I can remember how a few years ago we nearly lost an account because we misspelled the CEO’s name. The head of communications contacted me and told me in no uncertain terms that the board felt that if we could not even get the head man’s name right how could they trust us to act on their behalf.
It was a point that had a particular resonance with me because people constantly get my name wrong, which is weird because Diana is one of the most recognised names on the web due to the high profile of the late Princess of Wales.
Americans always call me Diane, or Dianne…come to think of it President Reagan called the Princess ‘David’ which isn’t even close. I get called Di (which I hate) Dinah, Dianna even Diaanna. As for my surname… I have given up on that one.
However I do think it is common courtesy to get someone’s name right. It shows one has paid attention, listened and has made the effort to get it right. A prospective applicant’s CV go straight in the bin if they get my name or the name of my company wrong. I don’t even read the covering letter which they probably spend hours on. I recently seriously considered resigning from our trade association because they not only misspelled the name of my company- in other words their fee paying member- but also the name of the key liaison person on the account. Why would I want to be a member of an organisation that is that sloppy?
Research shows that the ‘own name’ is among the first concepts that human being encounters. It is experienced countless times during a lifespan and is one of the most resilient entries in memory. The ‘own name’ has the power to reach awareness in conditions in which most other stimuli remain unnoticed…that is why the use of ‘own name’ is always used to jolt people into consciousness after an accident or operation and is known as the ‘breakthrough phenomenon’. Research published by the German Research foundation showed that the brain will pick out ‘own name’ against highly distracting background noise and even a distorted version of ‘own name’ will be processed by the brain and recognised. Own name is a very powerful tool.
As communication consultants, we spend hours advising our clients about importance of brand, style and of course name. I cannot imagine how Mercedes would react if its agency referred to it as Merseedes. It would be a hanging offence in our industry. Equally, we spend hours working out how to best engage with staff and gain their loyalty and commitment. Fortunes are spent on sophisticated communication tools which are designed, debated and despatched. And yet the very basic part of demonstrating that the company really does care about the individual goes down the pan when the letter or the card is sent out…and the recipient’s name is wrongly spelled.
Our US partner Peppercomm has a great strapline which is ‘Listen. Engage. Repeat’. Maybe if we did a bit more listening and repeating before we engaged we might get the basics right.