Coordinating with members, volunteers and administration council members across a large geographic or metropolitan area can be challenging. STC Houston coordinates with admin council members using Skype and Google Drive, and STC France keeps in touch with members using MailChimp. Erika Frensley describes how STC Houston uses Skype and Google Drive for STC Houston meetings and business. Toni Ressaire talks about using MailChimp and principles that would apply to any email software.
This webinar will be recorded.
About the Audience
This webinar is for STC community leaders, who are encouraged to register and attend online or watch the recording.
About the Speakers
Erika Frensley has been a technical writer for over 20 years, and a member of STC since the mid 90s. She has worked in the medical, software, oil and gas and financial industries. In STC Houston she has been a Satellite Director, Competitions Director and Manager, Newsletter Editor and Webmaster. She is currently the President of STC Houston for the first time.
Toni Ressaire works with companies and individuals in various countries providing consulting, training, technical documentation, and technical engineering. She is the owner/founder of Route 11 Publications, a print and digital book publishing company she started to help talented authors get their works published. Toni is the President of STC France and a founding member of Tech Writers Without Borders.
In an earlier post, I suggested creating Google accounts for each of the executive roles in your community. One of the base concepts was creating an Admin Google account that would act as the fallback for all the subsequent chapter accounts. Another service that Admin account can have is to own the rights to the community’s Google Drive.
Why Google Drive?
Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage for the account owner. That 15 GB is shared with Gmail and non-compressed Google Photos. If you only use your Admin account for admin purposes, that 15 GB will not be consumed by email attachments. Sure, there are other Cloud storage sites such as DropBox and OneDrive, but they only offer 2 GB and now 5 GB, respectively. Plus you’ve already created a host of Gmail accounts for your community, and Google Drive was built to integrate with Gmail accounts.
Google Drive has sharing features, so you can give people access to view or edit individual folders and files as needed. Always leave the Admin account with Edit rights to everything! When you apply for a Community Achievement Award, you can create a folder and share that (read-only) with the CAA judges so they can access all of your documentation.
Standard Word and Excel documents take up storage space on the Cloud. But with Google Drive, you have the option of transforming MS documents into Google Docs when you upload them via the web. Google offers Docs (Word), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (PowerPoint) as storage options on Google Drive. For the rest of this article I will refer to them collectively as Google Docs. When you convert a MS document to a Google Doc, it is stored on your Google Drive, but consumes no space. Your 15 GB quota will not be consumed by a Google Doc, regardless of the original size of the document in Word or PowerPoint. That being said, a Google Doc does not possess the same level of sophistication as a MS document, but for most chapter correspondence, it should suffice.
Google Docs on your Google drive are collaborative. Whenever an approved editor works on a document, a file history is listed for each document. Additionally, multiple people can edit a Google Doc at the same time. As a result of the joint-editing feature, multiple people in your group can be signed into the same document, such a the minutes for an admin council meeting, and watch the document be written in real time.
Using Google Drive
To set up a communal Google Drive for your community, sign into Google using your Admin account that I suggested you create here. Open the web version of Google Drive, and create a new folder named for your community, e.g. STCCAC for the Community Affairs Committee.
After you create the root folder for your community Google Drive, right-click on the folder and choose the Share option. Enter all the Gmail accounts you created for your community leaders, and give them Edit access. Now whenever you create a sub-folder, it will inherit the share settings from the parent folder.
Each of the people with which you shared the folder will get get an email telling them of the share. If they follow the link, it will show them the shared folder. They will have the option of adding the folder to their Google Drive, and it is recommended that they do so.
You can manually add folders and files to Google Drive via the web interface, or by downloading and installing a client app on your computer. If you use the web interface, look in your setting (gear icon in upper-right). It has a check box to automatically convert uploaded documents into Google Docs format.
So if you upload a whole directory of your legacy community documents and that check box is set, then they will all be converted to Google Docs. That may or may not be what you want, so be careful when setting that option.
Note: If you choose to convert your documents to the Google Doc format, you have the option of exporting them in a preferred file format, such as Word or PDF.
If you installed the app, you can upload files even more quickly. However the files will NOT be converted to Google Docs during an upload via the app. When using the app, it integrates with your Windows file manager and you can drag and drop files to the folder.
Note: If you do not have edit privileges on a folder, you can still drag and drop files to it, but it won’t sync with the rest of your collaborators.
Note: Be aware that when you upload a non-Google Doc, such as a PDF, the quota that is consumed is that of the uploader’s account, not of the host Google drive. So if you are going to import many files tied to a personal account, it may be best to switch to the Admin account before uploading the files.
Google Drive is not perfect. As noted above, quota consumption is based on the user’s account, not the base account. A user could revoke privileges for other users, locking them out completely. You can only be signed into one Google Drive account at a time. That means that if you are using a personal Google drive, you must be completely signed out of that account when uploading via the web. If you have a personal account defined in the app, then you cannot easily change that account setting.
Due to the ability to collaborate on files, Google Drive and Google Docs may be a great choice for your community’s legacy files. Be certain to designate a well-organized person to maintain the Admin account and file structure for the Google Drive so all collaborators can easily find their files. If you need to save space, you can convert MS files to Google Docs. Additionally, you can install an app to integrate Google Drive with your native file manager. You can then use your Google drive to automatically sync other community files, such as your passwords (in an encrypted tool such as KeePass) and your Quicken data files. Also, any community member who installs the app will automatically sync files when connected to the internet. Google Drive has some powerful tools and it integrates well with Gmail accounts.
Everyone wants to have a custom email address that fits their personality. That’s fine until your new chapter leader’s email is FuzzyBunnySnuggler25@email.biz, and it doesn’t look entirely professional on your chapter mailings. There are a few options out there to make your community email addresses look professional, and branded to suit your community. The first is using Gmail, and the second is using Email Forwarders in your website’s cPanel.
The first option is to create email accounts dedicated to the job roles of your chapter: president, VP, treasurer, secretary, programs, webmaster, etc. These emails would not be tied to a user, but to the job role. So when one volunteer steps down and the new volunteer fills their place, they have the history of past communications stored in the account. Contacts will be there, as will prior community planning conversations.
Create an Admin Gmail Account
In order to do this, first set up an Admin gmail account. I recommend using your community email@example.com, for example firstname.lastname@example.org for STC-MadeUpCommunity. All of the subsequent accounts you are going to create will use this account as the rescue account, if the password is lost. The recovery email account for the Admin account should be your soon-to-be-created President or Webmaster account.
This Admin account is key. Use it to create a Google Drive and share it with all the leadership role email accounts you are about to create. Then you can store all your community documents on the Admin’s Google Drive, and your documents won’t get lost between changes in command.
Create Role Gmail Accounts
After you create your Admin account, create role accounts for each of your chapter roles. I recommend using a consistent format that brands all of the email addresses together. Create an email naming pattern, such as email@example.com. For example, muc.president@gmail, or muc.treasurer@gmail. When you create the accounts, make the fallback email the Admin account for all of these. Also, I recommend leaving off the cell phone validation since next year the person with the cell phone may not be the role assigned to the email.
Email Forwarders in cPanel
So now you have all these Gmail accounts. The name on the account is branded to match your community nickname, so there is continuity between accounts. What if you want to personalize the email addresses even more by changing the email domain? That can be easily done using the email forwarders built into cPanel.
cPanel is the website toolbox associated with your chapter’s domain. You can manage your website FTP setting, view the file structure of your website, back up your site, and view error logs, among other tasks, in your cPanel. If your chapter is hosted by STC’s hosting solution, you’ll be given cPanel credentials when STC begins hosting. If you’ve lost these credentials, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to retrieve them, along with the website for the STC cPanel host.
Note: SIGs are hosted differently by STC and do not have access to cPanel. However you can contact email@example.com to create email forwarders for your SIG.
One of the easiest to use tools in cPanel is the email forwarder. When you create an email forwarder, it creates what looks like an email address branded with your domain. That forwarder is not an actual account; no email will be stored within it. Instead, when email is sent to that address, it will be seamlessly forwarded on to any other addresses you specify.
Once you open the Forwarders app, you’ll see a list of existing forwarders. If there are none, click Add Forwarder. In the new screen, enter the address to forward. Specify how you want the forwarder to appear, and what real account to forward to, such as the Gmail accounts I described earlier. In my example, I’m using the CAC website, so the domain is cac-stc.org. On your site, it will be whatever your domain is.
Each forwarder can be tied to one email address when you create the forwarder. However, you can add the same forwarder multiple times, and each time specify a different email address. This is handy when multiple people are sharing a job role, such as competition managers or if the president wants to be copied on all event registration emails. Just repeat the process above, entering the same Address to Forward. Then put a different Forward to Email Address value in each time.
Brand your chapter by completing the following tasks, as described above.
Create similarly-branded role accounts in a free email service like Gmail.
Create an Admin account first. Link all further accounts to that Admin account.
Store all the passwords for all the accounts in an encrypted password tool, like LastPass or KeePass.
If you used Gmail, take advantage of their cloud storage, and move your community’s files to the Google Drive owned by your Admin account.
By using role accounts, records of prior communications and contacts are maintained year to year, regardless of the person using the account.
If you want further email customization, sign into cPanel and create custom email forwarders that point to either your new Gmail accounts, or to the email addresses your leaders prefer to use. You do not need to use Gmail accounts for this feature to work.
If your chapter or SIG has found other solutions similar to the ones presented above, please respond in the comments and open a dialogue. These are best practices based on my experiences, but that doesn’t mean they are best practices for everyone.