Step by step guidance

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  • Ideally, your section should have in place a process for considering and agreeing what communications with divisions and departments are necessary. A coordinated approach to forward planning of non-urgent communications from your section to divisions and departments will help to avoid communications overload for recipients and avoid your communication being missed, misunderstood and not acted upon.
  • Bear in mind that other UAS sections may also be sending to the same mailing lists at the same time so limit the number of communications to your section sends to the same mailing list in any week, where possible.
  • Agree, in principle, who the audience is for the communication and whether the use of the HAF or HoD mailing list is appropriate.

Questions to consider:

Is email the most appropriate channel for the communication?

  • Does the communication require the recipient to take action (i.e., not for information only)?
  • Is the communication business critical?
  • Is the information time-sensitive?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’,

  • Is there an upcoming briefing attended by the intended recipients, that could be used to share the information? Please note that there are regular briefings for HAFs and HoDs. Contact UAS Communications for more information.
  • Could the information be shared via an existing newsletter?
  • Is there a SharePoint or Mosaic site on which the information could be shared?

Go to section Principle 1, ‘Use of appropriate channels’

  • Be as specific as possible about your target audience and recipients and avoid planning a communication that requires you to ask recipients to ‘forward to colleagues who may be interested’ or ‘forward to your contacts’. This can result in people receiving the same email multiple times
  • Think about the timing of the email, including whether other email may be planned that might coincide or overlap with yours. Speak to your UAS communications lead if you are unsure.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you have a clearly defined set of recipients? If not, consider other channels for communicating your information.

Timing of the sending of the communication

  • Is your section planning to send more than one email to the same mailing list in the same week?
  • Are you aware of any emails being sent by other UAS sections at the same time?

If the answer to either of these questions is ‘yes’

  • Does your email need to be sent now or could it be delayed?
  • Can any other emails being sent by your section be rescheduled or could your information be included in another email that is being sent?
  • If the communication will be sent to the HAFs or HoDs mailing lists you must follow the best practice on writing emails and use the email format set out in the example provided.
  • You should also consider whether to include opportunities in your email for recipients to provide immediate feedback, for example through voting buttons or embedded polls. If there are other ways that you would like recipients to provide feedback on the information that you have sent, tell them how they can do this, for example, provide an email address or link to a questionnaire. Go to:
  • Ideally, your section should have a formal process for review and sign-off of communications to be sent to divisions and departments. This should involve a senior member of the team who will confirm that, in addition to complying with any local policy in place within your section,  all of the relevant protocols for UAS communications have been followed.
  • You should have considered your target audience when planning your communication (steps 1 and 2) and will know if you want to use the HAF or HoD mailing lists to send your email.
  • For other groups, first check if a mailing list already exists that meets your needs:

Go to the Key University mailing lists for staff which provides details of existing mailing lists that are likely to be most useful to UAS sections, and how to request permission to send to them

  • If you want to send your communication to the HAF or HoD mailing list, you will need permission from the person in your section who approves requests to use these lists – go to List of Approvers
  • For other mailing lists, Key University mailing lists for staff provides details of who to contact to request permission.
  • For other mailing lists, the owner or moderator listed on Sympa should be contacted.

If requesting permission to send to the HAF or HoD mailing lists, first check that you have followed the protocols set out in Principle 2, Use of the HAF and HoD Mailing Lists. Approval will not be given in cases where the guidance has not been followed.

  • If approval is not given to use the HAF or HoD mailing list, reasons should be clearly set out, and where appropriate the request should be resubmitted after required changes have been made.

Regularly seeking feedback on the emails and information you send to divisions and departments will help you to identify areas for improvement to help to ensure that they have the impact you want and that recipients are satisfied with what you send them. Adestra can also be used to measure email open rates.

  • To get feedback on specific emails that you send you could use voting buttons or embed polls in your email
    • Voting buttons can be added to Outlook emails. The options are quite limited – you can’t ask multiple choice questions – and they are better for getting feedback on one dimension of your communication – e.g.,’ action required clear’ or  ‘action required not clear’. You will need to tell recipients that voting options are included as it is not very obvious. Further guidance on using voting in Outlook is available on the Microsoft Support website
    • Microsoft Teams poll form embedded in an Outlook email – This is a relatively new functionality in Outlook and has more options than voting buttons e.g. multiple-choice questions. You will need the 2019 version of Outlook if using the Outlook App but you can set up polls via Outlook 365. Instructions are available on the Microsoft Support website
    • Keep the questions simple and don’t use too many – a maximum of three questions, ideally. E.g. ‘did you find this email useful’ / ‘do you feel this email was intended for you?’
    • Used over time on emails that you send can help to build a picture of satisfaction levels.
  • Used sparingly, surveys are a good way of getting information about how well your emails are being received.
  • Microsoft Teams Form – this is easy to use and ideal for setting up a simple survey. Instructions on how to do this are available on the IT Services Help pages
  • Online Surveys provided by JISC – Ideal for more complex surveys where you may want to set up questions to be conditional and to employ routing so that the questions are more personalised, depending on responses given. You will need to set up an Online Surveys Account via the IT Self Service or by emailing help@it.ox.ac.uk and it takes around 1 day for the account to be set up. You can find out more about using Online Surveys on the Online Surveys website
  • An open invitation is the simplest way to invite feedback but is also the approach probably likely to elicit least response.
    • Let people know how they can send you their feedback e.g. via an email address
    • You could use an open feedback method (see surveys below) and include a link to it in your communications.
  • If you are undertaking a more thorough review of your communications, take a look at The Focus online toolkit.  It provides a number of tools to help you understand the ‘Voice of the Customer’
  • Stop, Start Continue is a simple and effective way of understanding what people value about the service you are providing, what they don’t like and to tell you what improvements they would like to see.
  • You could use the information from your Voice of the Customer activities to carry out an After Action Review aimed at helping you to improve based on a review of past experience

Flowchart to support UAS email communications’


Download and review UAS  email communications' flow chart.

EMAIL FLOW CHART