3 email delivery protocols to help pitches get delivered

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One of the things I’m most surprised at as a former email marketing industry professional is how few organizations have taken the time to do the basic setup steps needed for maximum email deliverability. Forget, for a moment, about clever creative, list growth, great pitches, and advanced strategy. So many organizations don’t have their basic deliverability requirements met to even get emails into inboxes, much less have them be read.

This is especially important for PR professionals doing any kind of pitching via email. If your company’s email setup isn’t configured or is misconfigured, that pitch you’re about to send to a blogger may not even get there. Let’s look at the three basic protocols that you need to have set up in order to make sure your emails are even reaching inboxes. This is technical stuff, so share this post with your IT department or technology vendor.


This is one of the oldest standards, Sender Policy Framework. It’s a single line of relatively obscure text that is placed in your Domain Name System (DNS) records. SPF is used by email systems to determine the legitimacy of an email by looking at where mail is actually coming from versus where an organization like your company says mail should be coming from. If there’s a mismatch, a receiving mail system may mark it as spam or just throw it away outright.


DomainKeys Identified Mail is a form of encryption, a public/private key system that authenticates a message. Think of it as a digital envelope for your mail, an envelope that shows whether the message inside has been tampered with. As with SPF, if a message fails a DKIM test, indicating that its contents may have been tampered with (a common spammer’s trick), the receiving mail system may flag it as spam or delete it without ever delivering it.


The new Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance standard, or DMARC, is the latest anti-spam method used by receiving mail systems to weed out spam and forged messages. It’s a combination of SPF and DKIM (and relies on both) to ensure that a message is coming from who it says it’s coming from and the contents of the message are intact and untampered with.

Implementing all three of these standards doesn’t guarantee that your emails to your journalism or media sources will get delivered 100% of the time, but it greatly increases the odds, especially with major email systems like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo (many of which provide cloud-based services to corporations using the same anti-spam technology as their consumer services). All of them are free to implement for any organization, and require only that an IT administrator make the necessary changes to your company’s DNS records. If you use an email service provider or marketing automation vendor, they should have helped you get these 3 protocols set up when you signed up with them.

If getting to the inbox is important to your organization, get this set up!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on February 25, 2013 in Email marketing, Technology

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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