How can I get better control over the e-mail messages coming out of my organization?

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Answer: With corporate governance in the spotlight, it is wise to scrutinize outbound e-mail for any risk and exposure it could potentially present to your organization or brand. This is especially true if you work in a regulated industry, such as pharmaceuticals or financial services, in which laws govern what your employees can and cannot say, to whom and at what time.

In nearly every enterprise organization, hundreds—even thousands—of business units, divisions, remote offices and individuals generate outbound e-mail communications with little if any oversight. Inadequate knowledge as to how all these individuals handle e-mail has led to major concerns over brand control and consistency as well as legal compliance, including CAN-SPAM. The liability for companies is enormous.

To address the complexities of creating consistent and compliant e-mail, organizations should strive for an integrated approach that focuses on three things:

1) Brand integrity. Set up parameters for business units, such as whether they may create their own e-mails or use only preapproved templates, and whether they are allowed to use their own photos. Provide completed e-mail templates that can be customized by business units yet still maintain the branding. Use an e-mail service provider that allows you to easily personalize and send e-mails on behalf of your sales reps, store owners or franchisees.

2) Subscriber management. Adopt flawless subscriber management practices. Even large organizations are mandated by CAN-SPAM to honor unsubscribes enterprisewide within 10 days. The best way to do so is to provide a local unsubscribe list for each business unit, as well as an enterprisewide master unsubscribe list. Limit access to subscriber databases by publishing segmented groups to business units. Create a profile attribute map and then lock this map so individual business units cannot modify data or delete subscribers. However, give subscribers the ability to modify their own profiles. Also, I recommend locking the business unit “from” field to protect your organization against a business unit misrepresenting itself, and setting a limit to the number of e-mails a group can send within a period of time.

3) Enterprise governance. Give control and auditing features to administrators to ensure that subscribers, profiles and e-mail are being used as intended. The things administrators will want to manage include:

  • The number of times individual business units access their account.
  • The total number of e-mails sent and delivered for each business unit and the enterprise in total.
  • The number of subscriber import and export jobs.
  • List upload failures (due to invalid addresses, expired domains or spam-trap addresses).
  • The amount of potential spam triggers found in e-mail content.

Chip House is VP-privacy and deliverability at ExactTarget (, an Indianapolis-based provider of permission-based e-mail marketing solutions.

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