Mass email communications

Mass emails are those sent via a listserv or through an email management system (such as Emma, MailChimp, or Constant Contact) to a large number of recipients. Before sending a mass email consider the following:

  • Is this email going to the correct list of people? For example, avoid sending exclusive opportunities for PhD students to a mixed list of PhD and master’s students.
  • Is this email repetitive or redundant? For example, have recipients already received this information from another source?
  • Does this email provide the reader with clear calls to action? For example, an email about an event should give the reader clear information about how to attend or register for that event.

Writing an effective email

  • Subject lines should be short and descriptive. The email topic should be clear to the recipient before they open the email itself.
  • Email text should be as brief and clear as possible. When sending an email, think about your recipients: Would the content of the email be understandable to someone new to Harvard, or to someone who is not a native speaker of English?
  • Structure your email logically, with the most important information at the top of the email. Make use of bullets or numbering when appropriate.

Email accessibility

You must follow best practices for email accessibility at all times:

  • Write short, descriptive subject lines and avoid using emoji in your subject line.
  • Use links embedded in text, rather than a spelled-out URL.

Interested students should fill out an application form by December 3.

Interested students should fill out an application form by December 3:

  • Link text should be descriptive.

Registration for this event opens on May 9, 2021.

Registration for this event opens on May 9, 2021: Click here.

  • Never send a flyer as the body of an email. The primary mode of communication in an email is text. Imagery should be used to supplement the text, not replace it.
  • All images in an email must include alt text that describes the image.
  • Do not use color alone for emphasis. Use a bold, italic, or underline style instead of, or in addition to, color. This practice helps make the emphasis clear for readers who cannot see color.
  • Avoid animated gifs.

Email design

Email designs should be responsive (easily read on phones, tablets, and desktops), and compatible with multiple email clients (Gmail, Outlook, etc.). Avoid using complicated graphics or depending on images for email content, as many email clients do not display graphics to recipients without their permission.

Opt-out vs no-opt-out emails

Whenever possible, email recipients should be in control of determining which messages they receive. Newsletters, event announcements, and other nonessential communications should always provide recipients a link to opt out of future communications of that type.

Essential information regarding campus safety, service outages, and policy changes may be sent to internal audiences without a link to opt out of future communications. Specific offices (such as Human Resources, Financial Aid, or the Registrar) may send information about important deadlines or reminders to their respective audiences without a link to opt out.

List management

Create a plan for regular list management and upkeep. For example, if your email is intended for current students, be sure to remove graduated students every term.

As a general rule, retain the minimum amount of personal information necessary to manage your email lists. For example, most email senders do not need to retain the HUIDs of individuals on their lists.

If your email management system includes personal information (such as HUID, donor information, etc.), you must follow all Harvard University policies related to data security.