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Standing out in the inbox

Hit “Send” on your next project! Email marketing is one of the most effective and affordable ways to reach a broad audience and boost the UW brand. Using our tools and resources, you can elevate your e-communications from standard to stellar.

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Email Marketing at the UW

Welcome to the wonderful world of email marketing and communications! As our team likes to say, email is the delicious appetizer to the buffet that is your website. So let us help you become a master chef!

UMAC’s email marketing team is here to provide expert guidance on:

  • Strategy development for email campaigns (both short term and ongoing)
  • Solutions for commonly asked questions
  • Optimal production workflow, including quality assurance checklists
  • Email performance reporting and using it to drive improvements
  • Audience targeting and segmentation
  • Email accessibility best practices
  • Marketing automation planning and execution

Our team is also here to help your unit if it is being asked to send a message to all faculty and/or staff and/or students. We evaluate and facilitate those requests through our All-Campus Email Request Form.

Through the use of Marketo and its companion product for non-technical or non-digital marketers, Jeto, we provided fully tested, on-brand HTML email templates. These are regularly updated to meet emerging marketer needs as well as to ensure accessibility, proper display across a wide range of email service providers and readability in dark mode.

To get started working with our team, reach out to


Email Marketing

Email best practices

Email is a critical and powerful connection tool between the UW and our many constituents. Following best practices will help you stand out in inboxes.

Email purpose and type

Defining the purpose of your email will guide the message settings, design and success metrics. Emails can contain two types of information, as defined by the 2003 Federal CAN-SPAM Act:

  • Commercial email advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose.
  • Transactional or relationship-based email facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or, in the case of relationship-based email, updates a customer about an ongoing transaction or relationship.

Some transactional emails may be eligible for operational status, bypassing the recipient’s stated subscription preferences. This status is subject to review, but it can include legal requirements and/or strategic messaging as well as transaction receipts and some event notices.

Email messages typically fall within four categories:

  1. Newsletter: An informative compilation message used to share or promote news, events and/or updates with your community. Copy and graphics should act as a teaser for content found on a website, registration site, blog or affiliated social media account. Recipients should always have the ability to unsubscribe from this type of communication.
  2. Event Communications: A direct invitation to attend an event hosted or sponsored by a UW unit. Copy should include event title, date and time, location, tickets/cost of attendance, description, contact information, registration link and accessibility information. Recipients always have the ability to unsubscribe from event invitations, but some event reminders to registered participants may be considered for operational status.
  3. Giving Appeal: A direct request to support a unit through time, talent or treasure. Recipients must always have the ability to unsubscribe from solicitations. Also Tandem (University Advancement’s constituent relationship management database) may contain additional restrictions concerning soliciting certain constituents that must be confirmed before sending an appeal to a constituent.
  4. Operation-related: An informative message from unit leadership that contains information necessary for audience to interact with the UW. Usually in the form of a formal letter, these communications must be clear and concise, directing back to a website for a complete story, statement or related resources. These types of communications are often considered transactional, though some may still be considered commercial.

Audiences and subscriptions

To ensure that the right email is delivered to the right people at the right time, it is imperative to carefully define your audience. Not only are targeted audiences more likely to engage with your email, but they are also essential to reducing the risk of a SPAM complaint. SPAM complaints impact all senders!

An email audience may consist of segments (auto-updated) and/or static lists (not auto-updated) and/or filtered through subscription preferences (user-based with an opt-out option). Anyone with an email address recognized by the UW’s email marketing platform may update their subscription preferences in the Email Preference Center, which is also linked in the footer of all non-operational emails sent through Marketo/Jeto.

Tips for creating effective emails

The University Marketing & Communications and Information Management teams work together to provide accessible templates, email domain signatures and clean audience data for all email marketers. The purpose of this centralized support is to ensure that the UW’s brand is held to the highest standard and execution is consistent across all devices, browsers and email clients. However, your email’s content also impacts the deliverability and sender reputation of the entire domain and related subdomains. Follow these best practices and considerations to capture your readers’ attention early and keep them focused on your message.

How content and setup impact deliverability:

  1. Sender name and email
    • Use a recognizable sender name and email address. Avoiding using a name(s) that doesn’t represent the sender and may confuse the recipient.
    • Consider A/B testing names vs. offices, like “Dean Jane Doe” vs. “School of Cool Schools, UW”
    • Using a no-reply email address decreases deliverability, as it suggests a one-way relationship.
    • Do not use dark pattern tricks, like using “RE:” in the subject line to spoof an email thread.
  2. Subject line
    • Subject lines should be compelling and concise, between 30 and 80 characters (including spaces).
    • Create a sense of urgency to drive recipients into the content of the email.
    • Avoid excessive punctuation, which may flag a message as spam.
    • Read more and be inspired to create the next, greatest email subject line using Campaign Monitor’s article “How to Be an Email Subject Line Superhero.”
  3. Preheader text
    • Preheader text is the text that appears after the subject line in the inbox before an individual opens the email.
    • Use preheader text to provide the recipient with a preview of the email’s content; use it as a bonus opportunity to drive recipients into your email content.
    • Keep it under 80 characters, including spaces. Any longer and the text may appear to be truncated on the recipient’s screen.
    • If you don’t set the preheader text, the email service provider will automatically pull text from the top of your email, which may be less engaging.
  4. Personalization
    • The best emails are personal and individualized. From using a recipient’s Default Salutation (the name that they provide for us to use) to employing dynamic content, email personalization drives engagement and boosts Key Performance Indicators.
  5. Accessibility
    • Visit the email accessibility section via the navigation menu on the left side of this page.
  6. Content
    • Emails are the appetizer for the buffet that is your web presence: Use minimal text, include only crucial and relevant content that drives readers to your website for more information.
    • Your purpose and audience will guide your voice and tone, but always follow the UW Editorial Guide and Equitable Language Guide.
    • Emojis are best used for non-formal email communications, WHEN IN DOUBT, DO NOT USE. Not all email clients support all emojis — should you choose to use them, test them extensively.
    • Attachments to emails sent through Marketo/Jeto are not permitted or even possible. Content should link to a webpage or, if absolutely necessary, an accessible PDF. UW-IT offers a guide on Checking PDFs for accessibility.
  7. Design and graphics
    • Most people spend less than 15 seconds reading an email. Present the most important content at the top.
      Avoid using images with excessive text as they can hinder accessibility for screen readers. Instead, use simple and relevant visuals and always include alt text.
    • Always preview and test messages in desktop and mobile configurations. When Market/Jeto templates are used properly, they will render correctly across platforms and devices.
  8. CTAs and links
    • Keep calls to action (CTAs) clear and easy to understand, such as “Register” “Watch Video” or “View the Report.”
      Use active voice whenever possible to drive engagement with links and calls to action.
    • Avoid linking text like “Click Here,” “More,” and “Read More.” These kinds of links can be confusing when a screen reader reads them out of context.
    • Use unique link text where possible to support speech recognition software users.
    • It is OK to link strings of a few words but avoid linking entire sentences.

Email marketing automation

Email Marketing Automation is the natural evolution from traditional email marketing methods. While traditional email marketing often involves sending out batch-and-blast emails to a large audience all at once, Email Marketing Automation takes a more personalized and strategic approach.

Email Marketing Automation is NOT going to do your marketing for you. Instead, it provides the tools and framework to streamline your efforts and maximize engagement that is driven by thoughtful strategy and content creation on your part.

It is NOT going to solve all your problems overnight. Instead, it provides you with more information about your audience. By tracking engagement metrics, analyzing behavior patterns and segmenting your audience effectively, Email Marketing Automation gives you valuable insights from which to make more informed decisions.

It’s NOT necessarily easier than just sending a regular email blast. Instead, you can strategically decide how to personalize content for your recipients on a large scale. By tailoring content to specific segments of your audience and delivering it at the right time, Email Marketing Automation builds trust with your audience by demonstrating that you understand their needs and interests.

Emails vs. campaigns

Batch-and-blast emails are single emails sent to a broad audience without much personalization or segmentation. The marketer decides when and to whom the email will be sent. Conversely, Email Marketing Campaigns are a carefully crafted series of emails that are tailored to specific segments of your audience based on their interests, behaviors or other criteria, and build toward specific actions by the recipients.

Drip/nurture campaigns

A drip or nurture campaign is a series of automated emails that are sent out over a period of time, typically triggered by specific actions or milestones. These campaigns are designed to cultivate leads or prospects by providing them with valuable content and guiding them through a decision-making process.

Your web presence is the key

It’s essential to understand that while email is a powerful tool for communication, it’s just the appetizer for the larger buffet that is your web presence. Email should drive traffic to your website, blog or other online platforms where your audience can engage more deeply with your content and offerings.

Driving personal connections

Email Marketing Automation can facilitate personalized experiences for your audience by delivering relevant content at the right time. This personalization helps to deepen the individual’s connection to your service or expertise, fostering stronger relationships and loyalty. It can go far beyond simply saying “Dear [Name]” and incorporate other known things about the recipient, such as their location, past areas of philanthropic support, recent event attendance or an upcoming sports match for which they have tickets.

Discovering new audiences

Through strategic segmentation and providing opportunities across your web presence to subscribe to emails, Email Marketing Automation can help you identify new people who are interested in your content or services. By analyzing engagement metrics and behavior patterns, you can uncover valuable insights about your audience and tailor your messaging accordingly.

Email accessibility

Accessibility = all of us

UMAC’s email marketing team works continuously behind the scenes to ensure that the UW’s email marketing platform and templates are configured to facilitate messages that are accessible to all members of our UW communities and the general public, no matter how they access digital communications. UW accessibility standards must meet — and ideally should exceed — the Washington state Accessibility Policy.

‘Accessible’ definition

“Accessible” means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability. [From the Washington state Accessibility Policy.]

What we do

UMAC’s email marketing team operationalizes this definition of “accessible” in our email marketing platform. Our primary areas of work in this area are:

  • Designing and maintaining email templates to include modules/editable sections that are accessible to screen reader users and users with low vision. This includes:
    • Text modules that are coded with syntactical markup
    • Image modules that are responsive and include alt-text fields
    • Preset color contrasts in the templates that pass accessibility checks
    • Regular review of all elements for accessibility
  • Supporting email marketers and communications staff across the UW. We do this by answering questions or providing individual coaching sessions to help colleagues understand and implement email accessibility.

What you do

If you are an email marketer or communications staff member at the UW with access to one of our email production tools, the most important step to ensuring that your communications are accessible is to use the email templates and launchers as designed.

Most commonly, this means you should:

  • Always include alt text in image modules.
  • Only insert images into image modules.
  • Avoid using images with excessive text since that cannot be read by screen readers. Instead, use simple, relevant visuals and always include alt text.
  • Use either the preset colors within modules, or run alternative combinations of UW brand colors through a contrast checker.
  • Use header modules between content sections, rather than styling the text in a paragraph module.
  • Link from text that accurately describes where the link will take them, even if the linked text were read out of context. Generic phrases such as “read more” or “click here” do not meet this standard.
  • Do not link to different URLs from the same string of text in the email. For example, if you link from the word “RSVP,” every time you link from that word in the same email should direct users to the same URL.
  • Don’t link to the same URL from very different strings of text. Varied linked text implies to the reader that they will be sent to different webpages; when different text leads to the same destination, that can cause confusion or waste a reader’s time.
  • Only use underlining on text that is linked.
  • If linking from an image, enter the URL destination as opposed to a description of the image in the alt text. Linked images are considered ‘functional images’ or buttons, so describing the picture is less important than spelling out the linked destination.
  • Content should be left/right aligned except for minimal callouts, such as headlines, which may be center aligned.


If you have questions about the information on this page or email marketing and communications in general, contact our team at

Frequently asked questions

What is Marketo?

Marketo is a versatile marketing automation platform that enables you to develop and send personalized email campaigns to different audience segments within the UW and beyond — and to measure the performance of those campaigns.

Want to learn more? Send a message to the UW team that supports Marketo at

What is Jeto?

Jeto is a companion tool to Marketo. It allows infrequent email senders and non-technical users to create a Marketo email program simply by filling out a web form and then submitting it for approval and sending via Marketo by an Advanced Marketer.

Want to know more about Jeto? Check out these FAQs and other resources.

How do I start an email newsletter?

Before asking that question, it’s crucial to assess whether your unit truly needs one. Newsletters can be valuable communication tools, but they also require time, effort and resources to produce and maintain effectively. Here are some criteria to consider:

  • Communication Goals: Clarify the specific objectives you aim to achieve through the newsletter. Ensure that this content is not already covered by an existing newsletter. Define what your measures of success will be.
  • Audience Engagement: Do you have an existing list of people interested in receiving updates or insights from your unit? Or do you have a plan for how to attract subscribers?
  • Editorial Planning: Determine if you can consistently produce concise content that is valuable to your audience and if you have a web presence you can link to so they can explore your content in greater depth.
  • Resource Availability: Consider the available time and people power to create and maintain a newsletter. To remain effective, newsletters should be sent at least quarterly.

Once you have carefully evaluated these criteria and determined that a newsletter aligns with your unit’s goals and audience needs, you can proceed with planning and launching your newsletter campaign.

  • Reach out to the UW’s email marketing and communications support team via to learn about email distribution options.
  • Determine what subscription preference your audience and/or newsletter content fall under.
  • Ensure you have a monitored inbox to use for sending and/or receiving replies to your messages.
  • Establish a suitable timeline spanning from the initial brainstorming session to the eventual launch of the newsletter.

If you have access to an authorized Marketo user in your unit or are collaborating with a digital marketing automation specialist in UMAC, you can collaborate with them by providing the content and audience list they will use to construct your email, test it for formatting and accessibility, and schedule it for distribution.

How do I know if my email campaign is effective?

Understanding the effectiveness of your email campaigns is crucial for optimizing your marketing strategy and maximizing engagement with your audience. Performance metrics can provide you these insights. It’s best to gather them one week after you’ve sent your newsletter to subscribers.

Here are the most common e-newsletter metrics you can retrieve from your email distribution program and the corresponding industry standards (where available) for typical newsletter performance in each measurement area:

  • Click-through rate (CTR): The number of individual headlines clicked, divided by total number of emails successfully sent. This gives you an indication of how effective your content was at compelling readers to want to learn more.
  • Unsubscribes: The number of people who opted to remove themselves from your subscriber list. This metric provides valuable feedback for email marketers to refine their strategies and maintain trust with their audience.
  • Bounce-backs: The number of message sends that were not successfully delivered to your audience. This provides insights into email list quality and potential deliverability issues.
  • Open rate: This previously reliable metric indicating the percentage of recipients who opened the newsletter has now become less dependable due to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), which inflates the number of actual opens. Also, open rates are dependent on images being downloaded, so if a recipient has their images turned off, they won’t be registered as an open, even if they did open the message.
  • Click-to-open rate (CTOR): The percentage of people who opened your message who also clicked a link. This is also somewhat impacted by Apple’s MPP but it can still generally indicate the relative level of interest by your audience in your content.

Analyzing CTRs and link engagement leads to more reliable insights for optimizing future messages than relying solely on open rates does.

What other tools can I use to send a mass email from the UW?

  • UW Groups serve as collective identifiers for individuals, computers, and applications, promoting collaboration and communication across various tools and applications by facilitating group reuse. They find common applications like email lists, calendaring, resource sharing, surveys, and voting, offering flexibility in organization and usage across organizations, teams, and individuals, whether for identifying members, assigning roles, or granting resource access.
  • UW Mailman is a web-based email distribution list manager that allows list owners to create and modify email lists for their classes or for discussion among subscribers.

How do I send an email to my whole campus?

Messages sent to all UW faculty and/or staff and/or students must be approved by the UMAC Assistant Vice President for Communications or their designee. This review ensures that mass emails are properly coordinated and provides an opportunity to discuss the goals for your message in case there are other ways of communicating that would be more effective.

To submit a request for an all-campus or mass email message, complete this form.

Sending Marketo emails

Getting started with Marketo emails for new or non-Marketo users

Collaboration with the UMAC Digital Engagement team is crucial for executing successful email campaigns for different units. This guide outlines key steps for effective collaboration and email campaign management with Marketo.

Request submission process

Email request ticket types

Submit your email request well before the desired send date to allow enough time for reviews and testing. A lead time of one to two weeks is recommended.

Before sending an email campaign, complete one of the forms listed below. This will generate a ticket that we will use to track the request through to completion.

  • Go to Supportal to submit a new service request.
  • On the left menu bar, scroll down until you find the Marketo category.
  • Choose one of these forms:
    • The UMAC Email Build Request Form is used when you want the UMAC DMAS to create your email, set up the audience, and schedule the email for sending. You will have to provide the email content copy, images (if applicable) and other pertinent files and information.
    • The Email Program Approval Form is used if your unit has authorized Marketo users who are able to create messages by themselves but cannot schedule and send them on their own. The UMAC DMAS will test, approve and schedule your message for sending.
    • The All-Campus/Mass Email Request Form is used for messages that are sent to all UW faculty and/or staff and/or students. Since these messages go out to very large audiences, they must be approved by UMAC’s Assistant Vice President for Communications or their designee. This review ensures that mass emails are properly coordinated and provides an opportunity to discuss the goals for your message in case there are other ways of communicating that would be more effective.

Email build request form

This is the most used request form and asks for all pertinent information needed to build and send your email. Ensure that all required fields are filled out accurately, including the following:

  • Requester contact details
  • Reply To and From fields
  • Subject line
  • Unit details (includes Department Name for header and Unit Home Page Name text for footer)
  • Intended send time and date
  • Test email reviewers
    • Forwarded emails and email attachments are not the most optimal way to view emails. Sending test emails directly to reviewers’ inboxes ensures that they will receive an accurate representation of what the final email will look like once it is sent to your list.
  • Attachments may include images and Word documents with email content.
  • Other optional fields
    • Notes can include adding more context about tone, urgency, email context, etc.
    • Preview text (or preheader text) is the text you see in your inbox before opening an email. Think of it as a subheadline to the “headline” that is your subject line. Preheaders provide additional context and incentive for recipients to open your message. Recommended length for preheaders is 50–80 characters.

Preview Text

Pulling audience lists

Messages can be sent to different audience groups, segments and lists. Every email request must have an updated audience list to make sure the audience members are current.

  • If your unit has members who have access to your constituents (via Tandem, for example), your team can pull those contacts and send them to us in an Excel spreadsheet with the required fields in separate columns: Email, First Name and Last Name.
  • To request an audience from Tandem, users either need to use Michaelangelo or a custom report request.

Audience Request Form Types:

  • Build Email Audience — attach existing list(s) and/or subscribers to an email program that has already been built in Marketo
  • Build Email Audience & Mg List — update an existing list(s) to then attach to a program that has already been built in Marketo
  • Create List — create a static list from a spreadsheet you upload
  • Modify List — update a static list from a spreadsheet you upload; update may apply to entire list or specific emails on the list

Together with user-adjusted subscription preference, audience lists ensure your emails are sent to the right people and adhere to all UW, state and federal communication laws


Message: Welcome to incoming class of undergraduate students
Audience: All, new, first year students registered for autumn 2024 quarter
Your Unit Email Marketer Tasks:

  1. Build program and asset
  2. Receive list of all first year students registered for autumn 2024 quarter
  3. Submit “Build Email Audience & Manage List” ticket to clear and refresh existing list “First Year Students – Current” and attach to new program

If you do not request an updated audience list, your email might be sent to the wrong recipients. Please note that Tandem communication preferences do not map to email subscriptions so before every email, especially solicitations, a new list from Tandem needs to be provided so that both Tandem and email communication preferences are honored.

Email content

AP style formatting

To ensure that email best represents the UW brand, we follow AP Style rules as well as best practices for accessibility. The UW Brand portal provides additional guidelines. The following are the most relevant for sending UW emails:

  • Descriptive link text. Links should never be spelled out; they should be hyperlinked instead. When adding hyperlinks, ensure that the link text is descriptive and provides context about where the link leads. Avoid generic phrases like “click here.” Verify that all links are functional and lead to the correct landing pages.
  • Images. Please send these images as image files in a Drive folder and save these image sizes in pixels. You may also attach these images to the ticket when you submit this for email production. Images must be saved to the following pixel, at 72 dpi. Here is our Marketo Template Preview Gallery that shows the image sizes across different modules and templates. Pay close attention to the required size for whatever image module you use. These are the most common image sizes Marketo templates:
    • 600x200px for full-width image
    • 600x280px for 2-column image
    • 500x500px for square images
    • 130x150px for 4-column image
    • 300px or 200px wide for signatures
  • Dates and Times. Use AP Style for formatting dates and times. For example, “Jan. 20” and “3:30 p.m.”
    • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone.
    • When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.
    •  Examples:
      • January 2016 was a cold month.
      • Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month.
      • His birthday is May 8.
      • Feb. 14, 2013, was the target date.
      • She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the crash occurred.
  • Active Voice. Use active voice whenever possible. Identify the personality and tone to use. This will help make content easier for you to create and readers to digest if they know who is communicating with them.
    • Is this going to come from your unit head? Or from your unit? Are you sharing a student’s story? Are you a sponsor/committee head who is inviting folks to an event?
  • Serial comma. Do not use a serial comma (or Oxford comma) in simple series of nouns or phrases, such as red, white and blue (no comma before “and”).
  • Campus references. When abbreviated, always use “The UW” instead of just “UW.”
  • Proofing. Review and proofread all email content for accuracy, grammar and spelling.

Customizing tokens

When sending a message to multiple recipients, some emails require customization in the email body. If you’d like to customize your email, the UMAC DMAS can create custom tokens for you which are placeholders within email templates that automatically pull corresponding data from a spreadsheet you provide — this file must always include the audience person’s email in a separate column. Here is a sample spreadsheet showing what that can look like for different messages.

This dynamic content allows for personalization at scale, ensuring each recipient receives content relevant to their interests. With custom tokens, Marketo users can create engaging, personalized email campaigns that resonate with their audience seamlessly.

Testing and quality assurance

Quality assurance is a critical aspect of our entire email campaign process. To ensure high-quality campaigns, UMAC provides thorough testing across various email clients, devices and visibility modes, including dark mode.

Once final draft approval is received from unit requester, the UMAC Digital Engagement team will preflight your email to make sure every detail is correct, the links work and it is aligned with brand standards.

This commitment to quality assurance helps us deliver effective email campaigns to our audience while also helping protect the reputation of the UW.


The scheduled send time of your email may change based on factors such as approval and preflighting of the final draft.

Additionally, we’ll ensure that the chosen time slot doesn’t coincide with other mass email campaigns before scheduling your email for deployment, as indicated in the Digital Engagement Team’s Internal Circulation Calendar.

Performance and improvement

Collaboration with the UMAC Digital Marketing Automation Specialist enables effective email campaigns from your unit. This approach ensures better performance and a seamless recipient experience.

A week post-sending, the UMAC DMAS will forward the performance reports for your message. Analyzing this data helps gauge message success. The email metrics we recommend focusing on are click-through rate (CTR), click-to-open rate (CTOR), link clicks, and overall campaign performance. Emphasizing these metrics offers valuable insights into recipient engagement and campaign effectiveness.