Do Heathers need better PR?

I’m not going to get involved in the recent PR bloggers’ spat about cliques, as I feel that would be, well cliquey.  However, as Geoff Livingston chose to illustrate Clique This! with a picture from the movie, Heathers, I feel a need to talk about name associations.

There are times when I’ve been accused of being intimidating, but the only associations with my name when I was at school were with the flower not some schoolgirl bullies (fortunately).  Today, we also have a character in Eastenders and the soon-to-be-ex Mrs Mills McCartney as “famous” Heathers.

Interestingly, I frequently get called Hazel, Helen, even Hayley, rather than my name.  When I travel, Heather is a name that many people find hard to say, especially in France (where I’m called Hezzer) and Germany.

imageThe Telegraph recently reviewed popular baby names in the UK (link credit: Judy Gombita), highlighting the Muslim trend for using Mohammed (or variations of) as a common firstname (with the child known by its subsequent name).  

Looking at the Top 10 list for 2006,most of the names have echoes of the Victorian period.  Although my maternal grandparents’ names (they were born at the start of the 20th century) haven’t made a comeback (that’s Wilf and Ivy).

Our name is part of a personal brand, carrying with it various associations.  These could influence the way that others react to us from a young age. 

The Telegraph looks at the way babies’ names are affected by “the cult of celebrity” – with 38 tots called Cruz (after David Beckham’s third child) and 14 Peaches (after the daughter of Bob Geldof).  It is hard to imagine that, as adults, these children won’t have some embarrassment about their monikers.

Undoubtedly, we all stereotype people by their names – especially before we’ve met them.  A recent email exchange between the CIPR Diploma class at Reading, included the tutor’s observation on media views of PR fluffies:

I was talking to a national journo friend who was berating London PR agencies – they seem to have all fogged within his brain and he referred to a made up organisation where he spoke with “Lucinda of Chew Mine PR”. He feels that all agency PROs have unlikely first names like Porsche or Persephone and they are representing ‘ridiculous ‘companies with names like ‘wild monkey’ and ‘red fish squared’  – why would he take these guys seriously? Could it be that the PR industry is still misrepresenting itself?…But why?

So do I need to start a PR campaign for better representation of Heathers?  Or should PR industry bodies investigate whether the industry needs an injection of serious folk called Joan or Mary (or is that a stereotype too)?  What do you think about “trendy” agency names?  Can I be taken seriously with the “greenbanana” concept?  Are these labels really that important?

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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.

3 thoughts on “Do Heathers need better PR?”

  1. Interesting post – I recently did an analysis of the names on my mailing list for PR people, which alerts them to features I’m working on – turns out most PRs I work with are called Anna, Katie, Dan or James. (Yes, I had a bit too much spare time that week)

    Presumably, it’s an age/demographic thing but it did mean that I remembered the people on my list who had unique names – Crawford, Fred, Flora etc.

    I’d argue that the optimum PR name is therefore reasonably unusual, without crossing into “fluffy” territory – there’s a PR who has an email address along the lines of Princess Tiggy, which doesn’t incline me to take her THAT seriously, for example.
    http://gettingink.typepad.com/getting_ink/2007/11/whats-in-a-name.html

  2. You’re right – names do provoke images, and not just stereotypes about whether someone called Barrington-Smythe is likely to have a chin.

    Heather has the advantage of being an evergreen name. I consider myself blessed in my own name, given Rose Mary came a close second choice.

    I have an Auntie Ethel and and Auntie Freda – and those names suit ladies of a certain age. But I also know of a little girl called Edith, which is a name I just can’t help associating with wrinkles and grey hair.

  3. What a funny… and very interesting blog entry. But everybody’s right: name association can make assumptions about people. Although, I don’t think I’ve ever personally been degraded by my name, but at the same time, never praised either. I have been mistaken as a “Gordon”, “Cory”, and the worst, since I’m a male named “Jordon,” was “Joy”! And that was to my face. Gordon has sometimes put a old-man image in people’s head about me before they met me in person and “Cory” doesn’t even sound like “Jordon”. I’ll admit though, if I’ve heard of a girl that sounded interesting and attractive, her name could turn me off…I just don’t want to marry a girl named something like Dorcus (no offense)… whom I’ve met. Some of my great-aunts were named: Deader, Lity, Liter and Litha… they didn’t make it very far in life. So next time you are about to name your kid, think about what effects it could bare down on him or her later.

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