Establishing Your Personal Brand Through Stationery, Part 1
If you are applying for jobs, are establishing a side hustle or your own company, or are otherwise engaging in professional correspondence as your own agent and not on behalf of another entity, then this topic is for you.
Part 1 of this series introduces the various pieces of correspondence that are a reflection of your personal brand and what to include in the letterhead that should appear in all of the pieces of that correspondence.
Let’s take a second and talk about personal branding as far as it pertains to stationery and letterheads. I want to touch on this because it usually comes up in the presentation I give on cover letters, and while I try to address what job seekers need to know about stationery and letterheads as a part of building a solid cover letter, it’s not the focus of the presentation and therefore isn’t something for which I want to use my precious 60 – 90 minutes. (And, yes. We spend more than an hour on cover letters, and we barely skim the surface on stationery and personal branding. If you are curious, you should check out my Events page, and register for my next workshop!)
First, let’s review why this is a part of personal branding. If you regularly send out letters attached in emails or in the mail as a part of the work you do for a job, then you are probably sending those letters on company letterhead. Sure, your name, signature, and job title may be on the letter, but your company’s branding is in the letterhead. What I’m talking about is for your own individual use. If you are applying for jobs, are establishing a side hustle or your own company, or are otherwise engaging in professional correspondence as your own agent and not on behalf of another entity, then this topic is for you.
Sometimes we only think about putting our name and contact information on correspondence when we are dusting off our resumes, and while job-application materials are certainly a part of this topic, I want you to realize that this isn’t just about putting your name on a piece of paper. Your name is your brand, so whether you are putting this information at the top of a resume, a cover letter, a pain letter, as a cover and explanation to a sample of work, on a business card, or any other form of correspondence that isn’t being sent to a close friend, family member, or loved one, be intentional about it.
Alright, esteemed colleagues. Let’s dig in.
Information to Include in Your Letterhead
Let’s talk about the information you should put in your letterhead. This information is the heading for all your correspondence that appears on a letter, but elements from the design should be a continual thread through all your spaces (more on that in a bit).
NB: This information goes in the header of your word document, not at the top of the page where the body content begins. This is important. One of the first things I often mark on client materials is moving the letterhead to the header. To access the header, double click at the very top of the word document, and the header will open itself so you can type in it. One of the advantages of using the header is that it helps you use space well. It also guarantees that your header appears the same way on every page if you have a multi-page letter or CV.
This information goes in the header of your word document, not at the top of the page where the body content begins. This is important.
These are the items that you should include in your letterhead:
Your Name. It’s tough to create a letterhead for your personal branding that doesn’t include your name! Your name is essentially your logo. Include your first name and last name. You may also consider adding a middle initial, a prefix, a suffix, and certain academic degrees. Unless they are a really important part of your brand that you have already established, you should skip “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.” (And Mr. Clean, if you are reading this, please know I’m a big fan of your work.) When I say include prefixes, I’m referring to prefixes like “Dr.” Whether to use the name you always go by (Andy) versus your given name (Andrew), is a matter of preference. Whether to include your degrees at the end (MA, PhD, etc.) is a question of what is typical in your industry and the parts of your identity you want to emphasize.
Email. You need to give your acquaintances a way to reach you, and it’s helpful if you provide them with two options between a current email address and a current phone number. That way, they can reach you however it suits them. If they want to speak with you over the phone, they can, and if they’d prefer to keep things in a written format for a time, then they can do that, too.
Phone Number. Provide a current phone number where your contacts can expect to reach you. It’s not necessary to indicate that it’s a home phone or a cell phone. Just make sure that whatever number you provide is to a line that connects to you consistently and reliably.
Other Items to Consider Including in Your Letterhead
Your Title/What You Are. This is particularly helpful if you want to further clarify what distinguishes your professional abilities from other professionals with similar education. Not everyone needs to add this, but it can be useful especially if you want to be recognized for something specific. You just need to make sure that whatever you include is something that adds to your brand productively.
For example, when I was first out of graduate school and looking for jobs, I had the title “Professional Writer” under my name. I thought that was pretty clear. After all, I have a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Cincinnati. What I wasn’t expecting was for people to be mystified by my education. I assumed that the title I’d selected was self-evident. It wasn’t. Not everyone knows that professionals can specialize their English studies in the forms of communication that have practical business objectives. I ended up going with “Communications Professional” in my personal branding, which carried much more meaning with the hiring professionals to whom I was sending applications.
Portfolio URL. It’s not unusual for some professionals to have a portfolio, and if you are thinking about new ways to highlight the various parts of your professional experience and past work, you might consider creating one yourself (which you can easily do without being a design pro. Website editors like Weebly (the tool that I used to build this site), WordPress, and others often come with templates for portfolios you can choose and then customize). A portfolio is a great way of showing employers more about you than you can reasonably expect to include in a resume and cover letter, so you want to include the URL in the letterhead, and then recruiters can check out your portfolio if they want to learn more about you.
Blog URL. If you blog about professional issues, then a blog URL might be worth including here. Anything you add in your letterhead should serve your goals, so if you aren’t sure about including a blog, ask yourself whether the blog will lend you credibility as a leader on a certain topic, and if such authority helps you achieve your broader goals. For example, does the blog demonstrate your ability to do a certain job? Would it help you get an interview?
A blog is a great way to share the depth of your knowledge and your relevance as a voice in your industry. If you have a portfolio, and the portfolio includes a blog, then you don’t need to add both. For the same reason, it’s not necessary to add a LinkedIn-articles link as a way of sharing your blogs on that platform if you already are adding the URL to your LinkedIn profile in the header.
LinkedIn URL. You might consider adding the URL to your LinkedIn profile to your header. If you do, make sure you’ve taken the time to customize the URL, which is something you can do when you are logged in to your LinkedIn account, and you are editing your page. You don’t want your LinkedIn profile to read www.linkedin.com/in/karen-corenlissen-488b71-9. This guy is just an example. My LinkedIn profile URL is linkedin.com/in/kcornelissen8. Why do you want to take the time to do that? For one thing, it’ll make your profile easier for others to find, and for another, it’ll look much cleaner and sleeker when you list it in places like your letterhead.
When you list your URL for anything, skip the “http://www.” Everyone knows what a link is, and skipping these details doesn’t make the link ineffective or more difficult to locate. Trust me. Your links will look less junky and more polished. And, when you think about where the readers of your correspondence are focusing their eyes, remember that removing “http://www.” gives them fewer pointless characters to read. It frees them to focus on what matters.
Now you are ready for Part 2, which covers the basics of how you can design a sleek letterhead.