Communications principles

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These protocols seek to improve the effectiveness of email and to encourage UAS sections to routinely consider whether email is the most appropriate channel to use. Refer also to the UAS Channel Framework which provides guidance on individual channels.

UAS sections are encouraged to have a process for planning and agreeing their communications with divisions and departments so that the most appropriate channel can be considered at an early stage.

University mailing lists are a valuable tool for effectively communicating with large groups of people. However, the creation, maintenance and use of them needs regular monitoring and review.

The policy and guidance introduces governance around the use of new and existing mailing lists.

Staff must use existing lists where possible

In the first instance you should check to see if there is an existing mailing list in operation that you can use. The key mailing lists summary provides details of the lists that are likely to be most useful to UAS Sections; and it includes details of who to contact to use a list.  The UAS Channel Framework also has guidance on email lists and specialist emails.

You should also check if there are other mailing lists that may include your intended audience by logging into Sympa. Guidance on using Sympa is available on the IT Services website. 

You must use existing lists and should not create local lists (e.g. Outlook Groups) that duplicate those on the key UAS mailing lists directory.

Consult the relevant Divisional Communications Lead before creating a new list. They may well have existing lists to which you can send your communication, without the need to create a new one.

Instances when new lists can be created 

Where there is no other option of reaching the target audience, either from an existing list or other means of dissemination, it may be necessary to create a new mailing list. 

Before creating a new mailing list be aware that the creator of the list will become the list owner and should be willing to accept the responsibilities associated with this, including:

  • Adding the mailing list to key mailing lists page if it is a list that may be useful to other UAS sections.
  • Keeping the mailing list up-to-date and information on the list-of-lists up to date.
  • Managing requests for access to the list if access is to be moderated.
  • Deleting the mailing list and removing it from the key mailing lists page if it will no longer be kept up to date. A list owner should discuss with your Communications Lead before deleting a list.

When creating a mailing list:

  • You should ensure that the membership of the new list does not overlap significantly with membership of an existing mailing list. If necessary, contact the owner of the existing list to check.
  • Avoid using a name for a new mailing list that is similar to an existing one or could lead to confusion about who is on the list. Avoid abbreviations that are not commonly used.
  • If you are unsure about whether it is appropriate to create a new mailing list, or any aspect of its creation, discuss with your Communications Lead.

Rules around the frequency and number of lists that information can be sent to

To avoid inundating colleagues with multiple emails, and/or with emails which may not be relevant to them, UAS sections should consider:

Frequency - UAS sections should limit the number of emails that can be sent to the same mailing list each week to avoid overburdening recipients. Consideration of appropriate channels and forward planning of timing of communications may be needed to facilitate this. 

This does not apply to urgent emails (particularly of a security-nature) which have their own processes. If you have an urgent communication requirement, and need to send a message immediately to key lists, please contact your communications lead, or UAS Communications.

Number of lists sent to - care should be taken to avoid sending an individual email to too many mailing lists at once as, despite best efforts, membership of the lists may overlap.

NB: Sympa will automatically prevent individuals receiving emails more than once in one send. Therefore, if you are planning on sending to multiple lists, you should do this in one email rather than several different messages.

Heads of Administrations and Finance (HAFs) and Heads of Departments and Faculty Board Chairs (HODs) mailing lists are important resources for UAS sections seeking to communicate information to these groups. See also the UAS Channel Framework for guidance on reaching leadership teams. The protocols, below, introduce governance around the use of these lists to ensure that they are used effectively and appropriately.

Who is allowed to be a recipient on these lists – in divisions, GLAM and the UAS?

In the UAS, UAS Section Heads are added to the HoDs list, and a single lead administrator in each UAS section is added to the HAFs list.  Academic Divisions and GLAM apply their own policies for adding individuals to the HAFs and HoDs list.  If you believe you should be added to the HAFs or HoDs list, please contact your relevant Communications Lead.

Who is permitted to send to the lists?

Two members of staff from each UAS section are authorised to send to these lists. Please liaise with the relevant UAS Communications Lead for your section.

What types of information can be sent to these lists?

Only urgent updates that cannot wait (or would not be appropriate for) the University Cascade should be sent direct to HoDs and HAFs. Find out more about the University Cascade

Format for emails

If you are sending or copying your email to the HAF or HoD mailing list, you must follow the guidance on writing emails, and use the email format set out in the email best practice. Approval will not be given to use the HAF and HoD mailing lists to send an email that has not been written in line with the guidance and is not set out using the format provided. The guidance is also relevant for sending emails to other groups /mailing lists.

Where permission is not given to send an email to the HAF or HoD mailing lists, the approver should set out clearly the reasons for not providing approval, and try to agree changes that would allow permission to be given. Please go to Section 6 below, ‘Issue Resolution’ in the event of agreement not being reached.

Where possible, UAS sections are encouraged to cascade information via academic divisions (and Conference of Colleges, in the case of colleges). 

In particular, the University Cascade should be used for high level policy and guidance which is relevant for leadership teams across the University.

Divisions and departments have their own local channels such as newsletters and intranets, and should be approached about sharing information from the UAS within those channels.

Divisional Communications Leads can help ensure that content that does make it into the fortnightly University Cascade reaches the right audience – whether that is via local communications colleagues, or relevant specialists (such as education or HR leads) Divisional Communications Leads should be contacted via UAS Communications Leads, allowing time for onward cascade. 

Communications packs

If the content relates to a wider campaign or is more complex, a communications pack will ensure your content is easily transferable for departmental audiences. 

A communication pack could contain the following:

  • Template emails (that can be sent to departmental colleagues via local stakeholders)
  • Social media copy
  • Social media images or infographics (assets)
  • Template text for e-newsletters (max. 50-100 words is recommended)
  • Official photography (must be GDPR-compliant)

An effective example of a communications pack can be found on the UAS communications SharePoint site – this was for the 2022 ‘Be energy friendly campaign’.

Communications packs should be hosted on the UAS Communications SharePoint site, and sent to Divisional Communications Leads via the relevant UAS Communications Lead. They can also be posted on the Comms Community Teams channel, but please note that these posts will not necessarily be seen by all comms staff, nor in every case by divisional communications staff.

Urgent communications

If you have an urgent email (particularly of a security-nature) that you need to disseminate to divisions and departments, contact the relevant UAS Communications Lead, who can liaise with Divisional Communications Leads to disseminate the information in the most effective way. Divisional Communications Leads have direct lines of communication with Divisional Registrars, HAFs and Heads of Department.

Newsletters can provide a reliable communication channel internally with staff.  They are a means of sharing important information to a large group of staff at once. They allow colleagues to be updated and feel included and will often be used as the main source for briefing teams. Newsletters should be visually engaging and their frequency should be carefully considered. Also refer to the guidance in the UAS Channel Framework.

Principles of how newsletters should be used 

Departments/Divisions/UAS Sections should have their own guidance around creating and using newsletters in place that meets the needs of their team.

Where possible, newsletters should be sent using a GDPR compliant mailing client that allows analytics to be gathered.

They should be sent as email text, and not as attached PDF or Word documents – or included as text within images. This is for accessibility reasons.

Creating new newsletters

Too many newsletters may result in staff, and particularly HAFs, receiving more newsletters than they can keep up with. This means the newsletter is less likely to be read, diminishing its potential impact.  Full guidance is available for creating new newsletters.

All new UAS newsletters must be approved by the relevant Section Head, and the Head of Communications, Professional Services.

Gathering feedback from recipients

It is good practice to proactively and regularly seek feedback from the people you send communications to so that you are aware of any problems or dissatisfaction and can identify opportunities to make improvements.

Regularly seeking feedback on the emails and information you send to divisions and departments will help you to identify areas for improvement to help to ensure that they have the impact you want and that recipients are satisfied with what you send them. Adestra can also be used to measure email open rates.

  • To get feedback on specific emails that you send you could use voting buttons or embed polls in your email
    • Voting buttons can be added to Outlook emails. The options are quite limited – you can’t ask multiple choice questions – and they are better for getting feedback on one dimension of your communication – e.g.,’ action required clear’ or  ‘action required not clear’. You will need to tell recipients that voting options are included as it is not very obvious. Further guidance on using voting in Outlook is available on the Microsoft Support website
    • Microsoft Teams poll form embedded in an Outlook email – This is a relatively new functionality in Outlook and has more options than voting buttons e.g. multiple-choice questions. You will need the 2019 version of Outlook if using the Outlook App but you can set up polls via Outlook 365. Instructions are available on the Microsoft Support website
    • Keep the questions simple and don’t use too many – a maximum of three questions, ideally. E.g. ‘did you find this email useful’ / ‘do you feel this email was intended for you?’
    • Used over time on emails that you send can help to build a picture of satisfaction levels.
  • Used sparingly, surveys are a good way of getting information about how well your emails are being received.
  • Microsoft Teams Form – this is easy to use and ideal for setting up a simple survey. Instructions on how to do this are available on the IT Services Help pages
  • An open invitation is the simplest way to invite feedback but is also the approach probably likely to elicit least response.
    • Let people know how they can send you their feedback e.g. via an email address
    • You could use an open feedback method (see surveys below) and include a link to it in your communications.
  • If you are undertaking a more thorough review of your communications, take a look at The Focus online toolkit.  It provides a number of tools to help you understand the ‘Voice of the Customer’
  • Stop, Start Continue is a simple and effective way of understanding what people value about the service you are providing, what they don’t like and to tell you what improvements they would like to see.
  • You could use the information from your Voice of the Customer activities to carry out an After Action Review aimed at helping you to improve based on a review of past experience

Please share any feedback you receive via your Communications Lead to help us to continuously improve this policy and guidance.

Issues arising from within the UAS

Some examples of issues that may arise when using the policy and guidance are:

  • You are refused permission to use specific mailing lists, or to send a specific communications
  • Emails sent for inclusion in the Cascade, or to the HAF or HoD mailing lists did not comply with the policy and guidance e.g. email template has not been used

Any problems or issues arising from the use of the policy and guidance should be brought to the attention of your UAS Communications Lead in the first instance. In the unlikely event that agreement cannot be reached, or an issue resolved, the matter should be discussed with the Head of Communications, Professional Services. 

Complaints from divisions/departments/faculties about communications received

UAS sections should have in place a process for dealing with any complaints relating to their communications. Complaints should be recorded, investigated, responded to and where they are of relevance to this policy and associated guidance, shared with the Head of Communications and Engagement, Professional Services, via your Communications Lead.

Providing Feedback on the policy and guidance

In some cases, disagreement over the use of the protocols may be an indication that the protocols and/or the guidance need to be reviewed.

You may also have general feedback to provide on the policy or have received feedback from departments and divisions on a specific communication, which is also relevant to UAS communications more widely.

Please email any feedback to your communications lead, or to


Page published:  10.09.2021

Page last updated: 26.02.2024