Naming a business is even more difficult than naming a baby.
Before I set up this business eight years ago I sat for days surrounded by fact books, books of poetry, dictionaries of quotations, Christmas books full of esoteric words or Latin phrases, hunting for the perfect name.
Eventually I abandoned the expedition and settled on a terrible and forgettable option before coming to terms with my error and adopting Houston PR as a new name a year or so ago.
Houston has the virtues of (a) being memorable, (b) an association with doing complex things very well and (c) being a homage to my dad who was obsessed with all-things-space-related and had died not so long before I made the change.
To announce the rename I sent an old-school press release into space and in the corner of it I payed a small additional homage to dad who had always wanted to go to space.
We’ve just sent up the world’s highest press release to announce that we are shaking off our old company name. Today we’re relaunching as Houston PR.
Here are dad’s initials, flying higher than Felix Baumgartner did for his space jump.
They’re there in the bottom right hand corner and they read LCRT 1935-2014.
Of course, not all choices are smooth sailing.
Names that lend themselves to acronyms also create risks. There are quite a few businesses and organisations worldwide, for instance, that are having to rebrand from ISIS.
Consider also, the perils of being the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), the Organisation Management Group (OMG), Lawyers Online (LOL), Rainbow Organic Food and Lifestyle (ROFL) or, perhaps worst, National Schools Film Week (NSFW).
Changing a name is also complex – and British media, especially, have an aversion to the idea that a company might squander shareholders’ funds on an expensive renaming exercise. It rarely, if ever, goes down well.
I suppose a litmus test for choice of name might be this:
Imagine if a client is being asked to say who they engage to provide the service that you deliver. Say it to yourself out loud: “We use [your name] for [the service supplied].”
Does it sound right – and is it unimpeachable? Does it create a sense of negativity or defensiveness – or does it open the door to ridicule? Does it have sufficient stretch to enable you to do other things?
No name is perfect. I get challenged about Houston from time to time, but so far I have been able to make a reasonably convincing case. Note to budding entrepreneurs: It is worth pressure testing at all altitudes and with a variety of lenses before you commit.
PS: Credit to Harry Wallop for the excerpts from the Telegraph births column above.