Mail merge was originally designed to generate personalised printed letters and mailing labels or envelopes. When the same model was applied to email it became possible to send merged email to thousands of recipients with very little effort.
This has been one of the drivers for the development of laws and directives to prevent us all being swamped with unsolicited emails, and it is particularly important to consider this if you plan on using email merge for marketing purposes.
Within the University, there is a policy for bulk emailing, which is aimed at eliminating unnecessary emails to staff and students, and this should always be consulted before undertaking email merge. For staff, general contact with students can often be achieved using the Student Enquiry Screen.
The emphasis in recent years has been to put control into the hands of the recipient, not the sender, and to seek engagement and conversation rather than a passive information distribution. Email merge is not the best tool for this.
Mail merge is all about sending something, but thinking about possible alternatives requires a different mindset. Here are some examples; one thing they have in common is they put the recipient much more in the driving seat, and make it easy for them to unsubscribe should they wish:
Social media is one way of getting messages out to people. In IT Services, we tweet about service disruption, new facilities etc, and we know that students and staff appreciate this.
Google Groups enable you to create relevant groups of people (eg all staff in your department, all students on a module). You can send emails to the Group, and group members can control how they receive posts sent to the group. Groups can also be used as a discussion forum, and for sharing files on Google Drive.
Google Plus communities enable you to set up an online area (eg for an academic department or a student society) where you and others can share information, ideas, images, video clips, comments and discussion.
A public blog will let you post news items on a regular basis, and so has some similarity to a traditional newsletter, with several important advantages:
If you've considered the alternatives, but concluded that you really do need email merge, and once you have checked that your activity is GDPR compliant, Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM) is the preferred option for low-medium volume email merge at the University. Find out more: