Just Google – Heather PR UK to find me

and I have been chatting about the importance of using last names.  We’ve noticed that bloggers often refer to someone by their first name only – which isn’t necessarily helpful to that other person, especially as it impacts on search engine optimisation.

But beyond the techy reasons for using a last name, there are the social reasons.  It is simply more professional to provide your full name.  Personally, I use a “first name only” filter as an indicator of someone trying to sell me something.  It seems only advertising people get that personal up front on the phone for example.

But isn’t it friendly to be on first name terms?  Perhaps, but if I don’t know you, then maybe it’s too friendly.

In the past, the use of first names was an indicator of status.  In one of my first jobs working as a secretary in the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at Oxford University, only us “domestics” were called by our first names.  Academics, managers and students all had last name honours.  In terms, that’s Ruby the kitchen maid versus Mrs Bridges the cook.

It is also important to use your full name if you want to be remembered.  In one class, a few years ago, it seemed most of the students I taught were called Laura. 

I’ve also noticed on some press releases that the sign off is from PR practitioners who don’t appear to have a last name.  This seems to me to be too informal.  Although the relationship between journalist and PR practitioner is likely to be on first name basis (at least in the UK), the professional mark seems lost when the last name is omitted.

Of course, some people dispense with their last names entirely.  Pop stars such as Madonna, Kylie or Cher are “unique” and need no more introduction.  Most of us aren’t born with such a distinctive asset, and it would seem odd to adopt a professional moniker to gain such benefits.

Mind you, Judy informed me that if you search on Google for then this blog appears at the top of the list.  That’s even higher than news that Heather Mills McCartney has split from her PR advisor. 

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

6 thoughts on “Just Google – Heather PR UK to find me”

  1. As I commented to you directly when I discovered this particular search (via PR Conversations’ stats page), you should trademark Heather PR UK. Make it official that you own this particular space. 😉

    And did you notice that all of the examples you used are females? That’s what I commented on Karen Russell’s blog, Teaching PR (http://teachingpr.blogspot.com/): females are particularly bad about using a first-name only.

    Do’s and Don’ts of online reputation management

    (snip from my comment)
    “Some females (not all) are particularly bad about using a first name only. You might as well have not have commented (in my books) if you hide your (unique) opinion behind a name shared by thousands. Think about it: if your surname is uncommon, it’s even better for your online brand in terms of page rank, should organizations, prospective employers or individuals go searching.”

  2. I don’t think it is just females – but it is often more important that women are seen as being more professional. I was advised, by a male colleague, early in my PR career that I shouldn’t be the person to hand round the coffee in meetings and he always made a point of taking on this task, especially if it appeared the other chaps there thought it was my role.

    In terms of my examples – the practitioners on the press releases are male and female. And I could have cited Thomas the Chauffeur and Mr Hudson the butler to illustrate how last names were dropped for the lowly below stairs (I notice there was an Upstairs Downstairs reunion just last week: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?in_article_id=490590&in_page_id=1773)

  3. As a (potential) customer, I find this habit quite annoying, as they are trying to sell something on the phone and they only give their first name. Si if I call back to make a complain, I won’t have their full name. They believe it is more informal and friendly, as you say, but I think it is not. Sometimes it sounds to me as if they were hiding their surname, just in case…

  4. Hmmmm…to use my last name or not to use my last name. That is the question. I agree that in a professional setting my first and last name should be used. I read somewhere that using first and last name sends a clear message of professionalism. Even going as far to say that by not using a last name diminishes the importance of what ever message you’re trying to get across.
    I’m on the phone a lot during the day and it’s apparent things are done differently all over. It has grown quite common to address complete strangers on a first name basis. As for me, I’m a first name basis type of gal, but (and a big but it is), many I speak with are respecters of formality. It’s better to be overpolite than not polite enough.
    Gives one a lot to think about in the realm of being professional.

  5. Is there possibly a generational variable here, Heather? My classrooms are filled with young 20somethings, a majority of them female. When I ask each to make introductions at the outset of the term, I must consistently remind them — men and women — that last names are part of any introduction. Perhaps, too, it’s part of the informality fostered by social media.

    Not as many Lauras here in the U.S., Heather. It’s all about Brittany and Jennifer.

  6. I think there could be something in what Bill says regarding 20somethings. In some senses their confidence and informality is great – but I do think we need to help educate them on the value of using their last names. Perhaps tying it into consideration of their personal brand as well as the points from Ignacio and Colleen about expectations of others re professional behaviour would work.

    Just realised that I’ve only used first names in this comment – but now you’ve taken part in the conversations, I feel we know each other a bit better!

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