U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines

Electronic Newsletters

This page describes the requirements and best practices for developing and sending out electronic newsletters. Electronic newsletters sent to email mailing lists are a popular method of inexpensive public and internal outreach. In order to protect subscriber privacy, reduce the proliferation of spam, and maintain EERE's identity, EERE has established the following policies for newsletters that are sent via an electronic mailing list.

Requirements

All electronic newsletters must follow these requirements.

Sending Email Messages

All email messages should be sent using one of the following methods:

  • EERE's GovDelivery account
  • DOE or national laboratory email servers
  • Commercial mailing list providers that follow the criteria listed below.

Choosing an Email Management Tool

EERE staff can choose to use GovDelivery or a different third-party software to send out their newsletters.

GovDelivery is EERE's corporate email distribution mechanism. It is centrally funded and supported. To learn more about EERE's GovDelivery capabilities or to start a GovDelivery email distribution list, contact Michelle Resnick. It takes approximately 2 weeks to set up a new profile in GovDelivery.

If you're choosing a different email management tool, you'll need to:

  • Make sure your host provides you with a fixed IP address. A static IP address tells ISPs and the world at large that you are stable and not a fly-by-night spammer.
  • Ask if they screen prospective customers in any way before signing them. A screening process is a good sign that a provider is being selective and making an attempt to steer clear of spammers.
  • Make sure unsubscribes are processed automatically. Processing bad email addresses uses up valuable ISP resources on the receiving end. Because of this, the receiving ISPs quickly lose patience with senders who repeatedly mail to a high percentage of "dead" or non-existent addresses. The ISPs may start blocking your messages as a result.
  • Make sure they provide sufficient security to assure that people cannot "hijack" your list for their own mailings or cannot obtain your list from the mailing list provider. Ask how the list database is protected from hackers. At a minimum, list administrator functions should be password protected. Be sure to use a secure password.

Ensuring Application Security

If contractors develop or host custom mailing lists, it must follow DOE's cyber security guidelines as posted on DOE's Policy and Regulations page.

GovDelivery meets DOE's cyber security requirements, and is pre-approved for use on EERE.

Designing for the EERE Identity

All electronic newsletters must include the EERE header and program header.

Best Practices

We recommend that you follow these best practices when sending out email newsletters.

Preventing Duplicative Content

Before creating an e-newsletter, make sure your content doesn't cover the same topics and audiences of EERE's other e-newsletters. If you want to start a newsletter focused to the general public, your announcements may be more appropriate to send out over some of EERE's older, more established newsletters, such as EERE Progress Alerts.

Writing a Subscription Page

These are recommendations for writing a subscription Web page on your site.

  • Describe the topic, format, and frequency of the mailings you will send.
  • Minimize the amount of information that you collect when users subscribe; longer forms will chase off potential subscribers. If you collect more than the name and email address, include wording such as the following: "The information you provide here will help (EERE or the office name) better serve your needs."
  • Add the following boilerplate text: "The mailing list addresses are never sold, rented, distributed, or disclosed in any way."
  • Include unsubscribe options or create a separate unsubscribe page or "manage" page (see below). In all cases, the page must include clear and simple directions for unsubscribing.

Writing Email Headers

The headers of an electronic mailing (e.g., From, To, and Subject fields), are very important for successful delivery. They are scrutinized by anti-spam filters that protect ISPs and individual mailboxes. Your human subjects also scan headers to determine if they want to read the email or not.

  • Use a clear and consistent From header in each of your mailings. Use your organization's name and a valid email address. Use this header for all mailings; it should not change when different people send out the electronic mailing.
  • Include the recipient's name and email address in the To field (e.g., "John Doe" <johndoe@example.com>). This format is the industry standard for mailing lists.
  • Ensure that your subject line is accurate and, ideally, compelling. Industry research suggests that subject lines 45-55 characters in length are best.

Use EERE's HTML Email Template

Email newsletters can be sent out in two ways: They can be coded with an HTML template, or they can be sent text-only, with no graphics.

If you use an HTML template, we recommend that you use EERE's official email template. To see an example of an approved newsletter, contact Michelle Resnick. Follow these steps to set up an HTML email template:

  • Set width to 606 pixels.
  • Include the EERE header and program header as appropriate.
  • Follow EERE website styles when formatting.
  • Code styles inline.
  • Choose an appropriate coding technique. Older coding techniques such as the use of tables are acceptable; some more modern style methods may not work in all email clients.
  • Test the template designs in as many email clients as possible before sending to your list.
  • Include easy-to-use unsubscribe instructions in every message, and test them to assure that they work. The unsubscribe process must be easy and transparent; do not make users go through multiple steps to unsubscribe. Once users unsubscribe, do not make them confirm their intent to unsubscribe.

Use EERE's Call-to-Action Buttons

EERE uses call-to-action buttons that match the colors and styles in the standard email template.

Call-to-action buttons are used to encourage users to do tasks such as registering, reading more, or downloading a file. Using buttons instead of a coded link can help draw your readers' attention.

EERE's call-to-action buttons match the header colors in the standard email template. They are HTML—not images—so all users will be able to see them, even with email clients that don't automatically display images. They are also large enough for mobile users to click them.

Use the code below to add a call-to-action button to your newsletter:

First-Level Header Button

<table> <tr><td width="150" height="45" align="center" valign="middle" bgcolor="#f1f1f1" style="background-color:#f1f1f1; border:1px solid #cccccc; padding-top: 6px; padding-right: 10px; padding-bottom: 6px; padding-left: 10px; -webkit-border-radius: 6px; -moz-border-radius: 6px; border-radius: 6px; color: #00324d; font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:16px;"><a href="http://eere.energy.gov" style="color: #00324d; text-decoration: none;"><span style="color:#00324d; text-decoration:none;">READ MORE &raquo;</span></a></td></tr></table>

Second-Level Header Button

<table><tr><td width="150" height="45" align="center" valign="middle" bgcolor="#0d6b25" style="background-color:#0d6b25; padding-top: 6px; padding-right: 10px; padding-bottom: 6px; padding-left: 10px; -webkit-border-radius: 6px; -moz-border-radius: 6px; border-radius: 6px; color: #ffffff; font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:16px;"><a href="http://eere.energy.gov/" style="color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none;"><span style="color:#ffffff; text-decoration:none;">READ MORE &raquo;</span></a></td></tr></table>

Third-Level Header Button

<table><tr><td width="150" height="45" align="center" valign="middle" bgcolor="#00324d" style="background-color:#00324d; padding-top: 6px; padding-right: 10px; padding-bottom: 6px; padding-left: 10px; -webkit-border-radius: 6px; -moz-border-radius: 6px; border-radius: 6px; color: #ffffff; font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:16px;"><a href="http://eere.energy.gov" style="color: #00324d; text-decoration: none;"><span style="color:#ffffff; text-decoration:none;">READ MORE &raquo;</span></a></td></tr></table>

Managing Subscriptions

These are recommendations to better manage subscribing and unsubscribing your readers.

If you use GovDelivery, you do not need to worry about managing your subscriptions—GovDelivery follows all of the below recommendations.

  • Use a "double opt-in" subscription process for your mailing list. In this process, prospective subscribers submit their email addresses and then receive a confirmation request to which they must reply in order to join your list.
  • In the email confirming a user's new subscription, include information on the electronic mailing and on how to unsubscribe from the list.
  • Do not use an "opt-out" subscription process. That is, if users are providing their email or mailing address for any reason, do not include a check box or form that is automatically filled in to subscribe the user, forcing them to change it if they don't want the electronic mailings. A subscribe option can be provided on any Web page, but the user must actively check a box or fill out a form in order to subscribe.

Writing a "Manage Your Subscription" Page

These are recommendations for writing a "Manage your Subscription" page, if your provider has one.

If you use GovDelivery, you do not need to worry about editing this page—GovDelivery follows all of the below recommendations.

  • If signups for multiple lists are included on one website, the recommended practice is to provide one page to manage the multiple subscriptions. This is typically called a "Manage Your Subscriptions" or "Manage Your Profile" page.
  • Allow subscribers to access the page by entering their email address. You can also give the user the option of creating a password, in which case you must include options for changing a password and a way to retrieve a password if the user forgets it. If the "manage" page is password-protected, there should be a way to unsubscribe without using the "manage" page.
  • If the "manage" page is used as the "unsubscribe" page, it must include clear and simple directions for how to unsubscribe.

Using Microsoft Outlook

Sending email messages through Outlook is NOT recommended for the following reasons:

  • Anyone on the list will be able to send email to your entire list by selecting "reply to all."
  • It ties up valuable email server resources.
  • HTML formatting in Outlook can look very different in other email clients.