National Speakers Association’s name change raises hackles

The new name, Platform, erases any prior confusion with the National Security Agency, but it adds new confusion with author Michael Hyatt’s multiple Platform presences. Many others just don’t like it. (UPDATE)

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. That is, unless you are a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA).

The NSA annual convention this month in San Diego culminated with an announcement that took most members by surprise. The association, which has been called the National Speakers Association since its founding nearly a half-century ago, unveiled a new name and logo consisting of a single word: Platform.

The rebranding was intended to help people unfamiliar with NSA that this association (the National Speakers Association) is not that federal agency (National Security Agency), despite their common acronym. The association is global now, not just national. People who are not professional speakers join and benefit from the association. As is said in the association’s video, “It was time to step up and embrace the new world.”

A new name? A fresh look for a tired brand? What’s not to like about that? Change is good, right?

Not so fast. Members and non-members alike are up in arms about the change. Reactions to the name change fall into four basic camps:

The process camp

The decision to change the name and logo came about over two years, but a small group of people were involved in this decision. In a telephone interview, NSA Speaker Hall of Fame member Lyman K. (Manny) Steil, a 32-year member of the association who has served in multiple leadership roles, expressed his concern that longtime members were not consulted as part of the process.

Steil’s thoughts are echoed by fellow Speaker Hall of Fame member Don Thoren, who shared his thoughts via YouTube comment to NSA president Shep Hyken.

The (Michael Hyatt) Platform supporter camp

Perhaps the most vocal camp is home to those who believe that the brand “Platform” belongs to those who support Michael Hyatt, the New York Times bestselling author of “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.”

When Michael Hyatt discovered NSA’s use of the brand name Platform, his initial response was, “Just wow.” Then, Hyatt chimed in via several social media conduits, including his own Facebook page.

Public relations professor and NSA member Kenna Griffin noticed a similarity.

Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent, decided not to join NSA after the rebranding announcement. She commented on a NSA photo of the new logo on Instagram.

Several in the Hyatt Camp have blogged extensively on the topic, including Connie Bennett, who says “Frankly, I’m barffled (sic). Didn’t the NSA name-rebranding committee—whose members were praised in the video … —do their homework or due diligence?”

The “Platform doesn’t say what we are/do” camp

Those in the third camp shared thoughts like this, also from Manny Steil: “I am a speaker who speaks about (the topic of) listening. ‘Platform’ does not describe what I do” as well as the name National Speakers Association does.

Gerry Corbett, who is a past chair and CEO of the 32,000-member Public Relations Society of America and a longtime NSA member, agrees.

Fundraising coach, author, and new NSA member Marc A. Pitman adds his thoughts.

The change is good camp

Though they are in a distinct minority, as least in postings in social media, there are those like Linda Hollander and Mark Anthony Lord who support the change.

NSA responds

NSA’s incoming president, Shep Hyken, addressed the concerns from its members in another video posted on the NSA’s YouTube channel. The bottom line? He says NSA will pause before proceeding with the rebranding and will listen to its members.

So, what can organizations learn from this?

Primarily, do your research. Find out what your members, especially your longtime members, think about your current name and logo before surprising them with a change. Make sure your proposed name and logo do not infringe on the intellectual property rights of another. And finally, really listen to your members when they have concerns about a change.

It will be fascinating to see how this turns out.

What are your thoughts on the National Speakers Association’s rebranding as Platform?

UPDATE: Shep Hyken recently addressed NSA members in a YouTube video, explaining that the organization would drop the Platform brand. “The voice of our membership has been heard,” he says in the video. “After carefully measuring member sentiment, we’ve made the decision to move away from the brand Platform. The future brand of NSA is yet to be determined, but what we do know is this: It’s due for an update to better address our diverse membership and its needs.”

Hyken acknowledged that “while the Platform announcement was a clear stumble, we’re now getting up, we’re brushing ourselves off, and we’re taking large strides toward the future and an even stronger association.”

Topics: PR

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.