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Email Marketing Guidelines

Guidelines for sending promotional emails and complying with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Marketing emails differ from personal emails. A marketing email refers to any "commercial electronic mail message." These messages have the "primary purpose of commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose)." Any email promoting any extension product or service should be considered a marketing email.

If the listserv is being used strictly for board members, employees, faculty, or staff within the college, the email is not considered a marketing email.

In 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act was signed into law and empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate and control the use of commercial electronic mail messages. Each violation of CAN-SPAM is subject to heavy financial penalties, up to $16,000 per email.

If you are sending an email for marketing purposes the email and listserv setup must follow these guidelines to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance:

  • It is best practice to receive permission from the subscriber before placing them on an email list.
  • The email should be clearly and properly branded so it is clear the communication is from the College of Agricultural Sciences and/or Penn State Extension.
  • When someone subscribes to your list, make sure you are only emailing them what they subscribed to and the email provides value and relevancy.
  • Misleading subject lines and "from" address / headers are prohibited.
  • The approved College of Ag Sciences footer, including opt-out information, must be used in each email deployed to a listserv.
  • Trademarks must be called out using the appropriate superscripted “TM” or ® symbol within the email body. In addition, the trademark attribute should be placed after the email body, and before the footer.
  • Opt-out (unsubscribe) requests must be processed within 10 days.
  • Subscriber privacy and data must be protected.
  • Avoid over-emailing. Do not SPAM the subscriber.
  • Purchasing, sharing, or selling of email addresses is prohibited.

Opt-out/Unsubscribe Email Footer

Ag Communications created instructions to Add an Unsubscribe Footer to a LISTSERV. If you are not using a LISTSERV, you can still visit this page to view an Email Footer Example.

Emailing Outside of the United States

Note: CAN-SPAM only pertains to electronic communications sent to subscribers residing in the United States. If you have subscribers residing outside of the USA, or using a foreign email address, please contact Ag Science Marketing and Communications for foreign legislation and regulations.

Additional Resources