Advancement Communications Guide

Updated November 29, 2018

ADV Comms. Request Form

 

Requesting Communications

Content/Message Best Practices

Format/Style Best Practices

MailChimp versus Yet Another Mail Merge

MailChimp Step-by-Step Instructions

Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM) Step-by-Step Instructions

Sample Emails

WordPress – Community of Practice

WordPress – Creating New Pages

“Who’s Coming” Lists for Event Pages

Hustle Texting Campaigns

Requesting Communications

An Advancement Communications Request Form should be completed for every event or communication, regardless of how event invitations are being sent. A code is created in Banner for each event or communication and uploaded to recipients’ records so we may track what constituents receive.

Please submit the form at least 3 business days in advance of the initial communication target send date. More lead time is always better so we can work the communication(s) into the calendar strategically.

Using recent emails that are shared with all ADV as a guide, please feel empowered to create your own email copy and share with the email builder (if builder is someone other than yourself). If you would like help creating or editing copy prior to it being built in Mail Chimp, please consult with the Assoc. Director of Advancement Communication. Event invites should all follow a standard format and style.

Each communication must be proofed by three staff members before it is sent to ensure our emails are error-free (merge fields work, links work, no typos or spelling errors, correct email list). More details on testing/proofing are included in the MailChimp and YAMM step-by-step instructions, respectively, below.

If you have questions about the best medium to communicate your need, segmentation, when to send your communication, or other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Assoc. Director of Advancement Communication to discuss how to best meet your goals.

Content/Message Best Practices and Optimizations

For a comprehensive Bates style guide, please reference BCO General Style Guidelines.

  • Sender: a real person / use “Bates College” rarely and with intentionality
  • Subject: Keep subjects short. Use emojis sparingly and with intention. These can help your email stand out and improve open rates by adding expression to an already flooded inbox, but overuse can make your email look like SPAM.
  • Start strong with a “preview” that supports the subject line by teasing the content/piquing the reader’s interest. Don’t just use the first line of the email unless it’s compelling.
    • MailChimp surfaces this field next to Subject line. Preview text is the first 150 characters our recipients will read. Being intentional here can only help.
  • Personalize emails
    • Start copy with “Dear {name},” and end copy with “Sincerely, {name}”
    • Add in additional personalization if applicable/helpful. P also helps us avoid spam filters.
  • Photos are small gifts
    • Even if the reader ignores the text, they’ll see the photo and probably enjoy it. Over time recipients will associate our emails with good photography and enjoyment.
    • Make photos clickable. The photo should link to our primary CTA for any given email.
  • Incorporate and repeat “action” and “engagement” links
    • Include at least one action link in each email. An action link could be “give” or “view the schedule”. Engagement (non-solicitation actions) links are great opportunities to keep recipients in our funnel.
    • Use these CTA links throughout body copy and if incorporating more than one CTA, repeat as bulleted list below the signature
    • For stronger asks, we can use a button, and may opt to only have one CTA as to not distract the user with multiple CTAs.
  • Send times shouldn’t be overlooked and can impact open rates. Discuss with Assoc. Director of Advancement Comms. or Asst. Director of Digital Engagement if you are scheduling emails and would like guidance on send times.
Format/Style Best Practices
  • Templates: The garnet tab in some templates is used for affiliation (e.g. Men’s Basketball, Bay Area Bates Network, Class of 1995) NOT another title/copy of subject line (e.g. Bates Day at the Ballpark).
    • Any templates with the Bates seal are for presidential communications only.
  • Links: hyperlink text that points to the CTA
    • Registration/RSVP links should point directly to the form (not a landing page). Forms should be embedded directly onto the WordPress page whenever possible
    • Hyperlink contact names with email addresses.
  • Photos should be 600px wide whenever possible to be the same width as the email. If that is not possible, photos should be centered or left-aligned, depending on placement of the header. You may also have text wrapped around the image for event invitations.
  • Text Justification: Left-align text. A few exceptions may be made for high-level invitations. Centered text can look different on a variety of devices, while left-aligned text is likely to remain the same across devices.
  • Font should be consistent throughout, and at a size that is easy to read.
    • Arial is our most-used font. Do not use any fancy or script fonts.
    • Use black font; do not use colored fonts or colored backgrounds.
  • Paragraphs should be short.
    • Use bold text sparingly (for title and links only).
    • Consider not providing every detail of an event in the email, like location and time. This will encourage people to click through to the event page for more info.
  • Dates and Times:
    • Noon and midnight should be spelled out
    • Otherwise, all times should look like this: 6 – 8:30pm. Number, space, en dash (option + hyphen), space, number, am/pm. No periods in am/pm, no space before am/pm.
  • Phone numbers: no parentheses around area code (e.g. 207-755-5975).
  • Addresses: use a period after abbreviations for Ave., St., Dr., Blvd.
    • States, when in an event invitation: use two-letter postal abbreviations (NH, ME, MA) or spell out the state entirely (AP Style abbreviations don’t apply to event invites).
  • Ampersand: Avoid using “&” in lieu of “and”, unless it is part of a formal name (e.g. “Parents & Family Weekend”).
  • Serial/Oxford Comma: serial/oxford comma is now part of the Bates style guide (e.g. Bates is hosting events in New York, Boston, and Portland.)
  • Use smart quotes instead of standard quotes to be sure they are correct across devices/operating systems. On a Mac the closed quote (used for alumni and parent class designation) keyboard shortcut is option + shift + ], and the open quote keyboard shortcut is option + ]. For Windows, replace option with alt.
  • RSVP/Registration: use “RSVP” only when we are asking someone to let us know if they are attending a free event; use “registration” when we are asking someone to register for an event for which there is an entry fee/ticket required.
    • No need to say “please” before RSVP; RSVP is French for “please respond,” so the addition of the word please is repetitive.
MailChimp vs. Yet Another Mail Merge

Which Email Marketing Vehicle to Use

Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM) is a Google add-on which allows us to send out mass emails through Gmail. You’ll sometimes hear it referred to as “Gmail Mail Merge.” Like MailChimp, YAMM allows us to personalize emails with merge fields throughout the email. It also allows us to send emails “from” another sender, and designate a reply-to email address different than our own.

YAMM can be a useful tool when trying to send a communication “from” a specific person, in order to make it feel more personal and authentic. Because there are no email templates or special formatting within YAMM, and because there is no footer with the MailChimp logo and the options to unsubscribe, etc., it tends to feel less like a mass-marketed email. Keep in mind one has to actually open the email for this to matter, though — so we should switch up senders, create compelling subject lines, and look for optimal send times regardless of which method we use to send the email.

Some of the drawbacks include having to manage content in yet another tool; manually managing bouncebacks/undeliverable emails; separate tracking reports; more limited email analytics, and, most of all, each user only has the ability to send to 1,500 email addresses per 24 hour period, meaning for large recipient lists they’d need to be split among multiple staff members, which does open us up to more potential for error.

Given this, we may consider using YAMM instead of MailChimp when:

  • We are seeing good open rates within Mail Chimp, but low click rates on our CTAs.
  • The communication is class- or affinity-specific (narrow audience) and crafted to feel personal, with a real sender (Dear {First Name}, Sincerely, {Real Person}).
  • The communication requires little if any special formatting, graphics, etc., and is focused more on content than aesthetics.

YAMM is not a solution to email fatigue, but rather, a way to communicate certain messages in what feels like a more personal way in an effort to encourage better engagement with the email. Chances are if an email is not performing well there are likely any number of factors at play including the subject line, sender, content of the email itself, send day/time, and general email fatigue.

MailChimp Step by Step Instructions

Building the Email

  1. Click “Create Campaign”
    1. Select “email”
  2. Setup
    1. Name your campaign: Year Month Day Campaign Name
      (ex.: 180523 Boston Business Network May Event Invite)
    2. To (Add Recipient): Select the corresponding data list (see: “Building the List” section)
  1. Segment should be “All subscribers on list”
  2. Check the box next to “Personalize the ‘To’ Field”
  • Select “*|FNAME|* *|LNAME|*” or the “Custom” option to use a special merger tag such as the the tag for “Email To Name”
    1. From (Add From): Name and email specified in request form
    2. Subject (Add Subject): Given in request or craft with approval
  1. Content (Design Email)
    1. Go to Saved Templates. Select the template designated in the request. The most commonly used template is “No Tab.” FBA emails use “Athletics” template.
    2. Paste in copy using Paste from Rich Text Editor to remove formatting and remove the placeholder text (icon looks like a clipboard with a W).
    3. Hyperlink text to URL links as appropriate (Click here to register links to registration page) – icon looks like a chain link
    4. Update CTA button with appropriate text, link and appeal code if a solicitation
  1. Appeal codes: the appeal code is found in the ADV Calendar appointment Eileen Messina creates for each email
  2. Go to the iModules page: bates.edu/giving
  • In the browser add the following to the end of the url:  &appealcode=
  1. Add the appeal code after the = (equal sign).
  2. Copy and paste the new URL within your email CTA button or link.
  3. Preview and Test email
    1. Turn on “Enable live merge tag info” to check merge fields
    1. Send test to self. Test all links and see how it looks on a mobile device. If it doesn’t have issues, forward to approvers listed in request. Each email needs 3 sets of eyes (including builder).
    2. Once approved/all final edits are made, forward preview to alladv@groups.bates.edu with drop time and data parameters. Preview should be sent at least two hours before drop time if possible.
  1. Once approval is received, schedule and send email
    1. Check recipients: is the campaign attached to the correct list? Does the number of recipients look accurate when compared with the spreadsheet you uploaded?
    2. Are the correct name(s) and merge fields listed?
    3. Confirm the sender and subject line are correct
    4. Schedule the campaign for the approved time (if there is no specific time, you may use the tool within Mail Chimp to select an optimized time)

Building the List

  1. Create List
    1. List name: Same as campaign name and with appropriate unsubscribe code. List names are public, so make sure it’s subjective. See unsubscribe codes below. NOTE: Lists associated with sent emails are deleted on a weekly basis. If you plan to reuse your list, please add DO NOT DELETE to the list name.
    2. Default from email address: Same as From Email used in campaign
    3. Default From name: Same as From Name used in campaign
    4. Remind people how they signed up to your list: You are receiving this email because you are a member of the Bates community.
    5. Notifications: Change Send to email from alumni@bates.edu to records@bates.edu and select Daily Summary
  2. Import Contacts
    1. Import Subscribers using a .CSV file
    2. Save all columns and create a New Column Name if needed
  1. Feel free to skip columns that are not needed (or, remove them prior to uploading). You always want to have ID, email address, first name, last name. You may need to include other fields based on what the email includes for merge fields.
    1. After uploading the list, check that data is correct by using the live merge tag option within preview mode for the email, and also comparing the number of recipients in the list to your Excel file to be sure the numbers match.
    2. After you upload the list to MailChimp, please email the .csv file to Eileen Messina. She needs the final recipient list to upload into Banner.

Frequently Used Unsubscribe Codes

DME: Do Not Mail Via Email
NSE: Do Not Solicit Via Email
NAS: No FBA Solicitations
NBA: No Friends of Bates Athletics
NCN: No Class Notes
NEV: No Event Invitations
NGD: No Great Day Contacts

View full list of exclusion codes

“Yet Another Mail Merge” YAMM Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. If the YAMM is going to more than 50 people, please submit an Advancement Communications Request so it is included on our communications calendar. Small, heavily-targeted emails do not need a form.
  2. Log in to the advancement@bates.edu email inbox (do NOT use your individual bates.edu Gmail account). You can access this by going to the upper right of your Bates Gmail account, and clicking the Bates Bobcat. You should then click “sign out.”
    • Once signed up, enter gmail.com into your browser to be prompted to login. You want to add another account.
    • Enter advancement@bates.edu as the Gmail account.
    • In the Bates Authentication Service window, enter the advancement log in credentials. You should then be taken to the inbox for advancement@bates.edu.
  3. Create a new email within the advancement inbox. Enter the subject line and the content of the email. Don’t enter anything in the recipient field.
  4. Upload your data list via Google Sheets (don’t do this until you’re logged into the Advancement account).
  5. In the toolbar go to Add Ons, scroll to Yet Another Mail Merge and select “Start Mail Merge.” A pop up will appear.
    1. Enter the sender name.
    2. Select your email template (it will be the subject of the email you just created).
    3. Click the + filters, aliases, etc. blue link to see the additional open which allows you to enter the reply-to address. Replies and any bouncebacks will be sent to this address, however, out of office replies will go to the email that is sending the emails (your email address).
    4. If you are bringing in any merge fields, they need to EXACTLY match the headers in the Google sheet where the data lives. Put << >> on either side of the field name in the email body where you want to bring in the data (ex.: <<First Name>>).
  1. Click “receive a test email” to receive a test email to your inbox, it should populate the merge tags from the first row of data in your spreadsheet, so be sure that looks correct.
    1. Forward the test email to at least one other staff member for proofing.
  2. Confirm the number on your list of recipients matches the “send X number of emails” on the blue send button. This is a good way to make sure you are using the correct list if you have multiple segments of the same email.
  3. Click send! For hundreds of emails it will take up to 15 minutes to send.
  4. Once you receive a pop up saying all emails have been sent, you may delete the email you started within Gmail; it is no longer needed. Do not delete the email before YAMM has finished sending or it will stop midway through!
  5. Send any bounced emails to records@bates.edu
  6. Send list of IDs on the email list to Eileen Messina, if Advancement Comm. Request was completed (email sent to more than 50 people).

You can view the sent emails in the sent folder within the advancement@bates.edu Gmail account.

YAMM provides metrics and will send a link to view them ~2 hours after the emails have been sent. You can also access this dashboard by logging in to Yet Another Mail Merge’s website. Be sure you are doing this logged in to the advancement account.

If you look at the Google sheet with your email list once the emails have been sent, you will see it updates each row with the status – DELIVERED, OPENED, etc.

Sample Emails

Event Invitation – single invite

Event Invitation digest – multiple dates/locations

Solicitation – easy giving options

Solicitation – button to iMods giving form

Other engagement email

Letter/sharing important news

WordPress Community of Practice

Bates offers a WordPress Community of Practice to help keep page styles consistent across the entire website. Within the site you will also find some helpful tools such as WordPress 101, which houses tips and references like the Advanced Styles Reference and Short Code Reference guide. Become familiar with these tools, as they will help you build pages that will meet the “best practices” standards, that will keep the Bates brand consistent.

New WordPress Pages

Before creating a new web page, please consider whether a new page is actually needed or if a page already exists with stale or outdated content could be updated with the current information.  If you are not sure, you can do a search using the search bar located in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, both on the front and back ends of the site.

Most of the time you will find that it is unnecessary to build an entirely new page from scratch. This helps reduce the clutter of old unused page content on the back end and will streamline the design process by simply updating existing page content. Furthermore, it will reduce the risk of broken links, since often other pages may still point to the old, now deleted, or inactive page.

When a new page is created, and is replacing an old page, be sure to make the old page inactive by updating the page status from “Published” to “Draft.”  You may be able to delete the page entirely but if you are unsure, check with Assist. Dir. of Digital Engagement or Assoc. Dir. of Comms.

Creating New Event Pages
For a
comprehensive Bates style guide, please reference BCO General Style Guidelines

Best Practices:

  • Heading: The heading should provide a brief and clear description of the event. Three–five words is good frame of reference.
  • Permalink: This is often auto-generated but can be edited if needed. Do not change this link after the event has been published and shared.
  • Event Dates: Located on the upper-right side of the Edit Event page. Update the fields accordingly.
  • Event Location: scroll down below the content to update the event location details. This includes the address to the location.
  • Associated URLs: For paid events requiring ecommerce, you can add the URL for iMods registration page here.  This will automatically generate a Registration button that links to the iMods registration page.
  • Featured Image: selected “Set featured image” and upload an appropriate image for the event. This will be shown on the event page and other corresponding event pages. If you need help finding an appropriate image contact Danielle Beckwith. The ideal image size is 800 wide x 500 high.
  • Content: You do not need to include the date, time and location within the content, as it is listed on the page when you update the event and locations sections above. This is where you can provide additional information about the event, such as interesting facts about the venue (picture), who the speaker is including a brief bio and headshot. This is where you “sell” the event and provide any details that were not included in the communications.
    • See Who’s Coming: You can create and insert a button for registrants to see who else is attending. This is a more involved process, it is recommended to see either Danielle Beckwith, Casey Andersen, or Aimee Labbe for this feature.
    • Registration/RSVP: For free or non-commerce events it is recommended to insert a Gravity Form on the event page itself, rather than create a button and send registrants to an additional page. Fewer required actions are always better. Select the “Add Form” button to insert the short code for an already existing form.
“Who’s Coming” List for Events

You can list the submissions from a specific Gravity form on a webpage. You can choose which fields to display and some formatting options. There is also an optional system of displaying or hiding results only when they match certain filters. The filter attributes all are pairs of comma separated key=value pairs. Depending on which filter attribute you choose, the value can either match exactly or match as a keyword search. The easiest way to get a field id is to look at the form editor page and hover over any given field.

  1. Create the event page and registration form first before moving on to creating a See Who’s Coming Button and webpage. You will need to locate the form you wish to display and note the formid. Make sure your form has a field for the question: “Display your name on attendee list?” (radio button: yes or no)
  2. Under the Pages tab of the Alumni Dashboard search for existing attendee pages that are expired and can be repurposed before selecting to “add new”.
  3. Once the new or repurposed page is updated with the event name [event name – attendee list] go to the Alumni Dashboard.
  4. Scroll down to the Shortcode Reference and select “Gravity Form Display Submissions” from the dropdown menu to review the various display options and their descriptions.
  5. Scroll further down on the Dashboard to locate the “Shortcode Creator” and select the “Gravity Form Display Submissions” from the dropdown menu.
    1. Select “formid” and enter the ID into the box
    2. Select “display” and located the field ID’s with in the registration form you wish to be shown on the attendee page. Place a comma between each field ID number.
    3. Select “showifallfieldsare” and enter the field ID from the registration form for the question “Display your name on attendee list?”, enter an equal sign and “yes”. Example: showifallfieldsare=1=Yes
    4. Then click the “Select and Copy” link. This will copy the shortcode to your clipboard.
  6. You may now go to your recently created Attendee Page and paste the saved shortcode to the page and save.
  7. Test that the display is working correctly by adding a test registration entry and verify that it is displaying correctly.
Hustle Texting Campaigns
  1. Complete Hustle training if you have not previously used this platform. Contact Assistant Director of Digital Engagement or Associate Director of Advancement Communications to start this process.
  2. Complete an Advancement Communications Request. There is an option for Hustle Texting campaign in the first question. This is important to both track this communication in Banner and to also put it on the calendar to be sure we are not overlapping with other comms.
  3. Please have texting script proofed by another set of eyes. These should be very brief messages that start with an intro followed by a question. Samples will be provided in your training.
  4. When you upload your list of texting recipients, please email the spreadsheet to Eileen Messina so she may upload to Banner.
  5. After Hustling is complete, please export and send any contact information updates, opt outs, or other pertinent info to records@bates.edu.