Calling Things What They Really Are: A New Internal Communications Paradigm

by | 08 June 2015

If there is something of which marketing folks everywhere are guilty, it’s creating names and identities for products, projects, teams, services (come to think of it, pretty much anything) that might not need them. Heck, it’s kind of what we do for a living!

Often, we are placed under considerable pressure to come up with an exciting name for a new project or to help create an identity for a new work team.

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Something I’ve noticed about many of these new projects is they are exciting for people. They require a lot of work and usually have well-defined outcomes that give people a sense of accomplishment. Out of this excitement, the marketing team is regularly charged with the task of helping the project team come up with a creative name and possibly a logo to give it some external validity. Something that says to the company, “Hey, everybody. Look at me! I’m an important initiative.”

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One of the challenges with this is that it becomes very difficult to scale. Consider for a moment that you have seven major IT projects, four HR projects, two new client services programs and a new finance initiative — all competing for attention and cut-through within your organization. That’s a lot of creative names and logos for your employees to digest!

There’s another issue here, too. As organizational communications and information sharing become more sophisticated, “search” plays a bigger role in how employees seek out information to help them do their jobs.  Often (read usually) they don’t remember fancy names and use more generic search terms to find what they are looking for.

I can remember one example when I was part of a team launching a new CRM system. We’d customized Microsoft’s CRM platform and wanted to give it a name to stand out. We called it Link. The name was cool, the logo looked great and we were all high-fiving each other.

Then some of the challenges started emerging. We didn’t have much of a marketing budget. So, we couldn’t rely on a big campaign to make the name stick or explain what the product was. We found ourselves introducing the product as “Link. It’s our new CRM system.”

Microsoft launched a communications product called Lync, causing even more confusion. Finally, our users had difficulty searching for tech support on the Internet or on our corporate intranet. Some would search “link support,” others “CRM support” and some “Microsoft support.”

Needless to say we’ve since relaunched the platform, called it Colliers CRM, and the uptake has been much stronger.

So, how can you help your employees navigate your organization? Here are a few pointers to overcome this challenge:

1. Be on the lookout for incoming requests for new names (and for new names popping up without your team’s input). When you find yourself in a boardroom with a project team brainstorming ideas for a name, that’s a red flag. As the marketing communications expert, you need to be the champion for keeping things in your organization simple.

2. Bring everything back to your organization’s overall strategy. If an initiative doesn’t logically fit the strategy, should your firm even be doing it? If it does, it’s important to bridge the project or initiative back to the strategy so employees can understand why it is important.

3. Call things what they are. Launching a new software application? Try to describe what it does or use existing standards. Going to market with a new employee performance management program? How about you call it the Employee Performance Management Program?! This will not only clearly communicate what your project is about but make your content easier for employees to find through search.

4. No acronyms. Ever.

If you have to describe what the initiative is immediately after saying the name, you’ve probably failed. For example: “Welcome to StarBuilder. It’s our new marketer development program.” The fact you have to immediately describe what it is, suggests you don’t have any brand equity in the name and the name isn’t self-explanatory. You probably should have just called it the Marketer Development Program.

It sounds un-exciting and even a little boring, but sticking to calling things what they are will set your initiative up for success and make your organization easier to navigate in the long run.

Lex Perry is Director of Marketing and Communications for Colliers International in Canada, where he focuses on corporate brand strategy, market research and intelligence, content marketing, public relations and digital marketing.