Judy Gombita 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 Upstairs, Downstairs 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 heather pr uk 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.