Communications are where the template and population are joined together and your messages are generated and sent. You can set destinations for the communication, assign approvers for the message, set callbacks for message delivery, and schedule when the messages in the communication are generated and sent.

Creating a communication

Communications are created from the screen.

Template Chooser

If you have any dynamic templates or no templates at all, you will be prompted with the Template Chooser. This window will allow you to choose among your dynamic templates and the Curated Templates. You also have the option to click the More Templates... button to go to the communication edit panel and choose from all of the available templates. Either way, you will choose your population and provide additional communication configuration on the communication edit panel.

With the Template Chooser you can filter the available templates based on type (Curated, Email, Print, or Twilio) or by tag. You may also change the display from a grid of thumbnails to a list of various details about the templates.

Editing Communications

The communication edit panel allows you choose from all of your populations and templates, provide content for dynamic templates, add destinations for your messages, and set additional configuration options for the communication.

Communication Name

A name for the communication is required. It should be unique and descriptive.

Communication Type

A communication can of two types: E-Mail, Letter, or Twilio. The communication type should match the equivalent template type. The type of communication you select for this field will automatically filter the templates for the appropriate templates.

Choosing a population

Members on a communication are derived from populations. You can either specify a known population or create a custom population for the communication using a limited selection of population types. If you have a large number of populations, you can filter the populations in the list by clicking the filter button. From there you can filter on tag, name, or data source type.

If the chosen population is parameterized, you will be prompted for the requested parameters. See Population Parameters for more information.

Choosing a template

The content of the communication is driven by the template. You can either specify a known template or create a custom template. If you have a large number of templates, you can filter the templates in the list by clicking the filter button. From there you can filter on tag, name, and template type.

If the chosen template is a dynamic template, you will be prompted for the requested placeholders. See Placeholders for more information.

Communication Type-specific fields

Depending on which Communication Type you choose, you may be prompted for additional required fields:

For Type Field Purpose
E-Mail Subject The subject line for the e-mail message. Variable substitution allowed.
E-Mail From Name The name of that should appear in the "FROM" of the e-mail. From addresses are sent in the format From Name <From Address>. Variable substitution allowed.
E-Mail From Address

The e-mail address of that should appear in the "FROM" of the e-mail. From addresses are sent in the format From Name <From Address>. Variable substitutions are allowed.

From addresses should be @uiowa.edu addresses. You can use addresses that are not @uiowa.edu, however, they will not be DKIM signed and run the risk of being discarded as junk or spam messages by the recipient's email provider. DKIM is an important mechanism to validate that only authorized mail servers are sending mail for users.

Manage Assets

See Assets

Destinations

Each communication can have one or more destinations. The communication will be delivered to each destination, however, at present you can not have two destinations of the same type (i.e. you can't send to two FTP hosts).

E-Mail Server

Messages can be delivered via E-Mail. The following options are available:

Reply-To Address
The address replies should be directed toward. If not provided, replies will go to the FROM address. Multiple addresses are supported by separating the addresses with a semicolon. Addresses may also be in the format Full Name <first-last@uiowa.edu>. Variable substitution is supported.
Bounce Address
The address the message will be returned to if the message is unable to be delivered. If not specified, the message will be returned to the FROM address if there is a delivery problem. Only one address can be provided and must be from a uiowa.edu domain. Variable substitution is supported.
Subscription List
You can specify which subscription list the user can unsubscribe from if they no longer want to receive messages for that topic.
Link Tracking
Dispatch will rewrite URLs embedded in the message so visits to those links can be tracked. Please make sure your links are syntactically correct for the link rewriting to work correctly. You can disable link click tracking so URLs are not rewritten. See Link Click Report for more information.
Open Tracking
Dispatch will track when the message is opened by the recipient's e-mail client using an invisible image. You can disable this capability. See Open Report for more information.

Looking to see how to do CC or BCC in your communication? See answer in the FAQ.

Printer

Messages can be rendered to a PDF and and then sent to a printer queue. A limited number of printers are supported. Once you select a printer, you have additional options:

  • Tray: The tray that job will print from
  • Print Cover Sheet: If the job should be proceeded by a cover sheet
    • Cover Sheet Message: A message to that is displayed at the top of the cover sheet (eg. Attention: John Doe)
    • Tray: The tray the cover sheet should print from. Cover sheets might be different colors to help separate print jobs.

File System

Messages can be rendered to a PDF and saved to the file system on Dispatch's servers. There isn't a really compelling reason to use this destination.

FTP Server

Messages can be rendered to a PDF and then transferred to a remote FTP/SFTP/FTPS server.

  • Host: The host you will be transferring the files to/
  • Port: The port the host listens on for the specified connection type. If not specified the default port will be used (SSH=22, FTP=21, FTPS=990)
  • Username: The user to connect with.
  • Password: The password to use. Passwords are encrypted when stored.
  • File Name: The path and filename to use on the remote host.

Files Service

Messages can be rendered and placed as artifacts into the ITS-AIS Files service.

  • Username: The user to connect with.
  • Password: The password to use. Passwords are encrypted when stored.
  • Metadata: These are key/value pairs you may want to associate with the destination are:
    • ttl: The retention period you want the file to persist (e.g., 4years, 1day, 10months)
    • production: 1 or 0

When an object is placed into the Files Service, the service returns a unique identifier. This value is added to the member attributes with the key file_uuid. Communications that use this destination typically have a callback that includes both a unique identifier for the member and the file_uuid.

More information about Files Service.

Twilio SMS

Messages can be sent to Twilio and delivered as SMS (Text) messages. You will need to have your own Twilio account setup or arrange to use a subaccount provided by ITS.

When sending a message through a Twilio destination, your population must include an attribute called toPhone.

See How to send SMS messages for more details on sending SMS messages through Dispatch.

Twilio Voice

Messages can be sent to Twilio and delivered as voice calls. You will need to have your own Twilio account setup or arrange to use a subaccount provided by ITS.

When sending a message through a Twilio destination, your population must include an attribute called toPhone.

See How to place voice calls for more details on placing voice calls through Dispatch.

Callbacks

Callbacks can be issued either when the entire communication finishes sending, after each message sends, or after each message send failure. Callbacks can be either POST or GET requests with optional saved credentials utilized. See Callbacks for how callbacks work.

Notifications

E-Mail notifications are sent to the specified people under the following circumstances:

  • When there is a batch pending approval (if the "bypass approval" checkbox is not checked)
  • If there are invalid email addresses
  • When a communication completes
  • If a batch ends in an error state

You can control when you receive the notifications by adjusting the "When batch completes, send notifications when there are" option to: ERRORS, WARNINGS, or ALL (includes all levels)

Disable/Bypass

Once a communication has any generated messages associated with it, the communication can only be disabled; not deleted. After the communication is initially saved and it is of type "E-Mail", the option to by-pass the approval process is enabled. It is suggested that you leave the approval process enabled until you are comfortable with the communication running on its own. It would be unfortunate to accidentally send out a communication with mistakes or to the wrong population.

Communication Activity

When a message delivery batch is scheduled or has executed it is recorded on the Communication page. By default you can see the most recent 50 batches executed (with the ability to see 100, 500 or all batches in the history). You can also filter by the status and visibility of the batch job. You can drill into the members of a batch by clicking the date of the batch. More info about Batch details.

Scheduling the communication

Once a communication has been saved you will have the option to schedule the communication for generation and delivery. After clicking the Schedule Communication button the population and message will be generated in a preview capacity to alert of you any errors or problems. Clicking the Schedule Communication button again will present the user with the scheduling options. Communications can be scheduled for once, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. You can setup multiple schedules to achieve hourly scheduling if you wish.

If you wish your schedule to skip weekends and holidays, you can check the Exclude Weekends/Holidays checkbox. The following holidays will be skipped:

  • New Years Day
  • July Fourth
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Friday
  • Christmas (including the additional day the University is closed)

You can also have a Public Archives created when the communication has completed.

Schedules can be viewed on the main Campaigns screen.

After your communication is scheduled, it will progress through a series of steps as it makes its way through Dispatch's sending engine. See Message Processing for more information.

Clone a communication

You can easily clone existing communications. Upon clicking the More Actions button and then the Clone option, you will have an exact copy of the communication with a unique name prefixed with Copy of. You can then edit that cloned communication and change any of its properties.

Move a communication

After you've been using Dispatch a while, you might need to do some reorganization. You can move communications to different campaigns quickly by clicking the More Actions button and then the Move option. You will then choose a different campaign to house the communication.

Archive/Delete Communication

If a communication has not been sent, you have the option to delete the communication through the More Actions button. If the communication does have batches associated with it, it can only be archived. Any pending schedules for the communication will be voided. You can see archived communications using the filter on the Communication list screen.

Viewing communication history

All changes to a communication are audited so it is possible to view the changes you've made to a communication. You can get to the history of the changes made on a communication from the link at the top of the communication screen.

On the communication history page, there will be a listing of all the versions of the communication. You can view a snapshot of the communication by clicking the timestamp link on the left, view a side-by-side comparison or restore the communication.

You can compare two revisions from either the history list view or the snapshot view. The comparison allows you to see what changed between revisions to help you isolate particular changes you might be interested in.

Restoring a communication

If you have a need to restore a communication to a previous version you can do that by viewing the history of the communication by clicking the last updated link at the top of the communication page. From either the communication history listing page, or on a particular history snapshot page, you can click the Restore button to replace the current version of the communication with the a previous revision. You will be prompted to confirm the restoration. Most aspects of the communication will be restored. Those are:

  • Content
  • From and Subject configuration
  • Destination configuration
  • Population and Template configuration
  • Callback configuration
  • Custom AdHoc Population and/or Template content (if applicable)

Bulk Actions

You can perform bulk actions on communications from the Campaign's Communication list page. The available bulk actions are to Move or Archive multiple communications at a time. You can select all the visible communications by clicking the checkbox in the header row.

After you check the boxes next to the communciations you want to perform a bulk action upon, you can click the Bulk Action button and choose the desired action.