Why use email signatures? A distinctive signature at the bottom of your email reinforces who you are as a company – solidifying the image of your brand in your recipient’s eyes.
Uniform signatures create brand consistency across a whole team. A branded signature creates a sense of trust with the recipient if he or she recognises your brand.
Consistency is key to email branding. The logo, graphics, and colours in your signature should match your website, brochures, business cards and letterhead. The style and formatting of your social media posts, e-newsletter graphics, and other marketing elements all converge to create your unique branding image.
Email signature guidelines
Keep your email signature – including the company logo – clean and simple.
In your email signature, include your:
Regulations now require business emails to contain a legal disclaimer, which will typically include confidentiality and copyright information. Using a legal disclaimer on your email signature guarantees that your disclaimer will appear on every email sent, avoiding the risk of fines or legal action.
An Example of a Legal Disclaimer:
“This message may contain confidential information only for the intended recipient(s). Should you receive this message by mistake, please inform me, delete this message from your mailbox, and do not forward it or any part of it to anyone else. Thanks very much for your cooperation and understanding.”
Optional Email Signature Inclusions:
Icons linking to your social media pages are a great way to invite customers to connect on a more personal level. In today’s tech-savvy world, most people prefer to communicate via social media. Make it easy and enjoyable for customers to contact you.
Easy readability is key. Ensure your signature is uncluttered by including only the most important icons and links. Ask a trusted colleague or friend to review your signature and offer honest feedback: Is the signature easy to read? Does the text all make sense?
Non-technical users commonly make the mistake of thinking that every email signature they create will appear in exactly the same format when their recipient opens the email.
Every email message consists of an HTML program transmitted from one computer (or electronic device) to the next. The recipient’s device reads the HTML code from your message and displays it based on its interpretation of the HTML instructions.
Email signatures coded with strong HTML are more likely to appear correctly and consistently – positively impacting your brand.
Are email disclaimers required?
Not always, but they’re highly recommended in most situations. However, new and existing regulations are forcing companies and organizations to protect their client’s privacy. It’s imperative for your company to comply with the appropriate regulations. Several key regulations are as follows:
In 2007 the European Union introduced a directive called “EU Directive 2003/58/EC”, which concerned emails sent by companies as part of their business operations. In accordance with previous legislation, the regulations that applied to written correspondence by letter or fax were extended to business emails and other electronic communication. The directive requires that all business emails must include: the company’s registration number; the place of registration; and the registered office address. Each Member State was required to bring these laws into force before 31 December 2006. Several key countries’ adoptions of the directive are:
If your business is a private or public limited company or a Limited Liability Partnership, the Companies Act 1985 requires all of your business emails (and your letterhead and order forms) to clearly include the following details: the company’s registered name (e.g. XYZ Ltd); the company’s registration number; place of registration (e.g. Scotland or England & Wales); and its registered office address. This information should also appear on your company’s website.
Enforcement of the mandatory information required is the responsibility of Trading Standards. The maximum fine for non-compliance is currently £1,000. An additional daily fine of up to £300 per day can be imposed for any continuing breach. And no, you can’t just provide a link to this information on your email disclaimer.
If the disclosure of the content of an email becomes the subject of a dispute, it can be argued before a court that the recipient should have known to not disclose the information. However, there is no legal authority for this and the ruling will depend on the court. What you attempt to disclaim will depend on the nature of your business, if your disclaimer is too wide it won’t stand up in court.
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment has implemented the EU directive into legislation with effect from 1 April 2007. The particulars which must be displayed by a company on its electronic communications include the name of the company; place of registration; registered number; registered office; the fact that the company is limited if it is exempt from the obligation to include this word in its name; the fact that it is being wound up if that is the case; any reference to share capital of the company must be to paid-up share capital. Failure to display the requisite information will constitute a criminal offence subject to a maximum fine of Є2,000.
Germany has implemented the EU directive as of 1 January 2007. The required particulars a company must provide for all electronic communications include the company’s registered name; its office location; court register; registration number; and the name of the managing director and the board of directors. Failure to include these details will subject the company to a maximum fine of Є5,000. Privacy statements intended to act unilaterally, confidentiality disclaimers, and liability disclaimers have no legal standing under German law.
As of 9 May 2007, all companies registered in France must state, in all electronic communication, the following: Company name; registration number; registry location; registered office; whether the company is the object of insolvency proceedings; if the body corporate is a commercial company having its registered office overseas, its name, legal form, address of its registered office, its registration number in the relevant country and, if appropriate, whether it is subject to insolvency proceedings; and, if appropriate, the fact that the company is run by a lease manager or an authorized management agent. Any infringement of the above-mentioned duties is subject to a fine of Є750 per infringement.
Italian law dictates companies must include the following in all electronic business communications: Company registered name; company registration number; place of registration; registered office address; and, if applicable, must clearly indicate if the company is being wound up and going into liquidation.
As of 4 May 2006, all companies are required to include their name, location and Central Business Register (CVR) number. This law applies to all companies and private limited companies.
In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires health care institutions to keep a record of their email communications and secure confidentiality of information. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) impose similar duties on financial institutions. Steep penalties can apply to those organizations that do not comply with their industry’s regulations. Therefore, in these industries, organizations are actually required to add disclaimers to their emails in order to protect the integrity of their patients or clients and to avoid any confidentiality breaches.
In the new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation Circular 230, the IRS requires tax advisors to add an email disclaimer to any emails including tax advice, expressly stating that the opinion cannot be relied upon for penalty purposes. The disclaimer must be near the top of an opinion in a typeface the same size or larger than the typeface of the tax advice.
With every country enforcing different laws and every court having a different opinion; email disclaimers can only truly be viewed on a case-by-case basis. The best practice in any situation is to have your own legal representatives create a disclaimer specific to your case and then strictly enforce it across your organisation. With email disclaimer legality such a grey area, it’s necessary to cover all your bases.
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