memos by encouraging you to ensure that each paragraph conveys a required point and stays on topic.
Use bulleted or numbered lists for lists of items instead of embedding lists in paragraphs. Lists embedded in paragraphs are hard for readers to easily read.
Reserve numbered lists (or ordered lists) for procedural or instructional information.
Example: Complete the following steps:
- Step one description
- Step two description
Use meaningful link text when using hyperlinks in emails. Ensure link text specifies the destination of link and is not meaningless (e.g. "click here", "here", "more").
Avoid: “Click here to fill out the survey.”
Use: “Please fill out the survey.”
Bold and italics
Bold and italics should be used sparingly to draw the email reader’s attention.
For example: "The application deadline is April 1, 2012. Applications received after the deadline will not be considered."
Large blocks of bold and italicized text impede readability and lose the effect of emphasizing important information.
Reserve underlining for only hyperlinked text (i.e. link text). In electronic communications, readers expect underlined text to behave as a hyperlink.
Avoid using ALL CAPS. It is generally accepted that all caps convey shouting at the reader.
Left align all of your content to help your readers read your memo more efficiently. Left alignment means readers’ eyes only need to scan up and down – versus centered alignment, where readers eyes need to scan right and left, and up and down.