Campus Suite Blog

How to Keep School Email from Being Blocked

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Posted by Michael Hiles
Jul 30, 2015 1:37:44 PM

Anyone who has ever received an email from that wealthy Nigerian prince needing your bank account information to transfer money, or an offer for some over-the-counter stock ticker has experienced how annoying spam can be. Annoying, but you deal with it. Mark it as spam, and then you’re onto your meaningful emails.

Well, what if those important emails from trusted sources – like your school district – are not arriving? If your school district is using an internal email server, you might be might be at risk.

While launching an email blast from the school's internal email server may seem like an easy and inexpensive way to distribute email notifications, it comes with some exposure. A school could find itself unable to effectively communicate internal business as the inadvertent, negative result of broadcasting email to parents from the internal server environment.

Email still rules in school communications

Email is still one of the primary ways a school communicates with staff, teachers, and the entire school community. In a recent survey conducted by the Campus Suite Academy, we asked school communications managers what the most effective digital communications is for reaching parents. Email is still the overwhelming leader.

While other communication channels such as the school's website, text notification and social media play big roles in a school’s communications mix, email still rules. Many schools have been using their internal email servers as the primary distribution source for those emails.

What risk does a school have when using it’s internal email server to distribute mass email message notifications to a large database of parents? Plenty.

Keep your school off email blacklists.

One of the tools most internet service providers use to combat emails from needy princes, Viagra pushers and other known spam offenders and email accounts creating 419 scam email is some form of blacklisting. Blacklisting is based on the domain, the account, and the IP address.

Unfortunately for schools, they too can wind up on a blacklist. Cleaning up the results of being blacklisted is not something a school IT administrator wants to fit into his or her busy schedule.

Cleaning up the results of being blacklisted is not something a school IT administrator wants to fit into his or her busy schedule.

Getting onto an email blacklist can be catastrophic for email communications. If your school is blacklisted, regular, run-of-the-mill (non-broadcast) emails can be affected as well. They can be marked as spam or subject to being automatically rejected by the intended recipient.

Nothing is worse than sending an email with the expectation that someone will receive the important information, only to find out later the email got blocked at the ISP level because the sender was on the blacklist filter. In most cases, the receiving email server will outright reject the incoming email based on the blacklisted domains.

Consider, for example, a school that has several hundred parents using a cable internet service provider like Comcast or Time Warner. Their data center can detect when hundreds of accounts receive the same message in a short timeframe. The system can automatically flag the message as being suspected spam, and then further block the incoming email domain and/or IP address as a spammer.

In some cases, even a parent can flag the incoming email as spam even though the message is very relevant to their children as students. When dealing with the public, the proverb says, “it takes all kinds”, and if enough parents flag email as spam, the ISP can block future emails to all of their subscribers.

It gets even worse when an ISP then reports its spam listings back to the various blacklist organizations, who then distribute the filter update to other ISPs and organizations using the blacklist. In short, it's bad to get on the list and hard to get off of them when it happens.

3rd-party email services reduce risk, improve effectiveness

Consider using a 3rd-party email service for large distribution to external (non-school operations) recipients. There are many different email service providers who maintain an ongoing feedback loop with the major ISPs. These email providers generally have very tight rules around email distribution to keep spammers from just blasting out marketing emails in violation of various anti-spam laws like the CAN-SPAM Act.

These email providers maintain ongoing communication with the many ISP service providers, and constantly work to ensure their service is free from spam marketing. This takes a lot of effort and resources, both of which most schools aren't prepared to do.

An added benefit to using a 3rd-party email service provider is the reporting and metrics that come with the service. Email service providers typically provide their users with lots of statistics like the percentage of successful deliveries, the number of emails that are opened by the recipients, and even the total number of clicks on links within the email copy. These are all important when gauging the overall response to a broadcast. 

Send your school emails with confidence

It's important to keep your email communication clean and deliverable. Not putting your internal email server into jeopardy as a result of a mass emailing to outside constituents requires a different approach. By using a 3rd-party email service, the risk and responsibility moves to the service provider, and keeps your internal email server clean for official internal business.

Have you ever experienced deliverability issues with your email? Are you using any 3rd-party email services to distribute your email notifications and alerts? We’re interested in hearing more about how you’re leveraging email for your broadcast notifications and messaging.

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Posted by Michael Hiles

Michael is the founder and Chief Disruption Officer of Intellig8, a marketing technology consulting company. He is a lifelong student of business, financial models, marketing, communication, and behavioral science. He loves solving business problems, and helping techies and non-techies alike use technology to their advantage.

Topics: Communication School Districts Private schools Content management Security

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This blog and other Campus Suite Academy resources are part of our commitment to professional development for school communicators. Please join our forum for sharing the latest technology and communication trends to help schools better engage and improve education outcomes.


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