PLATFORM Collapses: Speakers Group Scraps Name Change After Outcry

After announcing a rebranding this month, the National Speakers Association backed away from the move in the face of criticism from members, who objected to the new name and pointed out that a professional speaker had prior claim to it.

Bold change can be hard to sell.

The National Speakers Association (NSA) found itself struggling with that challenge this month after announcing a decision to rebrand itself “PLATFORM.” The change created controversy among members, in part due to concern from some that that the new name stepped on one professional speaker’s toes, however inadvertently.

It’s clear that we should have done a better job rolling out the brand to membership, and for that I do sincerely apologize.

So on Monday, the association backed away from the plans entirely, with NSA’s president calling the decision “a stumble.” More details on the situation:

Explaining the change: NSA announced the new brand with a presentation during a town hall session at its annual meeting in San Diego this month. In the speech shown above, NSA member Bruce Turkel, a branding consultant who was on the committee that tackled the process, highlighted the various problems with the group’s current name, which it has used over the past four decades. Among his points: The organization is no longer simply a national one, members do much more besides speak these days, and “association” presents an image that’s a little stodgier than the group wants to project. (Also, it’d help if NSA didn’t have to share its initials with the National Security Agency.) “The way we tell the world who we are is simply not correct,” Turkel said. The association’s FAQ on the changes noted that the new name was intended “to be a more inclusive brand for the speaking profession.” It said the change would take effect in January 2015, with the full transition scheduled to be complete by the group’s 2015 annual meeting next July.

Rejecting the change: Well … it turns out that a well-known speaker and author in the space, Michael Hyatt, already has a bit of a lock on the word “platform” as a brand, having written a book titled Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World and launching a conference and membership-based educational offering that also use the term. The result: criticism of the group on blogs, Instagram, and other places. “Its one thing to use a hashtag to capitalize on what is trending,” wrote one online critic, Paul Jolicoeur. “It is totally different to attempt to hijack another person’s brand.” Other complaints included that NSA’s rebranding process wasn’t transparent to members and that the change was sudden and dramatic. In an analysis of the rebranding, blogger Ryan Avery argued that there were pros and cons to the new name but said that it was too broad and could imply it was a TED-style event rather than an association. “I feel like I am going to Platform, not that I am part of Platform,” he wrote.

Pulling back the change: Last week, NSA went into damage-control mode in response to the controversy. The organization put the PLATFORM branding changes on pause and opened up the process to member feedback. “It’s clear that we should have done a better job rolling out the brand to membership, and for that I do sincerely apologize,” 2014-2015 NSA President Shep Hyken said in a video statement, shown above. Hyken also emphasized that the Hyatt’s claim to the brand name was “brought to our attention,” and that the board would meet to discuss the issue and find a solution that took member concerns into account.

That solution came quickly. On Monday, Hyken announced that after an emergency board meeting over the weekend, NSA had scrapped the PLATFORM branding and would go back to the drawing board.

“The future brand of NSA has 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 said in a video statement.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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