Communications principles

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These protocols seek to improve the effectiveness of email and to encourage UAS sections to routinely consider whether email is the most appropriate channel to use.

UAS sections are encouraged to have a process for planning and agreeing their communications with divisions and departments so that the most appropriate channel can be considered at an early stage.

 

The step-by-step guidance includes some key questions to consider during the planning process when deciding if an email communication is needed and how to ensure that it is effectively targeted.

University mailing lists are a valuable tool for effectively communicating with large groups of people. However, the creation, maintenance and use of them needs regular monitoring and review.

The policy and guidance introduces governance around the use of new and existing mailing lists.

Staff must use existing lists where possible

In the first instance you should check to see if there is an existing mailing list in operation that you can use. The key mailing lists summary provides details of the lists that are likely to be most useful to UAS Sections; and it includes details of who to contact to use a list.  

You should also check if there are other mailing lists that may include your intended audience by logging into Sympa. Guidance on using Sympa is available on the IT Services website. 

You must use existing lists and should not create local lists (e.g. Outlook Groups) that duplicate those on the key UAS mailing lists directory.

Check with the relevant Divisional Communications Lead before creating a new list. They may well have existing lists to which you can send your communication, without the need to create a new one.

Instances when new lists can be created 

Where there is no other option of reaching the target audience, either from an existing list or other means of dissemination, it may be necessary to create a new mailing list. 

Before creating a new mailing list be aware that the creator of the list will become the list owner and should be willing to accept the responsibilities associated with this, including:

  • Adding the mailing list to key mailing lists page if it is a list that may be useful to other UAS sections.
  • Keeping the mailing list up-to-date and information on the list-of-lists up to date.
  • Managing requests for access to the list if access is to be moderated.
  • Deleting the mailing list and removing it from the key mailing lists page if it will no longer be kept up to date. A list owner should discuss with your Communications Lead before deleting a list.

When creating a mailing list:

  • You should ensure that the membership of the new list does not overlap significantly with membership of an existing mailing list. If necessary, contact the owner of the existing list to check.
  • Avoid using a name for a new mailing list that is similar to an existing one or could lead to confusion about who is on the list. Avoid abbreviations that are not commonly used.
  • If you are unsure about whether it is appropriate to create a new mailing list, or any aspect of its creation, discuss with your Communications Lead.

Rules around the frequency and number of lists that information can be sent to

To avoid inundating colleagues with multiple emails, and/or with emails which may not be relevant to them, UAS sections should consider:

Frequency - UAS sections should limit the number of emails that can be sent to the same mailing list each week to avoid overburdening recipients. Consideration of appropriate channels and forward planning of timing of communications may be needed to facilitate this. Things to consider when planning communications is provided in the step-by-step guidance.

This does not apply to urgent emails (particularly of a security-nature) which have their own processes. If you have an urgent communication requirement, and need to send a message immediately to key lists, please contact your communications lead, or UAS Communications.

Number of lists sent to- care should be taken to avoid sending an individual email to too many mailing lists at once as, despite best efforts, membership of the lists may overlap.

NB: Sympa will automatically prevent individuals receiving emails more than once in one send. Therefore, if you are planning on sending to multiple lists, you should do this in one email rather than several different messages.

Heads of Administrations and Finance (HAFs) and Heads of Departments and Faculty Board Chairs (HODs) mailing lists are important resources for UAS sections seeking to communicate information to these groups. The protocols, below, introduce governance around the use of these lists to ensure that they are used effectively and appropriately.

Who is allowed to be a recipient on these lists – in divisions, GLAM and the UAS?
In the UAS, UAS Section Heads are added to the HoDs list, and a single lead administrator in each UAS section is added to the HAFs list.  Academic Divisions and GLAM apply their own policies for adding individuals to the HAFs and HoDs list.  If you believe you should be added to the HAFs or HoDs list, please contact your relevant Communications Lead.

Who is permitted to send to the lists?

Two members of staff from each UAS section are authorised to send to these lists. Please liaise with the relevant UAS Communications Lead for your section.

What types of information can be sent to these lists?

Information should only be sent to:

HAFs

If the information is important enough that it impacts lead administrators – or it would be beneficial for them to know about the communication, for information. If the email is intended for a specific group of people (e.g. HR or Finance leads), the information should be sent to them rather than cascaded through HAFs. Go to Step 2 of the step-by-step guidance for more information.

If it is important that HAFs are aware of the information you are sending to others in their department/faculty, cc the HAFs mailing list and make it clear in the email that it is being copied to HAFs for information only.

HODs

should only be notified about high level information that directly impacts academic staff; as well as updates about matters for which they have oversight of in their departments (e.g. governance and policies). Please note that the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellors are also included on this list.

Format for emails

If you are sending or copying your email to the HAF or HoD mailing list, you must follow the guidance on writing emails, and use the email format set out in the email best practice. Approval will not be given to use the HAF and HoD mailing lists to send an email that has not been written in line with the guidance and is not set out using the format provided. The guidance is also relevant for sending emails to other groups /mailing lists.

Where permission is not given to send an email to the HAF or HoD mailing lists, the approver should set out clearly the reasons for not providing approval, and try to agree changes that would allow permission to be given. Please go to Section 6 below, ‘Issue Resolution’ in the event of agreement not being reached.

Newsletters can provide a reliable communication channel internally with staff.  They are a means of sharing important information to a large group of staff at once. They allow colleagues to be updated and feel included and will often be used as the main source for briefing teams. Newsletters should be visually engaging and their frequency should be carefully considered.

Principles of how newsletters should be used 

Departments/Divisions/UAS Sections should have their own guidance around creating and using newsletters in place that meets the needs of their team.

Where possible, newsletters should be sent using a mailing client that allows analytics to be gathered.

They should be sent as email text, and not as attached PDF or Word documents – or included as text within images. This is for accessibility reasons.

Creating new newsletters

Too many newsletters may result in staff, and particularly HAFs, receiving more newsletters than they can keep up with. This means the newsletter is less likely to be read, diminishing its potential impact.  To reduce the risk of this happening:

  • Consider whether it would be appropriate to ask people to opt-in to receive a newsletter via subscription.
  • UAS sections should have a process in place for approving the creation of new newsletters.
  • Regularly review existing newsletters that are currently active, to check if they are still useful/fit for purpose. Seek feedback from recipients/subscribers on their usefulness. You should also monitor open rates to determine whether newsletters are being utilised. This is particularly important if you are considering introducing a new newsletter.
  • Be open to requests from other UAS sections to include information in your newsletters where that information is relevant and consider asking other UAS sections to include your information in theirs.

All new UAS newsletters must be approved by the relevant Section Head, and the Head of Communications, Professional Services.

Gathering feedback from recipients

It is good practice to proactively and regularly seek feedback from the people you send communications to so that you are aware of any problems or dissatisfaction and can identify opportunities to make improvements. Some suggestions for ways in which you could seek feedback are provided in step 3 and step 9 of the step-by-step guidance.

Please share any feedback you receive via your Communications Lead to help us to continuously improve this policy and guidance.

Issues arising from within the UAS

Some examples of issues that may arise when using the policy and guidance are:

  • You are refused permission to use specific mailing lists, or to send a specific communications
  • Emails sent to the HAF or HoD mailing lists did not comply with the policy and guidance e.g. email template has not been used

Any problems or issues arising from the use of the policy and guidance should be brought to the attention of your UAS Communications Lead in the first instance. In the unlikely event that agreement cannot be reached, or an issue resolved, the matter should be discussed with the Head of Communications, Professional Services. 

Complaints from divisions/departments/faculties about communications received

UAS sections should have in place a process for dealing with any complaints relating to their communications. Complaints should be recorded, investigated, responded to and where they are of relevance to this policy and associated guidance, shared with the Head of Communications, Professional Services, via your Communications Lead.

Providing Feedback on the policy and guidance

In some cases, disagreement over the use of the protocols may be an indication that the protocols and/or the guidance need to be reviewed.

You may also have general feedback to provide on the policy or have received feedback from departments and divisions on a specific communication, which is also relevant to UAS communications more widely.

Please email any feedback to your communications lead, or to uas.communications@admin.ox.ac.uk

The policy will be reviewed six months after publication using feedback received, and every 12 months thereafter.

Page published:  10.09.201

Page last updated: 10.09.201