In fall 2014, University Communications convened a group of email editors and other communicators from across campus to form a community around sending broadcast email at Ohio State. This Broadcast Email Community uses multiple tools including BBIS (which ties directly to TAS, Ohio State's alumni and donor constituent database) and the OCIO bulk email server (for sending to students, faculty and staff). Members of the community agree to follow email best practices, which will be developed over time and recorded here. To help improve their email communications, community members will have access to an advanced testing and analytics service, as well as access to responsive, branded email templates and other design assistance. For more information about the Broadcast Email Community, including an invitation to the next meeting, email email@example.com.
Short for Blackbaud Internet Solutions, BBIS is the official email service provider of Advancement, which includes alumni relations, fundraising and central and unit communications. Any units currently emailing to alumni and friends using other third-party ESPs such as MailChimp or Emma are encouraged to join BBIS. Benefits include a direct tie with TAS, the university's constituent management database, as well as access to support and advanced analytics. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request access and initiate training.
Email on Acid
This tool allows for design preview across multiple desktop and mobile email clients, information on deliverability and advanced analytics. Email email@example.com to claim an account for your unit. Note that access is contingent upon usage of the BBIS email system and participation in the Broadcast Email Community. You must also submit a shared email address for your unit, accessible by those on your team who will use Email on Acid.
Getting started: Three things to try
1. Email Preview
- For auto-process method (recommended), send a test of your email using BBIS to the auto-process address provided. This gives the most accurate results of how your audience will see your message.
- Manual testing is also an option. Enter a URL, paste HTML or upload a ZIP file. Select from a variety of desktop and mobile clients.
- Either method returns screenshots of how your message looks in the clients you selected.
2. SPAM Test
- Can be run as part of an email preview or separately. To run during preview, select “yes” when asked “Would you like to include a SPAM Test?” Though EOA recommends sending to a seed list, we find that selecting “Send my test via Email on Acid” is quicker (though not as thorough). Results are on the “Deliverability” tab on the test result screen.
- To run SPAM test on its own, either send test via EOA (quicker though not as thorough) or use BBIS to send a test message to the seed list. To do the latter, you must create a user-defined or imported list in BBIS each time you run a SPAM test (lists can’t be reused, as they are unique to each test). Copying and pasting seed list into test email pane in BBIS won’t work, due to BBIS character limit and EOA requirement that you send to all seed addresses provided.
3. Email Analytics
- This aspect of EOA generates tracking code to insert into your BBIS message, prior to sending the final version. Results include open/read times, devices used and links clicked.
- Begin by logging in and clicking “Analytics” under “Create new.”
- For Campaign Name, name the message the same as you did in BBIS, following the standard naming convention (example: AA 2015-10-01 Homecoming Invitation). Add tags if you would like; over time these will help you search for and compare previous campaigns.
- Enter the total number of subscribers. Get this number by looking at the number of records in your BBIS list. It’s important to be as accurate as possible, as this is how Email on Acid calculates performance percentages.
- Time zone and thresholds are set by default. Skip merge tag section, as BBIS does not support at this time.
- Select yes for click tracking. Also select yes for Google Analytics.
- Paste complete HTML from BBIS. Add benchmarking if desired. Finally, click “Create tracking code.”
- If you’re ready to send your final email, click “Activate campaign.” Campaigns that are not activated remain in the default testing state and won’t return accurate results. EOA tracks results for 30 days from point of activation (but stores results indefinitely).
Most BBIS emails are sent to lists composed of queries pulled from TAS. University Communications partners with 2Tech, the Advancement IT help desk, to create these queries. To submit a request for a query or other data need, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This list will grow as the Broadcast Email Community works together to identify best practices and opportunity areas.
Prepare for image blocking.
If images are disabled by default--as is the case for many email clients, including Outlook--your constituents won’t initially see your images. Combat this with a variety of methods, such as:
- Using alt text and specified width/height for all images (the width/height creates placeholder box so text appears in the proper space).
- Balancing image/text content. Don’t send all-image-based emails--they’ll appear entirely blank, aren’t accessible for the visually impaired and can trigger SPAM filters.
Know SPAM trigger words, but don’t get hung up on them.
- Some are obvious--free, click, exclamation points--but others are sneakier. For example, an end-of-fiscal-year summary of funds raised was sent to key constituents. Since the content was financial in nature, the text contained several dollar signs--as well as a dollar sign in the subject line. We later learned that it was flagged as SPAM by some email clients.
- It’s true these words contribute to an email’s overall SPAM score, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. If you have free tickets available or a truly limited offer, don’t be afraid to use a subject line that does what it’s supposed to do: tell the audience the subject of the email.
Honor your subscribers.
- Messages sent through BBIS can be automatically sent to anyone who has opted in to receive your unit’s messages. By using the appeal data source, you ensure these subscribers get the messages they have asked to receive from you. Contact Kim Byce for details on how it works and how to set it up.
- This works well for newsletters (Connect to Veterinary Medicine, Arts and Science's ASCENT) or general emails with a wide audience (not limited to alumni, for example).
- How do subscribers get added? Opting in from a preference form on an email they received, asking to be opted in and having Bio Update add a communication code to their record, or using the BBIS email signup form.
- In most cases, emails containing an overt solicitation call-to-action are planned with and executed by the Office of Annual Giving; contact Megan Murphy for information.
- By working with Annual Giving, e-solicitations can be outfitted with gift-tracking codes and coordinated with larger marketing campaigns.
Know the subject line sweet spot
While theories abound, most email marketers agree that shorter subject lines do better. One study found that subjects 28-39 characters long had the best open rates. Overall, aim for 50 characters or less.
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Join the Broadcast Email Community. Attend regular meetings hosted by University Communications.