Email Etiquette for Catholic Schools

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2011! We took a little bit of a hiatus in December, but we’re back now.

This post isn’t about basic email etiquette (like not hitting reply all to a message to 200 people) – it’s about the need for Catholic schools to more professionally manage their email marketing using the proper (and legal) techniques that are in standard usage in the rest of the industry. Many schools are doing this already, but a surprisingly large portion are doing it in a way that violates laws and annoys subscribers.

A Tale of Email List Woe

A few months ago I had a conversation with a development member of a Catholic school, and then several weeks later I realized something: I was on her development email list. This was actually fine, but I was getting emails on a regular basis about development projects that in no way remotely applied to me, and there was no way to unsubscribe. These emails were coming directly from this development officer and BCCed to this list. Short of being rude and emailing them directly, I was stuck.

Obviously this isn’t the end of the world. We all get forwards and things from friends and relatives that are mildly annoying, but we put up with them. The problem here is that this is indicative of a larger problem in some Catholic schools: a lack of knowledge of modern email standards. Not only are these standards just good practice and professional, many of them are mandated by the US government’s CAN-SPAM act, which specifics rules for email marketing.

There are E-mail Rules

When you have a list of people you are emailing to, there are specific good practices and rules to follow when conducting email outreach. Let’s take a quick tour of a few of these.

Provide an Opt-Out

This is probably the single-biggest rule and single biggest issue for Catholic school email campaigns: there absolutely must be an easy and readily available way for the recipient of the email to “opt-out” of receiving emails from you.

You Must Have Basic “Permission” Beforehand

This is a little hazier than the above rule, but to send an email campaign to someone they must have in some way opted-in, either through adding themselves to a mailing list or by dealing with your entity directly. So, parents at your school can be considered okay to email.

For more information on permission, see this article.

Always Include Your Physical Address

This may seem odd, but remember that people getting this email may need to think a minute before they know who it is from. An address, as well as identifying yourself as your school, is important and legally mandated. Writing “from, Deb” at the bottom of your marketing email won’t cut it.

See? That wasn’t so bad!

Using an Email Service

Don’t want to handle subscriber lists and unsubscribes yourself? There are plenty of services out there where you can create and send campaigns for a small fee. They handle the unsubscribes and make it easy to see who in your list has opt-ed out, and even who open your email, and who clicked on a link.

We have had great experiences with Campaign Monitor and highly recommend it, but there are other services available too such as Constant Contact.

Following Guidelines is Good for Everyone

People are used to getting marketing emails nowadays, and they are used to scrolling to the bottom and simply unsubscribing from the list should they feel they do not want any further emails. You can’t stop this from happening, and your recipients have the right to say “no thanks”. Offering them the choice to unsubscribe and following good email etiqette (and laws) shows that your school is up to date and mindful of how you are presented to others through your marketing.

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