National Speakers Association Changes Name: 7 Key Steps in a Name Change

Natl Speakers Assoc

As a naming and branding expert, please allow me to not only weigh in on the National Speakers Association (NSA) changing its name to Platform, but also share key insights to help you in the future wrestle with this issue.

7 Key Steps in Changing Your Name

  1. Research Intellectual Property Issues – Many NSA members are complaining that the new brand infringes upon Michael Hyatt and his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.  Remember: Book titles cannot be copyrighted.
  2. Distinguish Between Trademark Infringement vs. Mindshare Infringement – Even if there is not legal infringement into Mr. Hyatt’s territory, it’s clear that he has top of mind awareness with that brand name. Creating competing brands in the same sphere is dangerous territory. (Think Hallmark Pools versus Hallmark cards or Edison Electric versus Edison Hotel.)
  3. Obtain the Dot Com – The dot com remains the gold standard on the web. Platform.net announces to the globe that you have a second rate domain because you couldn’t get the .com. And, as an organization, obtaining the .org would have been a better option, but that too is taken by another group.
  4. Weigh the Equity of the Old Name Before Changing to a New Name – Clearly, life-long members had strong emotional ties to the group; it had power, emotion, and a strong connection. The new name seems to have fallen like a timber – errr, Platform, onto the group dividing it into two.
  5. Determine the Benefits of a New Name – NSA was obviously plagued by references to the other NSA – The National Security Agency. Changing the name alleviates this problem, but so could have shifting to Speakers Association or another easy variation. A new name must have exponentially more benefits than the old name before changing.
  6. Involve and Engage Your Membership Before Rebranding – Having changed the Denver Postal Credit Union to Eagle Legacy after 70 years, I know that buy-in from the membership is essential. NSA should have been soliciting views and keeping its membership apprised of every step along the way.
  7. Recognize that You Won’t Please Everyone – I have never had 100% acceptance to my new brand names because it is a qualitative science. However, if your target market (speakers, meeting planners, agencies, bureaus, etc.) aren’t overwhelmingly happy, you have a problem.

Now, if you count up the criteria, how do you vote? Should NSA have changed its name?

17 Comments
  1. Liz,

    You made some very thoughtful remarks and insights about branding. Thanks for sharing.

    My thoughts were a little more heated, I daresay, because I’m a fan of Michael’s.

    http://www.sugarshockblog.com/2014/07/the-platform-debate-authorspeaker-michael-hyatt-and-the-nsa.html

    Connie

  2. Thanks, Connie for your comments.

    I completely understand Michael’s viewpoint and yours that they are intruding into his mindshare of Platform; whether it is trademark infringement is up the lawyers (thank goodness).

    My sum total of the change is that it is not a good move for many of the reasons both you and I detailed.

  3. In case any of you want to read and watch the formal announcement by NSA to Platform; go here: http://www.platform.net/

  4. What a huge misstep. I wish they had thought this through. Besides the confusion with Michael Hyatt’s brand, the loss of NSA’s own brand equity and identity is a terrible waste. If the connotation of those initials was such a problem, why not simply change it to International Speakers’ Association or Global Speakers’ Association since I’m sure not everyone in the group is or needs to be American and I’m sure many of its members speak in other countries too?
    ISA or GSA would have gotten rid of any stigma while feeling like an evolution or expansion rather than a betrayal or out-of-left-field knee-jerk reaction.
    And yes, they should have solicited support from its members before making a change. Then they would have heard a lot better ideas, and gotten buy-in. Since the organization’s biggest marketing asset is its members, doing something like this that makes them less enthusiastic or more apologetic ambassadors will have real repercussions. I’m not a member but I can see how this will not help the organization grow.

  5. Oh, and not being able to get a .com or even a .org should have been a deal-breaker from the beginning!

  6. The NSA seems to have failed all 7 steps, but excelled with no. 7. What / Who is ‘Platform’? For how long will we all have to then explain, “Oh, that used to be the National Speakers Association”.
    If, they actually did no. 6, other than internally, I find it hard to believe that the overwhelming majority of members applauded the new name.

  7. With naming criteria stacked up against the name change, it’s easy to make the decision that NSA failed its members. Thanks for chiming in, Ron.

  8. The dot com is everything today; almost impossible to suggest a new brand name if you can’t obtain it.

  9. Since I am a printing company, I have seen so many clients make the mistake of either changing their name to something else or selecting a name for their company for the first time. Trouble is that many companies will now use initials, or some “non-descript” term as their company name. I will pressure them by asking (sometimes firmly) “who you are and what you do.”! In an effort to appear “sophisticated” or “larger than they are” they will select branding that may appear a certain way, while losing sight of communicating exactly what service or product they are offering or promoting. If a name used does not communicate that, I encourage them to attach a by-line below the name to accomplish that goal! Just sayin . . .

  10. Love your input Adrienne. Often a tagline will help explain what your brand name doesn’t. For Example: Tyson: We’re Chicken or Coleman: The Outdoor Company.

    But, my #1 complain of naming with new businesses is John Smith & Associates when I know there aren’t any associates! It’s OK to be a small company or even a sole proprietor – at least your clients know who and what they are getting.

  11. Liz,

    I totally agree with you on all points. The name National Speakers Association says what the organization is all about. The word “Platform” connotes to me a political platform having nothing to do with NSA’s mission. I can see what they had in mind with “Platform”, but it misses the mark entirely. As far as NSA duplicating the letters of the government agency, I think that’s irrelevant because the two entities are so far apart in purpose.
    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents!

  12. I like your 2 cents, Laura, and think it’s worth a lot more than that!

  13. Right on Liz!
    “National Speakers Association” sounds and feels important. It radiates the idea that it’s an association doing good work.

    Platform.net as a replacement for NSA feels like a splat-form. Professional speakers are not looking for a “platform” they want speaking stages, audiences and credibility. “Platform” on the other hand is singular!

    No one outside the group will know what “Member of Platform” means. As the sharks say “stop the madness”.

    NSA (the other one) also Snowed by Snowden … this is shortsighted choice.

  14. You’re right, Rhana, in that it feels unnatural to say, “I’m a member of Platform.” It doesn’t even sound like an association!

    Needless to say, I am not the only one who is mystified by NSA’s decision; we’ll see what happens.

  15. …AND NSA has now officially vacated Platform as a brand name. Are we surprised? Nope! Is it the right decision? Yes!

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