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Email Marketing

Email marketing enables you to communicate with your audiences on a regular basis, but there is a lot to think about before you hit send: Who you are sending to? How frequently are you sending? What template you are using? What are your marketing goals and calls to actions? Our office is here to help set up communication pieces and issue them, or, if you send out messages often, we can help you set up your own HTML messaging account through Mailchimp and design templates.

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We recommend that all college units use MailChimp for email marketing campaigns within their units.

MailChimp is an email marketing automation tool that allows you to create and send customized, branded emails. MailChimp allows you to store images and files in its content manager, edit photos with its own photo editor tool and even work collaboratively by allowing other people on your team to comment and reply directly to your test emails.

You can also optimize your email marketing with various tools such as list segmentation, analytics reports that offer a breakdown of how your different campaigns are performing, and personalization.

We’ve included several general email templates available for download below. 

Alumni Email Distribution

Ohio State uses Salesforce Marketing Cloud as its customer relationship management tool for all alumni and donor records. In addition to the ability to store and retain updated alumni records, Salesforce also allows us to send and segment our email communications to all department and unit alumni.

The Marketing and Communications office, in partnership with the Office of Advancement, will facilitate all communications with alumni. Departments must contact the Marketing and Communications office if they would like to send an email communication out to their alumni, as alumni mailing lists are requested at the university level through TAS. 

All college units must use Salesforce for alumni communications for several reasons:

  • Salesforce allows for dynamic alumni contact lists, which means the lists are constantly updating so we know that email addresses are correct and we’re reaching the correct audiences. 
  • Through Salesforce, we can also pull contact lists that are specifically segmented, allowing for more targeted communications and higher engagement rates.
  • Our branded and mobile optimized email templates can easily be uploaded into Salesforce, allowing for increased accessibility and engagement rates.
  • Salesforce allows for a calendar view of communications, so we can accurately organize and schedule our email campaigns to insure we’re not overloading our audiences with messages.

Please fill out this form when you’re ready to send an email communication to your unit/department alumni and//or donors — we’ll create your email in Salesforce, check the alumni list you’d like to contact to ensure correct and updated information, and schedule distribution on your behalf.


Create an Email Marketing Calendar
Take time throughout the year to create an email marketing calendar that supports your content marketing, event marketing and other promotional calendars. Plan, design and create content for emails and announcements ahead of time as much as possible — this helps to keep you organized, and also ensures consistent and strategic communication with your audiences.

Be Strategic
Each email you send should have a purpose that provides value to your audience, whether it’s sent to students, faculty and staff, or even external audiences. Be as clear and concise as possible with your message when creating content, and be sure to explore other avenues of promotion as well (e.g. social media, direct mail, print materials).

Maintain Your Distribution Lists
It’s important to review and monitor your email distribution lists on a regular basis, removing those subscribers who have become unengaged with your content in order to help maintain good deliverability rates.

List Segmentation
Email marketing has changed over the years, from a ‘blast’ form of communication, to a more catered and personalized form of communication. Segmenting your distribution lists allows you to experience higher engagement with your audiences because the more you cater to your audience interests and activities, the more your messaging will resonate with them.

By incorporating Ohio State brand guidelines into the email marketing campaigns you create, you’re helping to play a role in strengthening the brand of the university. This is especially important as we communicate with external audiences. Please reference the official university brand guidelines as much as needed for guidance with editorial style, color, logos, images and more.

Create Compelling Subject Lines
Subject lines are one of the very first impressions you have on your email recipients, and a compelling subject line can help your email stand out from the rest. Some good ideas to keep in mind for creative subject lines include being short and to the point, telling the audience what’s inside, creating a sense of importance or urgency, using numbers and asking questions.

Scheduling soon? (Used with ASC spring courses campaign)
Interested in studying abroad this summer? (Used with Education Abroad Advertising)
We’ll Sugarcoat This for You (Used with ASC Donuts with the Dean campaign)
ASCENT: News from the Arts and Sciences (Used with ASC digital magazine campaign)
Can you crack our campus scavenger hunt? (Used with ASC Gold Rush campaign)

Call-to-Action (CTA)
Your call-to-action is the second most important piece of content in your email. Beyond persuading your audience to open your email (via subject line), you also want them to click on your content. Be clear and concise with your calls-to-action, keeping them to only 1-2 links per email, unless you’re sending out a newsletter.

Add Alt-Text to Images
Alt text (also referred to as alternative text or alt tags) is used to describe the images in your emails. Alt text is required in your emails for a couple of different reasons:

  • If an image fails to load for any reason, alt text will display in its place allowing email recipients to understand what image should be there.
  • Visually impaired individuals often need to use screen readers in order to browse web pages and emails. Alt text is needed to explain and describe to people using screen readers the context of the images included on websites and in emails.

Optimize for Mobile
Emails are now opened more on mobile devices than desktop computers and mobile users also tend to check their email up to three times more than desktop users do. Due to this, email content should be kept as short as possible, instead focusing on using compressed images and concise calls-to-action.

University Marketing provided all units with a new set of branded email templates (summer 2018) that are specifically designed to be mobile responsive.

Send Test Emails
When your email template and content are both complete, be sure to send yourself (and others) a test email before sending to the intended distribution list to ensure that:

  • There are no typos
  • The images show up correctly
  • The format looks good on both desktop computers and mobile devices
  • All of the links are working

Optimize Email Sending
The best days and times to send emails depend on the industry and its audiences.

For the higher education industry, we currently recommend:

  • Sending to current and prospective students between noon and 4 p.m. during the week.
  • Sending to faculty and staff between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. during the week.

*Please note: While these are our suggestions for email marketing optimization, you may find that different days and times work better for your audiences. Always be sure to test your email optimization by reviewing analytics to create the best strategy for your department.

Track Analytics
The best way to measure the success of each email you send is to review its analytics. If you consistently see high open and click rates, your audiences are finding your emails useful. Low open and click rates tend to signal low engagement, which can be improved by reviewing and recording your email analytics to see where improvements can be made. 

Useful analytics to review and record include:

  • Number of emails sent
  • Unique open rate
  • Unique click rate
  • Call-to-action
  • Subject Line

Be Aware of Anti-Spam Laws
The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to unsubscribe from our emails and spells out tough penalties for violations.

Due to this law, we’re required to include both a physical address and an option to unsubscribe from all email messages we send. This information is generally included in the footer of our emails — if you choose to design your own email templates please remember to include this information within.

Many of the new email templates we provide in this toolkit require photos to be cropped to strict specifications. We know that it can be difficult to decide on a photo to use (visit Ohio State Brand Photography for more options), and that even after you’ve selected a photo, it can be hard to determine which size it should be cropped to.

Our email templates display our image specifications within image placeholders. For example, you’ll see that our header images are typically sized to 600 (width) by 300 (height) pixels. Template images within the main content tend to be sized to smaller specifications.

Continue reading below for information on how to crop images to fit our specifications using different programs.


Pixlr is a free, online photo editing software that enables you to edit images from simple tweaks to more creative edits. If you don’t have access to Adobe Photoshop or InDesign, we strongly recommend using Pixlr for any photo cropping and editing projects.

To use Pixlr:

  1. Visit www.pixlr.com, and scroll down to select the Pixlr X version, which you’ll be able to use for free.
  2. If you don’t have Adobe Flash, you’ll need to download it before you can access Pixlr. Pixlr will bring you to a page where you can download Adobe Flash, if needed, after you select the Pixlr X version.
  3. Once Flash is downloaded, Pixlr will open its photo editor, where you’ll be able to create new graphics from a blank canvas and edit your current images.
  4. Your first step is to select ‘Open Image from Computer’ to open the image you need to crop.
  5. Once the image has opened, select the ‘Crop Tool’ from the list of tools on the top left-hand side of the page.
  6. Click and drag on the picture to create a frame around the section of the image you’d like to crop.
  7. When you’re finished creating a boundary, click outside of the frame to crop the photo. Pixlr will ask you if you want to apply the changes – select yes. If you want to go back and crop the image differently, simply navigate to the ‘Edit’ section on the menu and click on ‘Undo.’
  8. When you have the cropped image ready, navigate to the Image tab on the main menu, select Image Size, uncheck the box labeled constrain proportions in the window that opens up, and type in the horizontal and vertical specifications required by the email template. You may need to go back and re-crop the photo a few more times to make sure that the resized image appears correctly and without distortions.
  9. Next, save the file to your computer and upload to your MailChimp account for use with your template.

We’ve also included image cropping instructions for Microsoft Paint and Paintbrush for Mac, if you’re more comfortable using those programs.


  1. Locate the image you’d like to use on your computer, and right-click on it. This will prompt a drop-down menu to appear.
  2. Hover your mouse cursor over the ‘Open With’ option.
  3. Select ‘Paint’ from the program options listed.
  4. Once Paint opens on your computer screen, navigate to the ‘Select’ button on the top menu, located toward the left-hand side. Click on the arrow underneath the word ‘Select’.
  5. From there, choose the ‘Rectangular Selection’ option, which will be the first item on the drop-down menu.
  6. Next, click and drag over the part of the image you’d like to include with your email. This will drag a rectangular dotted line over the image; anything inside of that line will remain when you crop the image.
    1. To remove the dotted line and start over, click anywhere outside of the image.
  7. Next, select the ‘Crop’ button at the top of the menu next to the ‘Select’ button. This will remove the image outside of the dotted lines.
  8. After you’ve cropped the image, navigate to the ‘Resize’ button located on the top menu underneath the ‘Crop’ button. This will bring up a window that will allow you to resize the image further to meet template specifications.
  9. To do this, select the ‘Pixels’ option on the right-hand side of the menu, uncheck the ‘Maintain Aspect Ratio’ option at the bottom and type in the horizontal and vertical specifications required by the template. You may need to go back and re-crop the photo a few more times to make sure that the resized image appears correctly and not distorted.
  10. When finished, save the file and upload to your MailChimp account for use with your template.


  1. Click on the Paintbrush icon in your Dock to launch the program.
  2. Once the program is open, navigate to and click on the “File” tab on the menu at the top of the program, followed by the “Open” option.
  3. Next, navigate to the photo on your computer that you want to crop and select “Open.”
  4. Next, navigate to and click on the “Image” tab on the menu at the top of the program, and then select “Canvas Size.”
  5. Use the drop-down menus to select pixel-based cropping, selecting the ‘Custom’ sizing option to type in the horizontal and vertical specifications required by the email template you’ve chosen to use. Click ‘OK.’
  6. If the photo appears distorted at these specifications, open a new window, using the process detailed above to select and open a photo at any pixel size. Then, select the rectangle tool on the left-hand sidebar to draw a boundary around the part of the photo you’d like to crop. Next, click on the “Image” tab followed by the “Crop” option. Then, re-size the photo to email template specifications by selecting “Image Size” under the “Image” tab options, and typing in the correct pixel measurements under custom sizing.
  7. Save the file to your computer and then upload to your MailChimp account for use with the selected email template.