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Name Change Why, When & Hows: Case Study—Part 1

It’s rare to see an organization change its name and that’s a good thing. Name changes are a delicate matter.

Assuming you’ve done a good job of building relationships with supporters, partners and others, your org’s name has equity. Members of your network—donors in particular—have established ways in which they relate to your organization, and your name is the most memorable trigger you have. When you change your organization’s name, you upset the status quo and draw attention to what has been a smooth and productive relationship.

But there are moments in an organization’s life when a name change is appropriate and in fact, may be absolutely necessary. These include:

  • New or expanded scope of work, and/or mission
  • Expanded geography served (if your name includes a location)
  • Change in meaning or popular use of you organizational name.

Green Media Toolshed was launched in 2000 to strengthen communications impact within the environmental movement. But when the organization dramatically changed the type of issue-based organizations it works with, renaming became a must

Green Media Toolshed is now officially Netcentric Campaigns. Our new name reflects our expanding work to help foundations, nonprofit organizations and grassroots leaders mobilize advocacy networks that will achieve change for the greater good.

Netcentric does a great job of explaining its name change, reassuring its community that its strengths and values will remain constant as its focus grows AND reframing the value of the organization’s work! Here’s how they link the past with the present:

When striving to achieve change, sometimes you need to change something about yourself…Although we’ve got a new moniker, we aren’t completely abandoning our roots.

Our team of 10 is ready for this transition. We know how to build networks that work and we’ve have been doing this work for years, after all…Bigger mission, bigger impact.

Well done! You see, no one really cares if you change your name, or your messages or launch a new website. These changes are news only when 1) you link them to the underlying moment of change (new online service for clients, providing service to new groups, a new leader); and 2) make that connection crystal clear. Netcentric has done a great job of doing so.

Name Creation/Change Guidance: Case Study—Part 2

What are your questions on name and message changes? Please share them here.

More Nonprofit Name Change Case Studies

Name Creation/Change Guidance: Case Study—Part 2

Part 1: Name Change Why, When & Hows

Naming and messaging are so tricky, yet so vital. I saw that again last week with your strong response to the Green Media Toolshed -> Netcentric Campaigns case study. So I reached out to the Netcentric team to learn more about their process and tips on shepherding a name change, or creation, for your organization, program or service.

Thanks so much to Bobbi Russell, Netcentric’s COO, for sharing experiences and tips.

Nancy: How did you kick off the name creation process?

Netcentric:  We had a head start, knowing that we wanted the new name to incorporate Netcentric. We’ve been running projects as a division of Green Media Toolshed called Netcentric
Campaigns for six or seven years, and that name synthesizes what we do and our unique value perfectly—building networks of people to move change forward.

Most importantly, we knew we couldn’t (and shouldn’t) do it all ourselves. We’re just too close to our work and history. For example, we couldn’t filter out the less important elements tied to our  history that weren’t critical to carry forward into the new brand (and in fact would have diminished it). We did keep a tie to our green roots by making sure that our logo integrated the color green.

First, we hired Edge Research to do an objective situation analysis of the environment we’re communicating into. They conducted in-depth interviews with past, current and prospective clients to gather feedback about how we are perceived.

Their findings were vital, highlighting the ideal approach and skillset for communications firm we would choose to guide us through the balance of the process. It wasn’t a surprise that we needed more than a new logo and website. But the feedback about our messages, work and kind of help we needed most was a bonus.

So we hired GALEWill to help us fine tune our brand (our personality, voice and tone), mission statement, messages and logo.

Nancy: What was the naming, messaging and design process from there? 

Netcentric: The lengthy process we took from there had been developed and tested by GALEWill with some of their other clients, so we were very secure in that. They started by reviewing a huge range of background materials and interviewing Marty (Martin Kearns, our president) and me at length.

GALEWill used those insights to draft the mission statement, brand architecture and other language. We very much embraced the process of establishing a brand architecture and seeing that much of our other language would flow from that.

At that point, we looped in the full staff and Board.We wanted our full team to be a part of the process and to emerge feeling ownership of our new name and brand.

Then we worked with a separate designer on website design and print collateral.

Nancy: Sounds like a smooth path. Any glitches?

Netcentric: We had to learn, after some tough times, to let go of the small things that were taking up a great deal of time. For example, some of our team members really wanted a snappy tagline but we just couldn’t come up with one that we all loved so much that we were ready to commit to printed collateral or wear it on a fleece!

Instead, we’re piloting a few tagline variations using our email signatures and we’re hosting a launch party later this month during which we’ll all be testing out the messaging in conversation with our Board of Directors and others. We’ll hone our tagline from those insights.

Nancy: How will you support your Board and colleagues in becoming effective messengers of the new brand? That’s the step I see SO many organization leave out of naming and message development.

Netcentric: We want to ensure the entire staff and Board is up to speed in sharing our mission, discussing our new name and model case studies plus able to deliver that 30-second elevator speech.

We’ve asked for their help (this has to be an all-org effort) and will train folks via a series of messaging boot camps.

To smooth the way, we’ve created a style and tone guide for easy reference. And we’ve designated  our content strategy manager to edit most outgoing materials to align to guidelines, as we continue to work with staff to get them up to speed.

We’re on our way, and it’s exciting!

What are your questions, or tips, on name and message changes? Please share them here.

Part 1: Name Change Why, When & Hows

More Nonprofit Name Change Case Studies