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9 Keys to Choosing an Effective Name or Title: Reflect Your Audience, Brainstorm and Say It Loud

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We were fortunate at a recent networking dinner to be joined by Debbie Bates-Schrott, founder and CEO of the newly named Beyond Definition (formerly Bates Creative). The process of choosing and implementing a new name took well over a year, she said. There were multiple reasons for it—emphasizing that they go "beyond" design is a primary one—but it was spurred by her taking on Mark DeVito as a partner.

(DeVito recently spoke at our Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Hollywood Beach, Fla., Nov. 11-13 on a session titled How to Effectively Speak and Sell to Your Audience Using Personas. You can listen to it here. We will also report on it in the future.)

Bates-Schrott (pictured) said that finding a name you like and a web address that isn't taken is not easy, though they were very happy when Beyond Definition was available. The BD also reflects the Bates-Schrott/DeVito partnership.

The topic occurred again to me recently because of a headline I saw saying that the Motion Picture Association of America has become just the Motion Picture Association. The trick these days is that a name—be it a company, conference, new product, even a podcast or webinar title—has to appeal to many groups to be most successful.

Dorothy Jones, CEO of J Star Marketing and former CMO of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, said one of the biggest challenges is that there are currently four different generations in the workforce. "This will require you talk to these four groups of guests in four very different ways based on their preferences."

Here are 9 action items, some from a site called socialtables, to help you come up with an effective and inventive name:

1. Identify your target audience. For Bates-Schrott, that included associations and small to mid-sized companies, but also bigger firms and government agencies that need all types of editorial and marketing services.

2. Reflect your world. "This new, unified global brand better reflects today's dynamic content creation industry, the multi-platform distribution models of our companies, and the worldwide audiences we all serve," said MPA CEO Charles Rivkin. He also noted that the nature of the content industry often means that it has considerations far beyond U.S. borders, including on issues like production and copyright.

3. Brainstorm words that describe the type of event that would appeal to that audience. I've mentioned Columbia Books and Information Services' Learnapalooza before. I could just picture them sitting in a room sounding out words like learn, education, training, and then someone shouted out “lollapalooza” and a name was born.

4. Take your subject and give it a little spin. Informa's Esca Bona fills a void in their natural foods conference segment. It means good food in Latin and they can even use it as adjective. "Esca Bonacentric education" (i.e. food accessibility, urban farming, and food tech) was integrated into more of their conferences throughout the year. (A webinar on the conference's success took place last year. Click here to watch.)

5. Find what inspires you? You are the CEO of your startup—it's vital that you like the name of your company or event. Write a list of people, places and things that make you smile and inspire you to work hard, problem-solve and get creative.

6. Use an online thesaurus to increase your pool of choices. EB Medicine's excellent Emplify podcast might have come about this way, combining the initials for emergency medicine with the positive word “amplify”

7. Check for domain name availability. Make sure that your name isn't already taken by another company.

8. Say the name out loud. Pretend to answer the phone using the name. You'll find some names flow easily, while others are tongue twisters. Don't choose a name that's challenging for you or your clients to say. Strawless in Seattle, a 2017 campaign, is fun to say, as is Sam Sanders' NPR show It's Been a Minute.

9. Don't force it. In a Washington Post magazine story recently, they asked John Rice, founder of the successful Management Leadership for Tomorrow, if he could have come up with a catchier name. "We talk about our name and how it's descriptive but dull! For a nonprofit organization, we should have a pithy one-word description. We haven't come up with one."

Ronn Levine is the editorial director for the Software Information & Industry Association, of which AM&P is one of the divisions.


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