Could your company name be causing a PR nightmare for your public relations team? It’s very possible.
We’re not referring to a company’s missteps in the public eye or a CEO behaving badly at a networking event that would require the crisis management PR we focused on last week. We’re talking about branding — the actual name of your company and sometimes the logo itself — that can keep your PR team from effectively communicating your message.
How’s that? It’s pretty simple — naming mistakes are made all too often in the name of design or sheer oblivion. For instance, is your name ALL CAPS, all lowercase, difficult to pronounce, ambiguous, two words combined into one confusing one, or a (this happens more than you’d think) culturally offensive word with an unintended double meaning?
The reality is, when it comes to earned media coverage, media staff sizes are dwindling, but the PR opportunities are not. If an already overloaded journalist is picking through an abundance of story pitches, they’re likely to instinctively pass over any that would violate their strict adherence to AP Style or at the very least, make more work for them. Sometimes the deciding factor comes down to something as simple as the company name, kid you not.
The best way to avoid this potential mess is to stick to these naming guidelines before the first koozies are printed.
- Use standard capitalization:
Want your logo to be all caps or all lowercase? Cool. Want to badger your PR people or journalists insisting the printed name use the same capitalization as the logo? Not cool. Stick to standard caps so writers aren’t having to rewrite sentences to avoid beginning with a lower-cased word.
- Make it easy to pronounce:
If you have an unusual last name, you know the hazard here — if it can be mispronounced, it will be, live on air, to your target audience who will now permanently think of your Greek yogurt brand as FAYGE instead of Fage (pronounced FA-HEY). Pick a name that the average reader can pronounce without coaching. Or you end up like this Charleston-area restaurant that gets all kinds of bad jokes.
- Avoid confusing portmanteaus:
How’s that for an unfamiliar word? It’s fancy French-ish for combining two words into one to create an entirely new word. Like “chillax” (chill + relax). They can be useful (like “bromance”) or confusing when created poorly. With the latter you end up with shopping website “Oneshop,” which can be pronounced /own-eh-shop/ or /wons-hop/ or even /oh-nez-hop/.
- Trouble-shoot double meanings:
If you aren’t sure about a name potentially having a negative double meaning, it’s probably a good idea to can it. Also feel free to use your co-workers’ teen children as a focus group — you’ll figure out really quickly which name options are funny in the wrong way. And, this should go without saying (ahem, people who actually have done this), but if your last name is something akin to “Raper,” don’t name your business after yourself. Ever.
To sum up, when in doubt, go simple, recognizable, non-offensive, and don’t be so married to the way a name looks that you forget how it actually sounds.