Weekly News & Insights: What’s in a Name?

Graphic: FreeImages.com/Bessarro

Graphic: FreeImages.com/Bessarro

Earlier this month, the National Speakers Association (NSA) announced during their convention that they were changing their name to “Platform.” And that’s when the firestorm began.

Twitter and the blogosphere began to blaze with comments around this decision, mainly asking some form of “what were they thinking?”** You see, in the speaking world, there’s already a well-known brand for the word Platform. Michael Hyatt, who wrote the best-selling book by that title, works with speakers, authors and others who want to build a platform for their message in the world. He has Platform University, an online education community (of which I am a member), and hosts the Platform Conference. It appears that perhaps NSA either didn’t do their homework so well (even though they spent a hefty amount on a study to develop the new name) or else discounted the impact that Hyatt’s brand already had. Either way, they also missed the boat on one other aspect: their membership wasn’t keen on the new name, conflict or no conflict. Some were even threatening to drop their membership because of it.

Over the past few years, I’ve been doing informal surveys regarding the future of associations, and as a whole, they’re in trouble. Now don’t get me wrong … I’ve been a member of several associations through the years and a number of them are also my clients, so I don’t want to see them disappear. But they do need to change dramatically. You see, GenY professionals aren’t sold on the value of associations (and the affiliated conferences and/or trade shows) because they feel they can accomplish the same things online for free, or nearly so. One of the common objections I hear from members of all ages is that they don’t feel the association is connected to its members and is out of touch with their needs. People long for a creation of community, a “family” of sorts, and to feel like their voice matters. So that’s why the NSA controversy is significant – it’s what came next.

Within 10 days – which is lightning-speed for any large organization – the association made a public announcement regarding the whole ordeal and reversed course. They’re going back to the drawing board to come up with another name. (No one blames them for wanting to change those initials!) They did three critical things right which serve as lessons to other associations trying to find their way in this brave new world:

  1. Owned up to the criticism, instead of burying their head in the sand
  2. Evaluated their options (after the fact, but still …)
  3. Responded quickly, without getting ugly

If perhaps NSA (or any association) momentarily forgot about the importance of clear communication and knowing their audience, I’m sure they won’t make that mistake again. As it turns out, there’s quite a lot of power in a name, for better or for worse. And associations (or whatever they decide to call themselves) would be wise to understand that they don’t own the name … their members do.

** To read more discussion on this topic, visit the following blogs: Rory Vaden’s Daily Discipline blog, MikeKim.tv, and Michael Hyatt’s response to the NSA’s decision to reverse course (includes the official NSA video).

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Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community. To request an “Extra Shot of Exhibit Success” go to www.ExhibitMarketersCafe.com.