What’s in a name?

Twenty-three years ago, I was planning my departure from my first real ‘grown-up’ job at ABC Western Plains. I was going out on my own as a consultant and freelancer after three and a half years as a Rural Reporter.

Kim V. Goldsmith, 1995
ABC Rural Reporter, Dubbo saleyards, 1995

My evenings and weekends were spent planning this new business – what would it be, how would I describe it, who would be my clients, how would I let people know about it and what would it be called?

In the end, given I’d be on air in the region I was planning to establish my new business, I chose to keep it simple – Kim V. Goldsmith.

A few years later I decided a name change was in order to compete with some of the bigger agencies on the bigger projects. I needed to look more substantial than a small, home-office agency, more corporate. So, I became Ochre Communications.

Despite the fancy corporate name, it was me who had carved the reputation – I was my brand.

For 16 years, that name worked well. Feedback was that my rounded ‘bulls-eye’ type logo jumped off the page when tender submissions were spread on the boardroom table. There was only one problem emerging in the now, not so new, digital age.

People were searching for me online under my name. Despite the fancy corporate name, it was me who had carved the reputation – I was my brand. I made the decision to return to my name in an era where personal branding is a thing.

I was given advice by someone I admired early in the piece, to make sure I made my business something I could sell. She was the one who made me think if I changed it to something more corporate, I’d have something that others might want to buy into later on.

She was wrong, and I was just young and much less experienced than today.

It took a long time for ABC Western Plains to establish a presence…

Name changes weren’t new to me either. When I joined ABC Western Plains it was as the first Rural Reporter with the newly established Dubbo studios, created when Radio 2CR’s region (covering two-thirds of NSW) was cut in half. Based in Orange, the 2CR Rural Reporter was expected to cover everything from Lithgow to Louth, Hillston to Hungerford.

ABC Western Plains Rural Report Kim Goldsmith
ABC Western Plains Rural Reporter, Kim Goldsmith, 1992

It took a long time for ABC Western Plains to establish a presence – not helped by competing with an AM transmitter that still covered the region. I was frequently told I didn’t look like the former reporter – leaving me puzzled about what I hadn’t read in the job description.

Twenty-six years later, ABC management is proposing a name change to ABC Dubbo. This will be a monumental mistake in a region already stressed by a relentless drought, declining populations and services, struggling to maintain its place in the wider world despite the resilience and resolve of its communities. For those ABC stalwarts who live in Dubbo, I understand it makes no difference. Live anywhere but Dubbo and it’s another nail in the coffin.

Have your say about the ABC Western Plains name change here

Consider ABC Western Plains a personal brand. What does it say to you? Now, consider the proposed name – ABC Dubbo. What does that say to you? Does it say, “I’m a regional broadcaster covering a massive slab of western and north-western NSW…”?

I’ve had clients over the years who have either rebranded or considered rebranding, including a name change. The most successful of those was Macquarie River Food and Fibre, who were Macquarie Valley Irrigators when I started with them in mid-1996 in the midst of a political hotbed over water property rights.

Over several years, they became thought of less as the nasty water users destroying the river, but food and fibre producers putting clothes on our backs and food on our plates. It required not just rebranding, but a significant, region-wide, grass-roots education campaign, that not surprisingly was taken up by some other irrigation valleys across the State.

Name changes can work when it reflects what the organisation represents. They don’t work as marketing gimmicks or flippant reactions. It has to come from a genuine place and be representative of who you are.

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