Role of Branding in Direct Mail/E-mail

How to Create a Branded Happy Birthday Card for Your Business in Microsoft Word

A hand-written note in a branded birthday card goes a long way for showing your employees and your clients that your business is professional and that you care.

Thankfully, the process is easy.  I’m going to take you through the steps of making a folded 5×7” branded birthday card in Microsoft Word.

1. Open Microsoft Word and create a New Blank Document.  Change the margins of the page by selecting the Layout tab (at the top), clicking the Margins button, selecting Custom Margins, and changing the Top, Bottom, Left, and Right margins to .25 inches.

2. Click the Insert tab (at the top), click Text Box within the Text section, and select Simple Text Box.  Click the outline of the rectangle, hover over the center handle of the bottom line, and click and drag downward to increase the size just a bit. Then, right click the rectangle, choose More Layout Options…, click the Size tab, and input a Height of 10”. Next, select Absolute within the Width section and input 7”; click the Position tab and uncheck “Move object with text” from the Options section.  Right click the rectangle and select Format Shape.  Format the Fill as No Fill and the Line as a Solid Line, Black, 1pt in Width, and Dashed. 

3. Under the Format Shape heading, click Text Options, and select the icon to the furthest right that says Layout & Properties on mouseover. Change the Vertical Alignment to Bottom and input 0” for the Top, Bottom, Right, and Left margins. Click the content within the rectangle, which will select everything, and press delete.  Then repeat step 2 except select Draw Text Box instead of Simple Text Box and make the size of this text box 6.9” in height by 4.9” in width.  Within the Position tab, select Alignment within the Horizontal section and Centered from the drop down to its immediate right; change the Absolute position within the Vertical section to 5.5”.  Format the Fill as No Fill and the Line as No Line.

4. Set the alignment to centered by pressing Ctrl + E; then, type “Happy Birthday”.  Press the enter key to advance a couple lines spaces and insert your logo (Insert tab >  Pictures > This Device > browse to the image file for your logo > Insert).

Now you’re obviously going to want to do some formatting.  I added some line spaces, decreased the size of our logo to 1” in height, and changed the font of “Thank You” to Candellion in 80 pt.

5. Then, save your file, print on card stock, and cut!

Good luck! 

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, we’d love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page.

May 1 – 7:  Celebrate National Small Business Week

A few weeks ago, we told you about National Small Business Week in 2022.  (See Today’s Tip: Bridge Building and National Small Business Week 2022 – Brand Building for Small Business.)  Today, we’re just reminding you that the time is NOW!

The statistics supporting the importance of small businesses are always compelling.  For instance, smallbizgenius.net (using a variety of recognized sources) notes:

  • There are 32.5 million small businesses in the US.
  • 48.9% of small businesses survive five years or more.
  • 77% of small business owners say they feel optimistic about the future of their companies.
  • 50% of all small businesses are operated from home.
  • 82% of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems.
  • Small businesses account for 44% of US economic activity.

See 40+ Small Business Statistics: The Ultimate 2022 List (smallbizgenius.net) for more.

With small businesses forming such an integral part of the economy in the United States, we should all take time to celebrate the importance of our local business community.  

What Local Business Owners Can Still Do Now

While National Small Business Week will be underway shortly, a small business owner still has a number of ways to participate.

  • Write a press release about the celebration and your business, announcing upcoming events, sales, celebrations, etc. (See our article about writing our own in 2020.)
  • Send customers and staff a thank you note, letting them know that you appreciate their importance to your success and reminding them that their support also helps keep the national economy strong.  (Check out our “How To” piece on creating your own thank you cards.)
  • Use your social media to call attention to National Small Business Week and share some of the many resources available.
  • Participate in and support other National Small Business activities in your region.  To help you identify relevant events, go to the SBA web site, which provides an easy-to-use tool.  All you need to do is provide a zip code, and you will get a list of functions in an area up to a 200 mile radius. [See National Small Business Week (sba.gov).]  You just may find a quick and easy way to support this cause. 
  • And . . . while you are at this site, check out all of the many very useful tools the Small Business Administration (SBA) makes available, including a virtual summit May 2 – 5.

With the week’s observance about to get underway for 2022, you have no time to waste.  However, you can also consider any time spent now a great long-term investment in your early planning for National Small Business Week 2023!

Pays to Be “Best of”

Recently, my local newspaper conducted an annual “Best of” campaign/competition among area businesses.  The idea is to have subscribers vote for the best examples of local businesses across numerous categories.   The process spans several months and ends with an award ceremony at an area restaurant during which the winning platinum, gold, and silver winners receive their plaques and 15 minutes of fame.  The winners are announced and/or spotlighted in a special edition of the newspaper (which, coincidentally, seems to be a popular venue for winning businesses to take out ads congratulating their employees and constituents).

While some cynics might pay the greatest amount of attention to the potential for ad revenue generated by this process for the paper, I happen to believe a great service is being offered to local businesses – providing an opportunity to earn publicity and bragging rights by being identified as a customer favorite by the customers themselves.

Awards can be a great way of calling attention to your brand.  Very often, these local contests have so many very specific categories, your chance of finding the right one (and ultimately winning!) are good.

If you are wondering just how common these contests are, I suggest you do an Internet search of the term “best of” business awards or some other similar variation, and I believe you will be surprised by the large number of specialized local, regional, and national activities of this kind that exist.  If you do not find one that seems likely to be suitable for your business, I would very frankly be quite surprised.

If, on the other hand, you question whether participation in such an exercise really provides much benefit to the business, “According to a research study by Hendricks & Singhal of the University of Western Ontario and Georgia Institute of Technology, it was revealed that more than 600 quality corporate award winners had 37 percent more sales growth and 44 percent higher stock price return than their peers.” (Source: Business.com)

Also, I suggest you talk to the many candidates who wage extensive campaigns to encourage voters to nominate and vote for their operations. 

Speaking from Experience . . .

You see, I also have some personal experience with “Best of” successes of this kind and found lots of value in linking the building of our brand to recognition.  Any label that identifies you as one of the best of pretty much anything is helpful.

The specific example I’m remembering dates back many years.  My employer was a fairly small local firm in the process of becoming a regional operation with national aspirations.   As you are no doubt aware, getting an audience that knows you one way to begin seeing you a bit differently can be very challenging (which is also the reason rebranding takes time and effort).  Although we probably had no right to believe we stood a chance of winning, we entered a contest that was naming the Best Large Place to Work in Pennsylvania.  (Best “small” company was a separate category . . . and the one we’d have preferred to use as our niche because we thought we’d compete more successfully; however, we had just a few too many employees.)

Needless to say, a considerable amount of time, energy, and resources were devoted to this process and assembling the extensive materials used to make our case.  This particular contest also involved a survey of all our existing employees, a task that required some fairly extensive coordination and choreography to collect sufficient data and to do so in a timely manner.

Much to our surprise at the time, we were named the 2nd Best Large Place to Work in Pennsylvania.  Having your brand recognized in this new way by a credible, independent, third-party source provided some immediate momentum to our efforts to convince our audience and constituents that we had, indeed, become a regional player . . .  while also giving them grounds to believe us when we said we’d someday perform on a national stage!

Upon winning, we immediately prepared a press release (in addition to that of the contest sponsor) to promote our victory.  We then disseminated this information as widely as possible and encouraged our readers to check the contest background material provided by the contest organizers.   Needless to say, we immediately adopted the recognition as part of our brand and brand iconography . . . and we began including the information on all sales literature, as part of our company boilerplate description, in various locations across our web site, and in all appropriate corporate correspondence.   Furthermore, we were able to use this designation as part of our self-promotion for many years because recognition of this “Best of” kind tends to have a pretty good shelf life – all of which made our original investment in time and resources very worthwhile and a bargain for the return we received.

That said, we did not win every contest we ever entered . . .but had enough success to consider activities of this kind to be part of our overall branding strategy!

The Lesson to Be Learned

My above example is just one of many ways in which “Best of” successes can be used to shape your brand.  For instance, a small privately owned area drug store has used our local newspaper competition to build a reputation for having the “Best Sandwiches” in town.  Word has spread, so the sandwich shop was able to start experimenting with take-out dinner entrees as well.   While the paper’s publicity was essential to this expanded rebranding of the pharmacy, the fact that the subs they made really are terrific certainly helped!

Similarly, several companies have found sufficient value in these contests to buy paid advertising that asks people to vote for their businesses.  While I don’t necessarily advocate this later approach as necessary, I offer the information as further evidence of the need to seriously consider identifying and participating in “Best of” activities suitable to your needs.

However, the local pharmacy’s experience is instructive in yet another way because:

In the end, you can’t ever talk the talk without being able to walk the walk!!

Your participation in such contests is just a means of calling attention to qualities that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.  Then again, isn’t that part of the basic mission of branding.

Personal Branding and the “Newspaper Test”

Photo Credit: Wikipiedia

At this point, most everyone has heard or seen the unfortunate occurrence between Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars, so I’m not going to bother summarizing.  (If you’re interested, here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Smith–Chris_Rock_slapping_incident)

You’ve most likely already heard more opinions than desired, too, so I’m going to try to keep my personal two cents out of the conversation (though I apologize in advance if I’m not wholly successful on that front).  I’d like to take a quick look at the situation from a personal branding perspective.

When your name and face are a brand, everything is harder.  There’s no time for meetings or extended deliberation, because every public word you say and action you take contributes to the ever-changing mold shaping your brand.

Prior to the Oscars, Will Smith had done a pretty remarkable job.  He started his career chanting, “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” as the Fresh Prince with DJ Jazzy Jeff.  I smile feeling a little silly even typing these collections of words, though as a child of the 80s and a teenager of the 90s, all these phrases rolled right off my tongue. 

Will Smith managed to use this start in his career as a springboard to eventually become a distinguished musician and actor with a slew of awards and accolades.  For people of my age, we grew up with the Fresh Prince and had the pleasure of watching as he evolved into something extraordinary.  Talented.  Accomplished.  Respected.  Honorable.  Now my children (12 and 14) are also fans . . . thirty-ish years since I was their age and getting jiggy with it.  Now, I’m feeling old as I type.

Anyway, I was at an extended family dinner when someone had caught the scene live.  He recounted the events for everyone, and the general consensus among our group was “good for him” (meaning Will Smith).  Having only a quick summation of the events and my faith in a strong personal brand spanning most of my life, I was inclined to believe Will Smith was in the right, too.  However, my 12-year-old son, who sometimes struggles with his own big emotions, was in the room, and the support just felt wrong.  I said (thinking mostly of him but in response to all the vocal supporters): you just never know in those situations . . . when your emotions are pounding inside of you and urging you to act . . . whether those actions will ultimately be the “right” reaction.  My son wasn’t actively involved in the discussion, so I question what (if any) of the conversation sunk in, but I do know I heard Will Smith cursing at Chris Rock echo from his phone numerous times in the days that would follow.

I digress. 

Thinking before acting means inaction in the moment, and I understand that’s dangerous territory with possible repercussions as serious as reacting incorrectly or inappropriately.  With my son, I’m going to stick with inaction being the better bet.  For an adult whose every action (or lack thereof) is reflecting a brand, my suggestion would be this:  take 30 seconds and evaluate the situation using the “newspaper test.”

Famous billionaire Warren Buffett, whose personal brand is near irreproachable, encourages his hundreds of thousands of employees to think of two measures before acting:  first — legality; then – transparency.  If illegal, stop there.  If legal but still questionable, think about the situation being described by an intelligent though unfriendly reporter in the newspaper the next day and being read by family, friends, and neighbors.  If you’re comfortable and confident with that visualization, you’re probably ok.

Right off the bat, Will’s intended actions would fail the newspaper test since assault is illegal.  His was a no-brainer when using that measure.  If you personally encounter a situation and are still unsure after using this practice, Buffett says, “it’s out.” 

Chris Rock is obviously also a very public figure with a personal brand of his own.  Watching the incident playback, he says very little after being slapped and appears almost contemplative after Smith screams at him for the second time.  He mutters quietly while laughing, seemingly having thought of a funny comeback, but he makes the decision to not engage and moves forward.  DAYS after the occurrence, he tells his stand-up audience: “I’m still processing” and promises to react publicly at some point in the future.  Chris Rock has tread very carefully.  While his original comment was extremely insensitive, his reaction (a conscientious, temporary inaction) seems to have benefitted his brand.

In closing, I would suggest we all deserve the luxury of a moment. When confronting a challenging situation, feel your feelings and then picture yourself reading the newspaper the next day. Happy branding.  😊

Press Release Generator – Sample Press Release Announcing an Employee Promotion

In an earlier article, we discussed Press Releases as Another Opportunity for Branding.  Specifically, we addressed some of the basic criteria needed to produce a successful PR piece, including discussions about:  Topics, Voice, Audience, Outlets, Format, Quotes and Photos, and Post-Submission Follow-up.  In a second article, we wrote a Press Release to Introduce Ourselves as Part of National Small Business Week (in 2020).  In two other articles, we provided the following press release generators:  Identifying Your Content and Sample Press Release Announcing a New Hire.  As promised, we are now providing a similar template for publicizing a staff promotion.  (As before, we are hoping these tips will help keep you from getting stuck staring at a blank, crumpled page!)

In getting started, remember that the rule of the 5 W’s still applies, so we encourage you to review our earlier articles.  We also want to remind you that voice matters – you must write as though you were a totally objective journalist preparing the story.  Similarly, the content must be of interest to the audience of the intended publications.  

As previously noted, announcements of new employee hires and/or promotions are among the most common press releases and the easiest to place – assuming the publication has a section for including such pieces.  (Many do – particularly trade magazines and papers.)  However, be aware that some outlets might be willing to include all or most of the information you provide . . . but many will reduce your words to a skeletal, bare-minimum sentence or two.  If that is the standard practice, a quick glance at past issues will let you know whether new hires and promotions are featured and the kind of space devoted to each one.

Secondary Benefit

When preparing a press release on a promotion, be aware that you are also realizing a secondary benefit – by sending your current employees a message that you are an employer dedicated to giving existing staff a chance for advancement and that you have a track record for filling attractive positions from within the organization.  By making this quality part of your brand, you help yourself become an “employer of choice,” and you encourage your existing staff to be happy, contented employees, which in turn shows up in the quality of your company’s service and the satisfaction of your customers. 

Once again, you need to make sure your same press release works for most circumstances.  To do so, confirm that the essence of your PR article is in the opening sentences with all other less critical information following (realizing that much could be cut by certain targets).  Also, plan to include a head-and-shoulder photo of the featured employee.

Below is a fill-in-the-blanks-template:

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

CONTACT INFORMATION:

[Company Name]
[Contact Name]
[Phone Number]
[E-mail Address]

[Date]

[HEADLINE ex.  NAME (of the Employee) PROMOTED TO

(title of the position) by COMPANY NAME

[CITY, STATE, MONTH DATE][COMPANY] has announced the promotion of [EMPLOYEE FULL NAME] to the position of [TITLE].  In this new capacity, [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] will be responsible for [BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES].

Note:  Body paragraphs then follow this opening (i.e., background information, quotes, company description, etc.)

Since first joining [COMPANY] in [YEAR OF HIRE], [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] has served as the [TITLE OF OLD JOB].  Specifically, [he/she] handled [MENTION DUTIES].   During that time, [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] was credited with a variety of important accomplishments, including [BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS/CONTRIBUTIONS].

Note:  Add the next paragraph when the past history of employee with the company includes multiple jobs worth highlighting.  Repeat as needed to encompass complete work history, incorporating the most relevant and recent positions.  You can also choose to insert any new education and/or licensing credentials that might have played a part in earning the promotion.

Prior to that position, [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] served in other roles of increasing responsibility and authority.  [He/She] was [TITLE] from [DATE] to [DATE] and also accumulated several years of related experience with other companies.

According to [NAME OF NEW SUPERVISOR OR OTHER HIGHLY PLACED OFFICIAL WILLING TO BE QUOTED], “[COMPANY] is very pleased to be giving [EMPLOYEE FULL NAME] a chance to use [his/her] years of experience with our organization to better serve our customers.   We fully expect [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] will be an asset in the years to come that allows us to provide our customers with the high-quality products and services they deserve while enabling us to achieve our goals for growth as a company.  As you may know, [COMPANY] has a long-standing policy of promoting from within whenever possible. That way, both our staff and customers benefit from the knowledge and skills acquired over time while ensuring the continued high quality of our brand.”

Note:  Optionally add contact information on the person being promoted.

“While [EMPLOYEE LAST NAME ONLY] will be reaching out to constituents soon, [he/she] can be contacted before then at [PHONE AND EXTENTION] or [E-MAIL].”

Note:  Your “boilerplate” company description that outlines the products, services, history, location, hours, etc. then gets added.  See our Style Guide for further information.

While the boilerplate language of different companies will be quite individual to reflect the specific history and characteristics of that particular business, a simple example might be: 

“Established in [YEAR], [COMPANY NAME] specializes in providing [PRODUCT/SERVICES] to customers located in [GEOGRAPHICAL OPERATING AREA].  Open [LIST HOURS/DAYS] or available 24/7 online by visiting [WEB SITE ADDRESS], [COMPANY NAME] [IS ENDORSED BY/IS KNOWN FOR] and encourages customers to learn more.  In recent years, [COMPANY NAME] has grown substantially and is looking to achieve similar increases during the upcoming months.”

As you can see, your boilerplate text provides you with a chance to briefly tell your story while giving potential customers a means of acting on their interest.  The above is just one very basic example.  Be sure to tailor yours to tell your story in the most effective possible way.

_________________

As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.  We would be happy to receive special requests to provide other sample press releases in the future. 

Want a Word document of this example? Just click!

Good luck!