Email Best Practices and Guidelines

These guidelines serve as a preliminary tool for the university community to develop email communications. 

Protecting the integrity and value of university communications, constituent data, campus networks, security, and electronic communications services is of utmost importance when sending emails to both internal and external audiences. The following guidelines will help all users work together to maintain a consistent standard for the University. 

1. Proper Consent  

In compliance with CAN-SPAM, GDPR, CPA, CCPA, VPA, and other federal, state, or international regulations, only those who opted-in to University emails should receive commercial messages (emails that are for marketing purposes). However, students/faculty/staff will not be able to opt out of transactional emails (emails that have pertinent DU community information). Every commercial email message sent to recipients must include information on the procedure to opt out of/unsubscribe from communications. We will be providing more guidelines on what defines a commercial email versus a transactional email in our updated guidelines soon.   

2. Crisis and Emergency 

In a crisis or emergency, MarComm will send communications on behalf of DU through the main DU Salesforce Marketing Cloud Platform to our campus audiences. It is critical for business unit accounts to refrain from sending email information ahead of the main DU Salesforce email account. Representatives from MarComm will alert you when emails can be resumed.  

3. Accessibility  

Communications must follow DU and WCAG Accessibility policies. This includes using proper header formatting, inserting alt text to describe visuals so that screen readers can accurately describe visuals, linking only to videos with captions, using CamelCase for hashtags when linking to social media, and ensuring colors have enough contrast to be legible for those with visual impairments.  

4. Branding

Communications must be crafted in accordance with brand identity standards as outlined in the DU Brand Guide. All emails must be on-brand both visually and through voice and tone.   

Email templates are available for the campus community and allow for flexible layouts to showcase information in engaging and straightforward options.  

Units are not allowed to design their own email templates. New template and design requests should be directed to and requests will be evaluated weekly and will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. Once a design has been finalized and approved the template will be made available in DU's central email platform.

5. Data 

DU owns all constituent data, regardless of where it is housed or the unit that creates/maintains it. In some cases, units’ constituent data will be shared and included in communications distributed to a broader interested audience of both internal DU community members and select external audiences. 

6. Privacy  

The University of Denver is committed to the safeguarding and accurate maintenance of student records. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 provides students with a number of rights regarding their educational records. More information regarding FERPA can be found here.  

Additionally, it is important to remain mindful when including any photos or linking to videos in email communications. Be sure to check whether students in such photos or videos have any restrictions on the release of their directory information under FERPA, as some students may have requested information not be distributed. Do not distribute photos or videos of children under the age of 18 without having previously obtained written consent from their parent/guardian. 

7. Audience Targeting and Email Development 

Audience: A business unit administrator will work with Information Technology to grant the appropriate level of access to our email system. Those with access to send emails must consider that distributions to any audience must have a legitimate and strategic business purpose that integrates within the larger DU ecosystem.  

Effective email messages should be sent to the smallest group of individuals possible while still reaching the intended audience. In developing an email send list, ask yourself the following questions:  

  • What is the goal of the email?  

  • Is there a call to action? If so, who needs to take action?  

  • Who is directly impacted by the message?  

  • Could this message be better distributed by one of the many university newsletters or other channels of communication?  

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to build your recipient list for distribution.  

Email Development: As you think about why you are sending an email, your content should be meaningful and relevant to your readers. Some best practices for creating your content include the following:  

  • Keep your message clear and concise.  

  • Avoid sending emails with multiple sections of long-form content. Choose one or two sentences to summarize each section of your email and provide a link to a webpage to where readers can find more detailed information.  

  • If your email contains only one message, the entire message may be suitable for the body of the email.  

  • Have a clear call to action. Your email should compel recipients to take a specific action. 

  • Make sure that the subject line, sender name, preview text/email snippet are compelling and informative to your audiences. Subject lines should be under 50 characters; preview text should be under 100 characters.  

  • Test your email template for mobile responsiveness. The majority of emails are opened on a mobile device.  

  • Ensure that images enhance the message and engage audiences. Select images that complement the copy and be sure to include alt text for accessibility.  

  • Keep in mind the timeliness of your content. Relevant and recent information is more valuable than outdated content. Also consider other content that might be going out to your if sending emotional or sensitive information.  

  • Emails should be strategically sent during your unit’s normal business hours to increase open rates. 

  • It is best practice to develop review and approval workflows within your department before sending communications through DU's email platform. For all enterprise DU-related communications, that workflow must include review and approval through MarComm and the Chancellor’s Office along with any other relevant and appropriate university departments.  A more detailed approval workflow will be added as processes are finalized.  


8: Relevant University Policies 

Bulk Email Policy  

Banner Data Acceptable Use Policy  

Mailing List Policy  

Email as Official University Communication Policy  

University of Denver Privacy Policy