Broadcast Email Guidelines

Email from University departments to members of the community is understood not to be spam. However, it is important to realize that most email users receive plenty of unwanted mail and this potential “guilt by association” with spam can result in legitimate email being ignored, regardless of its origin. This page contains information to help senders manage audience selection, message format, and frequency of mailings in order to avoid their messages having the appearance of spam.

Appropriateness

Originating address

An unfamiliar “From” address triggers an immediate suspicion among many users that a message may be spam. To avoid this, we recommend specifying an easily recognized name, e.g., a department name, as the originator of a message instead of a valid but obscure BU email address. For example, it is preferable to send a message that reads “From: Department of XYZ” rather than “From: obscure-user@bu.edu.” It is possible to specify an alias by using the syntax in the following example (quotes and angle brackets are required):

“Department of XYZ” <validaddress@bu.edu>

This associates the alias “Department of XYZ” with an actual email address, in this case validaddress@bu.edu.

Note: All Out of Office messages will be delivered to the originating address.

Target audience

Selecting an appropriate audience to receive particular information is an important part of insuring a message’s effectiveness, so care should be taken to identify a collection of recipients that is neither too narrow, in which case some who should be receiving that information are excluded, nor too broad, which can result in the perception among those erroneously included that the message is irrelevant or, worse, annoying.

Frequency

If an audience perceives that it is receiving unsolicited messages too often from a particular source, the effectiveness of those messages may be reduced. In general, frequency of mailings should be determined by the messages’ relevance and importance to the recipients. Alerts or warnings, for example, would merit higher frequency messages than would notices of a more general nature.

Message Form

Message brevity

Email messages should be no more than a few reasonably short paragraphs in length. Concise messages are typically much more effective than long notes that contain a lot of detail. When it is necessary to communicate a large amount of information, send a brief message that includes the main point(s) and a reference to a web page that contains the bulk of the detail. This is preferable to a multi-page email and, because web pages allow the use of graphics and formatted text, information presentation is potentially simpler and more powerful.

Inclusion of web page addresses (URLs)

Specify no more than one or two URLs. If an email message refers to information on more than one web page, best practice is to specify a single, top-level URL in the message. The page referred to can in turn point to the other pages, as required. This simplifies navigation for the message recipient and makes it easier for them to refer back to the Web information later.

A short URL is preferable to a long one. While most email programs recognize a URL as a link to a web page, some have difficulty handling long addresses that span more than one message line. This forces some recipients to cut and paste the page address into their Internet browser, a sometimes tedious process.

If a Web reference is to be included in a message, the preferred form of the address includes “http://” or “https://”. This is suggested because not all email programs recognize addresses that do not contain “http://” as Web addresses. Adding the HTTP prefix insures that most email programs will correctly interpret the address. For example, use http://www.bu.edu/eng instead of www.bu.edu/eng

Images and HTML formatting

Messages should be formatted with official BU branding, as described on the formatting page.