Published on 2015/04/23
Institutional leaders need to think through all the ways email addresses frame and support their divisions; they’re more than tools.
Institutional leaders need to think through all the ways email addresses frame and support their divisions; they’re more than tools.

Quick and easy question: What email address is posted on your program website or brochure as the general public-facing address? The most common ones, in my experience, follow the following template:, and

Think about this: how do those email addresses look as a marketing tool for your program? This “Contact us at” email address is usually the first point of contact for a student who has gone through a relatively rigorous research process. They have deemed you worthy of their investment and time. How will the student react to the email address they’re being asked to contact?

There are a few other issues to consider when it comes to the address here. If a staff member leaves, what happens to the emails going to that address, whether it’s specific or a general address to which they’re the first contact? Building on that, with a department-specific address, which employee responds to the messages?

Another factor to consider: what email addresses do instructors provide to students, both through the departmental website and through class resources? Most continuing education instructors are not full-time department staff, but community members or outside trainers. This is important on a few fronts. From a short-term marketing perspective, it can impact prospective students who do a great deal of research prior to enrolling. Maybe they have a question about a course they need answered prior to enrolling. From a long-term marketing perspective, what happens when a student reaches out to the instructor a few years after their course ends with a request for another class, a life update, or anything else, especially if the instructor is no longer affiliated with your program?

Here are a few ideas for making your program email address help sell for you and avoiding issues with instructor email addresses:

1. Generic Can Work

Use a generic but appropriate term for your external department email address. Info@ was the address to post back in 2002, but not anymore.

How about learn@, enroll@ or growprofessionally@? We use learn@ as it shows our mission of learning. This is printed on all material that is timeless (brochures, marketing items, etc.) Also, a fun side effect of that is when a student says it out loud, it sounds like “learn AT our university program”. Our prospective student is subtly telling themselves what to do when they read our email address.

The general email forwards to front office staff via an internal list so the right person can reply. The list members may change, but the public address stays the same.

2. Be Responsive When Directing to Staff

If you use a real staff name on your website, you need to be able to change it quickly if needed. There are definite advantages to using real names. It gives students a sense that they’re connecting with a real person. It ties a name and face to the query. More simply, it lets them know what name they need to use when addressing the message.

Our website has staff members’ names and their email addresses, as the website can be updated quickly and easily should someone leave. I once worked for a business that created a fake employee, complete with email address and voicemail, who could be the recipient of unwanted sales calls and spam.

Using a fake name for marketing purposes is a feasible (but not advisable) idea if you have high turnover in your front office.

3. Create Instructor Email Addresses

Our instructors used to provide their personal email address to students. After observing students write this down in their class notes or inside the provided textbook, I realized this wasn’t the most professional appearance. Moreover, it didn’t give students a sense that their instructor was directly connected to the university itself.

To overcome these issues, I created email addresses on our server for instructors, with the address being The provided address forwarded to the instructor’s personal account.

Should the instructor stop teaching for our program, we can set the forwarding address to our internal list, and answer any student inquires in the future. This has come in handy on a number of occasions. In one instance, we managed to respond to student questions about class materials a few years after their instructor had passed away unexpectedly. Had we not set up this message forwarding system, the student’s questions would have remained unanswered and ultimately would have reflected poorly on our department. To maintain a reasonable expectation of privacy, instructors are told that all emails to addresses on our domain are monitored and to not use the address for anything other than posting/sharing with students in their classes with our program.

It sounds trivial, but email addresses are your first window to the market. How the email address sounds and how the account works both reflect on the institution. Use this to your advantage and be conscious about the ways your CE program offerings can be expanded through smart email addresses.

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