‘Making This Shift Now Feels Right’; Choosing the Right Name Still Matters

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, sometimes. Shakespeare wrote that line from Romeo and Juliet around 1597, downplaying the importance of names. But reality asserts today that entity and event names do matter—especially writing from a city whose football team went from the Redskins to Commanders (and still isn’t very good).

When SourceMedia changed its name to Arizent three years ago, chief strategy officer Jeff Mancini said: “The term ‘media’ is no longer adequate to describe the breadth of our value proposition. Our communities are no longer content to be just passive consumers of content. They are looking for a broad range of insights and analysis that spans research, live events and peer interaction.”

These days, a name—be it an event, company, podcast or webinar—has to appeal to many distinct groups and generations to be successful. I just read that AARP, they of a famous name shortening, has announced the launch of a national search for an “AARP Benefits Badass”—a digital influencer of any age who uses their AARP benefits to their benefit. Any reference to retired people has long been retired. The winner of this new contest will receive $50,000, so it’s serious business.

And when it came time to name this newsletter and our big June 27-28 event for association media and niche publishers, AMPLIFY quickly ascended—given we are the AM&P Network. Almost 10 years ago we started the Business Information & Media Summit, and BIMS became a popular new industry term.

Here are 8 action items to help you come up with an effective and inventive name:

Identify your target audience. For AARP, the target audience keeps getting younger. A few years ago, the Motion Picture Association of America became just the Motion Picture Association. “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, on issues like production and copyright.

Reflect your world. In October, Bill.com became just BILL. “One of the most visible changes will be our name. We’ve dropped the .com. BILL is rooted in our heritage,” wrote CMO Sarah Acton in the fall. “When our CEO, René Lacerte, founded the company, he wanted the name to reflect our support for both people that bill, and those that pay bills. Evolving our name to BILL is simple, and it’s also how we are often referred to colloquially. Making this shift now feels right.”

Brainstorm words that would appeal to your audience. I’ve mentioned Columbia Books and Information Services’ Learnapalooza before—at first a popular event and now a training series. I could picture them sitting in a room sounding out words like learn, education, training, and then someone shouted out “lollapalooza” and a name was born.

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. Another path would be to invent a nice acronym.

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.” Podcast names are often among the most creative. Take Neal and EXCEL Award finalists like Arizent’s own benefits podcast Perk Up, Questex Fierce Healthcare’s Podnosis, and PTA’s Notes From the Backpack.

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

Take your new name for a spin. 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. Punchbowl News, Strawless in Seattle, a 2017 campaign, and NPR show It’s Been a Minute are all fun to say and have special meaning.

Don’t force it. The Washington Post 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.”

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