Creating a new form letter is a three-step process:
- Create a blank form letter.
- Add content to the letter version of the form letter.
- Migrate that content to the email version of the form letter.
Create a New Form Letter:
1. Navigate to Mail Room>Form Letters.
2. Click the "New Form" button.
3. Give the form a name. You will find this form by name in the future, so be as clear as possible, and provide enough information to differentiate it from similar form letters.
4. Set the status. The status you choose will depend on the letter's state of approval and your office workflow. The status options are typically used to represent the following:
- Assigned: The form letter has been drafted in part or in full but is not ready to be reviewed by another staffer, such as the Legislative Director. Say, for example, you're a Legislative Correspondent, and you've just begun work on a standard issue response form, but you're not ready to send it to a supervisor for review. Or, you'd like to assign the task of drafting this letter to another staffer. In both cases, you might set the status to "Assigned." Outgoing mail using form letters marked "Assigned" cannot be emailed and will not be printed as when a Batch is sent out.
- Pending Approval: The form letter has been drafted and is ready to be reviewed. You might use this setting in conjunction with the staffer assignment (which we'll see in step 6) to assign your form to a coworker for approval. Outgoing mail using form letters marked "Pending Approval" cannot be emailed and will not be printed as part of batches.
- Approved: The form letter has been reviewed and approved and is ready for use.
- Rework: The form letter has been reviewed but needs more work before it can be approved. You might use this setting in conjunction with the staffer assignment (which we'll see in step 6) to assign your form to a coworker for reworking. Outgoing mail using form letters marked "Rework" cannot be emailed and will not be printed as part of batches.
- Archived: The form letter is no longer in use. Form letters set as "Archived" will not be available when logging new correspondence. They are viewable from the main Form Letter Library using the status filters in the righthand sidebar.
6. Choose a staffer. You'll probably want to leave it set as yourself if you're still working on it, but you can also assign it to another staffer to draft or approve. Some offices prefer that the originator of the form letter remain the staffer assigned, while others like to move it between staffers based on the office's review process.
7. Select a template. More often than not you'll choose the default letter option, but if you use more than one kind of letterhead or address block format, you can select it here.
8. Add notes. You can add anything you like - letter author, date of origin, summary of contents - and it will be included in the form letter history.
9. Choose the visibility of the form letter. Mail Room only will make it so its only seen when assigning form letters from the inbox. When a form is Casework only, the form will only show up when working on casework. For Anywhere visibility, the form will be available for use when working on legislative responses or cases.
10. Click "Create." Your form letter has been created, and you can now edit it.
Add Content to the Letter Version:
1. Click Edit Document. If you are using Internet Explorer, this will open the form letter immediately in Microsoft Word. If you are getting a message about changing settings, click here. If you are using another browser other than IE, you will have to first download the form from Fireside, open it, make your edits and save it to your desktop, and then upload it back into Fireside. Note: Click here to see a list of available merge fields for formatting.
2. When you are finished making changes (if using IE), click the save disc icon in Word and close the document. Note: If you are using a browser other than IE, you will need to first save the file on your hard drive/desktop using a specific name and then upload it using the Modify Document box from which you initially downloaded the form for edits.
3. If using IE, after you close the Word document, you just need to confirm the changes and press "Save." This will save your edits straight to Fireside. Note: If you are using a browser other than IE, you will need to upload the document into Fireside. First, select the document for uploading and press "Save" within the Modify Document popup box. Then click "OK" to confirm the upload.
***After customizing the letter version of your Form Letter, you should customize your email version. You will see a Letter and Email tab in the top-right corner of the page. Click on the Email tab to update that version.
Migrate the Content to the Email Version:
1. Click on the Email tab in the upper-right corner.
2. You do not need to retype your form letter when working on the email version. Just simply click "Copy From Letter" and choose "Plain Text (recommended)" to copy the text from the letter version of your form letter. If you had any special formatting in the letter version, you can choose "Rich Formatting" to preserve those specifics.
3. Decide on a subject line for this email form letter.
4. Format the text of this email. Should it include attachments? On the righthand side, click "Attachments," and upload the file you need to attach. You could make use of this feature by including a privacy authorization form or a one-pager on legislation your boss introduced.
5. Click "Save."
6. Preview the email version. The preview will use the default email template on your account. If there are two signature blocks (or [Date] merge codes) in the email preview, you will need to remove the extra signature block (or [Date] code) from within the text editor to prevent duplicate information from being provided. Simply delete the signature block all the way up to the last line of text that you want to keep and click "Save." Preview the email once again to ensure it looks good. You can also send yourself a test email of the form letter when viewing the preview!
If you want to edit an existing form letter, learn the steps here.