Stacy Cornay: What do you want to be called?

Branding isn‘t important I was recently informed. Names don‘t matter — only actions. Wrong.

Several years ago I was eagerly anticipating the high school graduation of our only son. However, I learned during this time that our treasured child would not receive his diploma until all of his outstanding fees were paid. Fees? What fees?

I headed to the school to take care of everything. On my way I rehearsed what I would say to the administrators who had let this go so far. What were they thinking? Entering the office I was warmly greeted by several ladies who wanted nothing more than to help me. I told them my issue and my son‘s name. They whipped out a card catalog (yes a card catalog) and swiftly began looking for what he owed. I began to feel something was off when they started over, rifling the cards from the beginning. As one woman called to another to assist, peering at me closely over her glasses, she said, “What was his name again?”

Repeating the name I waited patiently thinking that, as I suspected, they must have made some mistake. However, these ladies weren‘t quitters. They were going to find his fee card and set everything straight. Finally, almost admitting defeat and wiping the sweat from her brow, one of the women asked me, “Does he go by any other names?”

Then a light bulb went off. “Why yes,” I replied. “He has been known to answer to Steve.” With raised eyebrows and glances between them, they hit the card catalog again — this time with success. It seems that Steve had quite a few fees. How did this happen? The story starts at the beginning of his junior year.

One of my son‘s teachers asked each student what they would like to be called. My son said, “Steve.” The teacher called him that all through the school year. In fact, it seemed that she forgot that his name wasn‘t actually Steve and filed a few fees under Steve‘s name. The only reason I knew this might be the problem is because I was told about it at the time. Thus, I was able to dust up the old memory and come up with the answer.

Names mean everything. My son accidentally rebranded himself with one of his teachers. His teacher, an opinion leader and influencer at the school, went with the new brand. Perhaps she felt it suited him. Whatever the reason, several years later the name had stuck and was part of the official administration card catalog.

Placing emphasis on names, and what we wish to be called, is the same in the business world. How you introduce yourself and/or your business is likely to stick with some people, particularly if it is the first time they are exposed. Recognizing this is important when building awareness of your business and managing its reputation. Small things, such as getting a name wrong, will add up if not corrected.

One way to ensure your name, or your business name, is remembered is to be consistent in all of your communication. Don‘t use variations of your name. Don‘t change fonts and colors haphazardly. Use style guides when appropriate. Make sure you provide the cues for how you want to be remembered. If people get your name wrong, they are likely to get other things wrong as well. Eventually this could hurt you.

As for Steve, he never received his high school diploma. But, my son did.