When I was a little girl, I used to say that if I married a man whose name was easier to spell than mine, I would take his; if his name was harder to spell, I’d keep my maiden name. My view has changed, in part due to technological changes that have occurred. This shift holds lessons for organizational communication with external stakeholders.
One of the reasons that I no longer wish to change my name is because I am an established professional. People all over the world have business cards or e-mails bearing my maiden name. Changing my name at this stage would be a form of professional suicide. It could significantly reduce the size of my passive professional network, people with whom I have infrequent contact but who know how to find me if need be. Changing my name would disturb my “brand continuity”.
Google is another big factor. I struggled for years to re-establish contact with friends I had made early in life but who have hopeless names for internet searches because they are far too common. (I have found many of these people, but am still looking for my best friend from the ages of 5 to 8, named Amy Beaver.) My name, on the other hand, is eminently Google-able. Becoming Mrs. Smith might have been attractive when I was 5 and learning to spell my long last name, but today becoming Mrs. Smith would be condemning myself to the 7th circle of Google obscurity.
The same is true for companies and other entities. Being found by search engines is critical in today’s information economy. It’s fine to want to “reframe the debate”, but only if other people can actually find your version of the debate. Using homemade jargon and clever neologisms to avoid undesired connotations of more common terms, may mean that no one comes to your party. Effective organizational communication must strike a balance between reframing the debate and being relevant. Search engine optimization (SEO) therefore strikes a blow for plain-talking and dealing with issues head-on and against whitewashing language.