The problem with ”External to organization” email message warnings

External to organization message warnings in emails are messages that appear on emails that are sent from outside your organization. They are intended to alert you to the potential risks of opening attachments or clicking links from unknown or untrusted senders. They are also meant to prevent spoofing, phishing, and other malicious email attacks.

they can appear like this

Do not open attachments or follow links within an email, if you are not familiar with the sender.

Why are external to organization message used at all?

Some of the reasons why external to organization message warnings are used in emails are:

  • To protect your organization from cyber threats. External emails may contain malware, ransomware, spyware, or other harmful software that can infect your devices or network. They may also contain links to fake websites that can steal your personal or financial information. External to organization message warnings can help you identify and avoid these emails.
  • To comply with security policies and regulations. Your organization may have certain rules or standards for handling external emails, such as encrypting sensitive data, verifying sender identity, or reporting suspicious activity. External to organization message warnings can help you follow these policies and regulations.
  • To educate and raise awareness. External emails may not always be malicious, but they may still pose some risks. For example, they may contain inaccurate or outdated information, spam, or unsolicited offers. External to organization message warnings can help you be more cautious and discerning when dealing with external emails.

Really though? Are external to organization messages really needed?

External to organization message warnings have major drawbacks, such as:

  • Creating a negative impression. External to organization message warnings may make the sender feel unwelcome or unprofessional. They may also damage the trust and rapport between the sender and the recipient. This may affect the quality and effectiveness of communication and collaboration.
  • Reducing user attention and engagement. External to organization message warnings may become too common or repetitive, causing users to ignore or overlook them. They may also distract users from the actual content or purpose of the email. This may reduce user attention and engagement with external emails.
  • Increasing user frustration and confusion. External to organization message warnings may not always be clear or consistent. They may vary depending on the email service provider, the email client, or the user settings. They may also conflict with other security features or indicators, such as digital signatures or encryption icons. This may increase user frustration and confusion with external emails.

“Hey I email you everyday! we’ve been working together for six years!”

Does this sound familiar? An external company that works closely with a larger company can feel annoyed or offended by the constant reminder that they are not part of the major organization. They may also feel that the warning is unnecessary, as they already have a trusted and established relationship with the larger company.

The larger company could consider excluding or customizing the “external to organization message warning” for the external company, if they work closely with them. This could help to avoid any negative feelings or misunderstandings between the two parties. They could also communicate their concerns or feedback to the larger company, and request them to change or remove the warning.

A negative effect on your company’s brand

IT departments may have good intentions when they add these warnings and disclaimers to external emails, as they want to protect the organization from cyber threats and comply with security policies and regulations. However, they may not consider the image of the company, as these warnings and disclaimers may create a negative impression on external recipients, reduce the response and engagement rate of emails, and create confusion and inconsistency in email communication.

External to organization message warnings in emails could have a negative effect on your company’s brand in several ways, such as:

  • Damaging the trust and reputation of your company. External to organization message warnings may imply that your company is not trustworthy or legitimate, especially if you are sending emails to potential customers, partners, or investors. They may also make your company look unprofessional or insecure, as they suggest that you are not confident in your own email security or identity verification. This may harm the trust and reputation of your company in the eyes of external recipients.
  • Reducing the response and engagement rate of your emails. External to organization message warnings may discourage external recipients from opening, reading, or replying to your emails, as they may perceive them as risky, spammy, or irrelevant. They may also distract external recipients from the actual content or purpose of your emails, as they may focus more on the warning than on the message. This may reduce the response and engagement rate of your emails, which could affect your marketing, sales, or communication goals.
  • Creating confusion and inconsistency in your email communication. External to organization message warnings may not always be clear or consistent, as they may vary depending on the email service provider, the email client, or the user settings of external recipients. They may also conflict with other security features or indicators, such as digital signatures or encryption icons. This may create confusion and inconsistency in your email communication, which could lead to misunderstandings, errors, or disputes.

Therefore, you may want to consider the pros and cons of using external to organization message warnings in emails, and weigh them against your company’s brand image and objectives. You may also want to customize or exclude the warnings for certain domains or recipients that you work closely with, or use alternative methods to secure and verify your email communication. 

There are different ways to configure external to organization message warnings in email, depending on the email service provider. For example, in Microsoft 365, you can enable a native external email warning that adds a callout to the message header12, or create a mail flow rule that prepends a customizable disclaimer2. In Google Workspace, you can turn external recipients warnings on or off3. You can also exclude certain domains from the external email warning if you work closely with them2.

If you want to learn more about external to organization message warnings in email, you can check out the following web pages:

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