Mass Electronic Communications Authorization and Distribution Procedures


Revisions: 5/6/2016; 6/1/2015; 7/25/2014

Context

Northern Illinois University's electronic mail (email) is recognized as an official University correspondence. NIU works to ensure that all communications originating from the institution are professional, appropriate and relevant to the communication's target audience. These guidelines are designed to address critical communication needs in a manner which maximizes engagement and minimizes oversaturation of information. Creating effective electronic communications, which reflect the branding standards of Northern Illinois University, is a shared responsibility of all members of the University community.

Mass electronic communications, by definition, are email sent in large quantities, and are recognized as an efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly use of technology for facilitating communication within the NIU community. Mass electronic communications messages can be sent to a list of email addresses or mobile phone numbers of a pre-defined target group.

The approval and distribution of all mass electronic communications shall comply with all applicable state and federal laws, and all institutional policies and standards, including but not limited to those laws and policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment and that honor an individual's reasonable expectation for institutional communications.

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to facilitate access to University mass communication systems and provide guidelines for distribution in a way that enhances prospective student recruitment and current student retention efforts, provides employees with needed information, upholds information technology security standards and aids in institutional branding, while recognizing the expectation of mass electronic communication access among members of the University community.

Scope

This policy applies to all members of the NIU Community, including students, faculty, staff, trusted partners, contractors and users of the university network and messaging systems.

Appropriate and Prohibited Uses

Generally speaking, mass electronic communications are appropriate for messages that: directly relate to carrying out the business of the university; relate to changes in university policy or time-sensitive issues; survey distribution; and inform a select group of people (e.g., faculty, staff, students, members of a specific school or department, etc.) of an announcement or information to their specific role within the university.

All communications should comply with NIU’s Appropriate Use Policy. In addition, inappropriate use of mass electronic communications includes, but is not limited to:  messages that are not in line with the mission of the university; messages that are personal in nature; and messages that are commercial in nature, with the exception of those messages that are in support of university business and are approved by the stipulations defined in this policy. Announcements that do not meet this criteria of urgency and/or critical university information, should be distributed via other methods, such as the NIU Calendar, NIU Today, Office 365 email and dynamic (digital) signage.

To promote institutional operating efficiency and network security, the following guidelines are intended to prevent an adverse impact of email services during working hours:

  • A mass message should be brief, self-explanatory, clear, and concise, and should be used only for important messages relevant to all recipients.
  • Messages should not exceed 250 words. To reference detailed information, website links can be included in the body of the message.
  • It is good practice to use the blind carbon copy (bcc) feature to protect the identity of recipients.
  • Attachments should be provided via the use of file link to OneDrive.
  • Avoid sending frequent or repeated messages. Monthly or quarterly electronic newsletters are preferred.
  • Send collaborative messages with others at the university to avoid redundancy.
  • Messages sent via university email addresses must be consistent with existing university policies (See the Acceptable Use Policy.).

Mass electronic communications must NOT be used for commercial advertisement purposes. Examples include:

  • Commercial advertising for merchants or service providers external to the university, except for notices of services and discounts arranged for members of the university community by the university.
  • Solicitations for contributions, charities, or participation in personal activities not related to university purposes or not sponsored by the university.
  • Solicitations for non-university businesses operated by university faculty or staff.
  • Surveys or solicitations to members of the community selected on demographic characteristics, such as to selected groups or individuals identified as candidates for research subjects.
  • Targeted audiences that might appear discriminatory or may appear to constitute infringement on privacy.

Under certain limited circumstances, email messages that advertise or promote a product, service, or program being offered by the university or by a third-party through the university may be approved for distribution. These messages typically will be required to: identify the message as an advertisement or a promotion; include a valid physical mailing address in the body of the message; and provide the recipient with a way to decline to receive any additional messages that advertise or promote the product, service or program at issue.

Selected notices and announcements of broad interest, usefulness, or need are among acceptable uses of mass electronic communications. Such notices and announcements include those for:

  • Presidential announcements
  • Emergency notices
  • Weather-related incidents
  • Expected street, traffic, and parking interruptions resulting from construction
  • Services for general university use, such as travel and transportation
  • Broadcasts of NIU Information Technology service changes, updates, and service interruptions
  • University special events, such as observances of University-recognized holidays, Commencement Day, and Move-in Day
  • Other announcements or news reports directly affecting the community or the university

Departments obtaining lists in the form of electronic files to use for an approved mailing to students, faculty or employees are to comply with this policy and must receive approval from the designated authority for subsequent uses of the same list for additional mailings.  Electronic mail addresses are not made available to persons or organizations outside of NIU, except through appropriate authorizations as noted in the policy.


Procedures to Request Mass Communications and Survey Distribution

These procedures provide guidance on distributing communications to the entire campus community, sending mass messaging to a specific target population, and requesting to distribute a survey.

Requesting Mass Communications to the Entire Campus Community

  • Official University Announcements: Requests to be granted authorization to send mass electronic communications messages or survey requests, using NIU mass electronic communications, can be submitted through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form by a dean (or their designee), director, department head. Requests should include who would be authorized to send the message, the justification for requiring the service, and the target group.

Requesting Mass Communications to a Target Population

Requests to send out mass electronic communications to all the segmented university populations outlined in the section of the procedure must be approved by the appropriate initiating office and meet the guidelines in the Appropriate and Prohibited Uses section, above.

Requests to be granted authorization to send mass electronic communications messages to a target population, using NIU mass electronic communications, must be submitted to the Division of Marketing & Communications by a dean (or their designee), director, or department head. Requests should include who would be authorized to send the message, the justification for requiring the service, and the target group. Submit the request through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval and distribution.

  • Department or Program Participants

    • Colleges and academic and administrative departments are authorized to send messages to faculty and/or staff, alumni, retirees, and students enrolled in their academic program or engaged with their administrative department. These “local” communications do not need Vice Presidential screening or approval. Prospective and admitted undergraduate student communications should be developed and distributed in collaboration with Undergraduate Admissions.
  • Prospective and Admitted Students

    • Effective marketing strategies are dependent upon well-timed, relevant messaging to prospective and admitted students. It is imperative that any communications to prospective and admitted students are strategically placed into the overall recruitment communication plan.
    • The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management has been charged with the responsibility of screening requests to send mass electronic communications to all prospective and admitted students. Submit the request through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval and distribution.
    • The following offices have been granted authority to approve messages to this target population: Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management, Division of Information Technology, Registration & Records, Human Resource Services, and Division of Marketing & Communications.
  • Enrolled Students: In an effort to prevent the proliferation of unrequested email to students, the following guidelines will be used when a request is made to send mass electronic communications to students:
    • The mass electronic communications capability will not be used to advertise or market campus programs, activities or events. Other mechanisms are available for this purpose (e.g., the NIU Calendar, NIU Today, dynamic (digital) signage and campus email listservs).
    • The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management has been charged with the responsibility of screening requests to send mass electronic communications to all enrolled students. Submit the request through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval and distribution.
    • The following offices have been granted authority to approve messages to this target population: Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management, Division of Information Technology, Registration & Records, Human Resource Services, and Division of Marketing & Communications

  • Faculty
    • Mass electronic communications to faculty and instructors should be used primarily for announcements by the central administration regarding matters of university policy, changes in procedures, etc. Requests will generally not be granted to send messages that are essentially advertisements for lectures, seminars, or other similar programs. Business units wishing to send such messages are encouraged to develop unit-specific lists of email addresses of faculty members with demonstrated interests in their programs.
    • The Provost's Office has been charged with the responsibility of screening requests to send mass electronic communications to all faculty and instructors. Submit the request through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval and distribution.
    • The following offices have been granted the authority to approve messages to this target population: Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Division of Information Technology, Vice President for Research & Innovation Partnerships, Human Resource Services, University Staff Advisory Councils, Division of Marketing & Communications, Operations & Community Relations.

  • Employees and Retirees

    • Only NIU university employees, excluding contributed service or adjunct faculty, may request that a mass electronic communication be sent to employees. Access to mass electronic communications is made available for university purposes on a university-wide or unit-wide basis, as the purpose requires. Electronic mail addresses are not made available to persons or organizations outside of NIU.
    • Human Resource Services has been charged with the responsibility of screening requests to send mass electronic communications to all employees. Submit the request through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval and distribution.
    • The following offices have been granted the authority to approve messages to this target population: Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Division of Information Technology, Vice President for Research & Innovation Partnerships, Vice President for Administration and Finance, University Staff Advisory Councils, and Division of Marketing & Communications.

  • Alumni

    • The Office of the Vice President for University Advancement has been charged with the responsibility of screening requests to send mass electronic communications to all alumni. Submit the request through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval and distribution.
    • The following offices have the authority to approve messages to this target population: Office of the President, Office of the Provost, University Advancement, Alumni Association, Division of Information Technology, Human Resource Services, and Division of Marketing & Communications.

Requesting the Distribution of a Survey for Research

The University recognizes the importance of research as central to the academic mission. All email research surveys shall require Institutional Research Board (IRB) exemption or approval, and documentation of IRB exemption or approval must be provided with the request for distribution. Requests for research email surveys may originate internally or externally to NIU from faculty and students. Email distribution of research surveys should be conducted in such a way that the communication is viewed by the recipient as an academic activity, not as unsolicited and unwanted email.

Email survey requests must be submitted with adequate lead-time (two weeks for surveys generated inside NIU and six weeks for those generated externally). These deadlines will ensure NIU can balance the timing of survey requests, manage the distribution of target populations, and monitor the number and frequency of email survey requests. In an effort to avoid conflict between surveys, excessive repetition, and the possibility of survey fatigue which reduces response rates, NIU reserves the right to limit the number of surveys requested by external institutions and the time of distribution.

Researchers, staff, and administrators can also access data about University faculty, staff or students which are held in student and employee information systems or collected through national surveys such as those noted above. Based on the designated survey recipients, authorization for data release and survey approval will be given by the University official charged with the responsibility of screening requests sent to this population segment (as outlined in the guidelines above). Internal survey distribution and data requests must be submitted through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval.

Survey Distribution Not Related to Academic Activity (Non-Research)

Survey requests originating from within NIU will be considered for data collection activities conducted by NIU faculty, staff or administration for internal purposes. “Surveys for internal administrative purposes” includes surveys by faculty, staff, administrators or academic unit of their students and departments or their constituents. Based on the designated survey recipients, authorization for data release and survey approval will be given to the University official charged with the responsibility of screening requests sent to this population segment (as outlined in the guidelines above). Internal survey distribution and data requests must be submitted through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form for approval.

Email survey requests need to be submitted with adequate lead-time (minimally two weeks, six weeks preferred) to balance timing of survey requests, manage the distribution of target populations, and monitor the number and frequency of email survey requests. Researchers, staff and administrators can also access data on University faculty, staff or students which is held in student and employee information systems or collected through national surveys such as those noted above.


Third Party Communications and Permit Listing

Requests for third party communications and permit listings need to be granted authorization to send mass electronic communications messages using NIU mass electronic communications. Messages sent via university email addresses must be consistent with existing university policies (See the Acceptable Use Policy.). Submit the request through the Division of Marketing & Communications Clearinghouse form at niu.edu/marcomm/clearinghouse/ for approval and distribution.