Why did we switch to topic-based lists?
Lauren Lentini

We learned a lot of lessons from eNotify that we put into practice in our new product, Messages. Most of those changes have been very well received. One in particular has caused some confusion. 

In eNotify, there are about a dozen different ways you can add recipients to a message to be sent: you can add people individually, by group, by dynamic filter, by email address, by mailing list, by as many different mailing lists as you want. It was a free-for-all! 

In Messages, you have to send a message to a list. Just one list. Are we crazy?! Nope, we just want you to think about your mailing lists a little differently. We have a good reason for this.

If you’re like most schools, you set up your mailing lists in eNotify by type of person: 4th grade parents, class of 2020, alumni, upper school faculty and staff, and so on. When you composed the eNotice for the weekly newsletter, you sent it to all of those mailing lists. When Ashley in grade 4 came to school with a case of head lice, on the other hand, you just sent notice to the 4th grade parents mailing list. The system wasn’t broken, was it? Why fix it? 

Unfortunately, Ashley’s classmate Julian’s parents didn’t like receiving the newsletter week after week, so they unsubscribed from the mailing list. Now Julian has head lice, and his parents didn’t get any warning! 

That’s why we want you to change how you think about lists. The list should be about the type of email that gets sent to it, not the type of person who receives it. That way, parents can opt out of the weekly newsletter without losing access to important announcements. They can go to the Notifications section of their profile, read the name of each list and a description of it, and make an educated decision about what kind of communications they want to receive. They might even sign up for some lists by themselves!

When you add subscribers to a topic-based mailing list, though, you can still think about groups of people. You can even make those groups--in Group Manager! If you liked using dynamic filters in eNotify, you’ll love the ones in Group Manager. (They’re pretty much the same, but more powerful.) Here’s where you put your 4th grade parents, upper school faculty and staff, and board of directors. Then you can add those groups to as many mailing lists as you want. You can also manage the membership of those groups in a central location, instead of updating a bunch of mailing lists over and over. Check out our Help Center for more about using groups for lists.

Having groups ready to go in Groups Manager also comes in handy when you’re using another new feature of Messages: operational messages. 

As you read my example about head lice above, you might’ve been thinking that letting anyone unsubscribe from a message like that is a mistake. You’re not fulfilling your responsibility to the family if you don’t send that message to them. Well, you’d have a point. Even the anti-spam laws agree that there are some messages that have to go through, whether someone has unsubscribed or not. While curating your mailing lists by topic and managing your unsubscribes gets you pretty far, some emails--like health notifications--have just got to be sent! 

Those vitally important communications are your operational messages. These can only be sent to groups, not lists. So, if you already have groups made in Group Manager, they’re quickly available when something urgent happens. 

In conclusion, build your demographic groups in Group Manager, let your mailing lists be topic-based, and send your operational messages only when absolutely necessary. We’re not trying to tell you how to run your school messaging program, but some of those pesky anti-spam laws are. We’re just trying to give you a helping hand, and maybe a nudge in the right direction.

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