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

EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines

Electronic Newsletters

EERE has requirements and best practices for developing and delivering electronic newsletters.

Requirements

All electronic newsletters must follow these requirements.

Use an Appropriate Email Management Tool

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

  • EERE's GovDelivery account
  • A DOE or national laboratory email server
  • A commercial mailing list provider that follows the criteria listed below.

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 Elizabeth Spencer. It takes approximately one week to set up a new list.

If you're choosing a different email management tool:

  • 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 not a spammer.
  • Ask if they screen prospective customers in any way before signing them. A screening process is a good sign that a provider is making an attempt to steer clear of spammers.
  • Make sure unsubscribes are processed automatically. Processing bad email addresses uses up valuable ISP resources. Because of this, ISPs quickly lose patience with senders who repeatedly send mail to "dead" or non-existent email 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.

Ensure Application Security

If you develop or host your own custom mailing list, they must follow the DOE cyber security guidelines on DOE's Policy and Regulations page.

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

Design for the EERE Identity

All electronic newsletters must include the EERE header and office or initiative name.

Do Not Add Subscribers to Mailing Lists Without Their Approval

EERE mailing lists should only include individuals who requested, or opted in, to receive your emails. Do not enroll subscribers from one newsletter to another. You can send an email inviting individuals you have a relationship with to join a new newsletter, but they must choose to subscribe.

Only Email Individuals You Have a Relationship With

You may invite individuals you have a relationship with to sign up to join a new newsletter. Someone who attended a DOE event or signed up for a newsletter is assumed to have a relationship with DOE; someone who emailed a question to a DOE webmaster is not.

Best Practices

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

Prevent Duplicative Content

Before creating an e-newsletter, make sure it doesn't cover the same topics and audiences of EERE's other e-newsletters.

Avoid Images in Email Bulletins

Avoid putting images in email bulletins as many email programs will not automatically download them. This results in fewer users seeing your content. This can also correlate to fewer individuals reading the email.

Create 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.

Develop Engaging Email Headers

The headers of an electronic newsletter (e.g., From, To, and Subject fields), are scrutinized by anti-spam filters that protect ISPs and individual mailboxes. Your subscribers 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

Electronic newsletters can be sent 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 Elizabeth Spencer. If you are using GovDelivery, EERE will add a template for you.  If not, you can use a sample EERE email to build your own.  If you aren't using GovDelivery as your email client:

  • Code the template to resize responsively to fit on multiple devices, if possible.
  • Include the EERE header and program header.
  • 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 standard EERE GovDelivery template includes these links in the footer space. 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's call-to-action buttons 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 are HTML—not images—so all users will be able to see them, even if they don't automatically display images in emails. 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>

Manage Your 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.

  • In the email confirming a user's new subscription, include information on the newsletter and 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, forcing them to change it if they don't want to receive email. 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.

Create 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, 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.

Do Not Send Newsletters 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.