What’s in a Name?

On this morning’s highly rated KTLA-TV newscast, the anchors spent a couple of minutes ridiculing the term Mayor Eric Garcetti used for his “Great Streets” program. He called it “urban acupuncture,” and that became the headline in the LA Times, rather than the “Great Streets” brand. Unfortunately for the mayor, the news anchors seemed to spend more time ridiculing the name than explaining the plan.

Successfully naming, or “branding,” a program is one of the biggest communications challenges. Be too creative and no one will understand it or, worse, they’ll ridicule it. If you’re not creative enough, the name won’t be memorable. How do you find the brand that is just right? And once you’ve established the brand, how do you make sure it gets used?

The issue here is that the mayor may have undermined his own brand by using a more creative term than the “Great Streets” brand. Developing messaging to ensure the brand is used successfully is essential. Too often, we see an individual’s random comments transformed into headlines that make them cringe. Or even worse, undermine their very efforts.

Messaging and sticking to that messaging helps avoid these headlines. Asking yourself if you would want to see those words or that description in print or as the sole soundbite on the TV news will help avoid headlines that make you cringe.

Before any interview with the media, sitting down in a quiet place, thinking about what will be said and how it will appear to the people you wish to reach and only then writing down what you would like the headline to be will be very helpful in producing the headline and the content you want.

No doubt, the mayor and/or his staff had done all of this. He has a first-rate communications team, and he is a skilled communicator. Ridicule on the Sunday morning KTLA-TV newscast is seen by a very small audience because so few people watch TV news on the weekend mornings.

We look forward to seeing if the mayor and his team choose to stick with “urban acupuncture” or not.

Acupuncture, once ridiculed as medical hucksterism, has gained respectability as it’s been shown to be extremely effective with certain conditions. The notion that a targeted urban renewal program could perform as acupuncture does and send healing throughout the “body” of the City of Los Angeles is an intriguing one. As the Sunday morning newscast shows, this creative term for an old-fashioned urban renewal program will have to get past the news media’s filters to become a meaningful description for “Great Streets.”

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