When it comes to marketing one of my favorite lines is when someone says “lets get an email blast out!” How do we as web professionals educate, collaborate, and assist the rest of the institution with best practices in e-communications?
Over the last four years I have found this to be a difficult question because there are so many components to an e-communication:
- delivery system
- body content
- subject line
- photo or banner
- call to action
Each of these of course has their own intricacies as well, which professional marketers spend time perfecting. In tough economic times not only is there not an opportunity to expand staff but in most cases web offices are being asked to cut or at least hold the line on resources. But web offices are not the only opportunity for institutional savings and we are seeing an increased interest in utilizing web based technologies including e-communications to communicate across our campus which results in an increased “email blast” effect.
I think there are a number of things you can do to help your community understand that you need to integrate e-communications into an overall strategy and plan in advance.
You need a good email system. We have used in-house systems, quasi in house systems, and now a vendor supported solution. Without a doubt the vendor solution has been a savior and allowed us to focus on best practices more instead of making sure the right lists load quickly.
Find your largest users and partner with them. In higher ed chances are good that your highest volume users are in development/alumni relations or admissions. Spend some time understanding their sequence and their needs. Having a partner early on helps when you want to work with other segments of campus.
Chances are resources at your institution are tight and you might not be able to get money to help you outsource your e-communications efforts. Set up a meeting with your IT staff who are in charge of institutional email. Share with them some of the best practices that you are trying to communicate with campus and see if they have anything additional to add. These members of your community spend a lot of time trying to block spam and you can probably use this free in-house resource to help you “beat” the spam filters.
Bring the major players together once a semester and host an e-communications summit. Share best practices and have your users talk about what works and what they are struggling with. This will help you set priorities and allow for free knowledge transfer across departmental lines.