Avoid the embarrassment of a mass email blunder


A couple of weeks ago, Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, was left red faced after hundreds of students received incorrect acceptance letters. 800 prospective students received an email congratulating them on their enrolment offer to a very select program. This was followed up several hours later with a retraction email and apology stating that actually, students had not been accepted, sending hundreds of students to voice their outrage on social media.

This is not the first time this has happened in the last couple of years, two other major American Universities mistakenly sent incorrect acceptance letters and financial aid instructions to large groups of unqualified students.

Ensuring that emails are not sent to the wrong groups of students can greatly affect whether your message is received and interpreted properly. Carnegie Mellon’s mistake definitely got the message through to students, but it was unfortunately aimed at the wrong people.

New Zealand schools wouldn’t necessarily suffer as dramatically as the above examples, but it is still important to avoid mass email mistakes. Emails to specific, targeted groups of students can streamline communication processes around events, cancellations and other important information and is a useful tool for administrators. The lists are usually correct when they are first created, but as time goes on and students move in and out of different groups, it can become difficult to tell if you have the most up to date information, putting you at risk of information being received by the wrong students or applicable students missing out.

However, there are two contributors to this maintenance – the school and the parents. If the lists are correct, but the contact information for the parents is wrong, the message is never going to reach its intended destination.

To make it easier for administrators, we have put together some tips to ensure that the message is getting through to the right people:

  1. Send regular reminders to parents to update their contact information with the school. The start of a new school term is always a good time to do this as newsletters aren’t too full with vital information and general housekeeping is expected.

  2. Send regular reminders to coaches, tutors and group leaders to check their student lists and ensure they are up to date. Again, this can be a start of the term activity where you can encourage group leaders to get into the habit of running a quick check of their lists.

  3. Miscommunication can also be an issue, so creating clear and concise messages can help to avoid this. State the important information at the start of a message with any actions required afterwards to help effectively communicate to parents what is going on and what they need to do.

Hopefully, the systems that you have in place will avoid a large scale embarrassment like that faced by Carnegie Mellon University, but taking extra steps to avoid smaller mix ups and miscommunications is also important. Remember that school communications is a two-way relationship so try to build a culture of the school and parents regularly updating information to ensure your messages get to the right people.

For more information on how to ensure a message gets through to parents, check out these helpful guides with tips, checklists and templates.

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