Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 21 2014

Members Say No Way To Association’s Rebranding Efforts

By David McMillin

Rebranding represents an opportunity for an organization to hit the reset button. From a new name to a new logo to a new tagline, a rebrand is a chance to adopt a new face to showcase to members, customers and business partners. However, it also requires loads of time, energy and money, and even with plenty of research and expert opinions, there is no guarantee that the new approach will be a success.

The National Speakers Association recently discovered the challenges of rebranding during its attempt to relaunch the organization with a new name. In a nearly 17-minute address at the organization’s annual meeting in San Diego, NSA member Bruce Turkel laid out the reasons for the strategic shift. The organization is no longer national; it’s international. The members don’t just speak; they solve problems, entertain, consult, write and perform a range of other duties. Outside of what’s happening within the organization, let’s face it: the acronym NSA hasn’t exactly enjoyed positive exposure in the media over the past few years. While it has no affiliation with the National Security Agency, the desire to distance itself from headlines of spying and data tracking is certainly understandable.

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The new brand? Platform. It seems appropriate, right? Well, unfortunately not in the eyes of many current NSA members. The most notable member with a reason to ask the organization to reconsider its new identity is New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt who appears to have an unofficial claim to the term. From his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World to his Platform Conference to Platform University, Hyatt’s work prompted fellow NSA members to publicly question the organization’s move.

“Although I greatly respect the National Speakers Association and its many remarkable members, I cannot fathom how a talented brand-name-search committee -- which allegedly spent "two years" on this -- could have been so in the dark about the amazing Michael Hyatt, who has branded "Platform" in a big way,” Connie Bennett wrote in a Huffington Post article.

Reaction on social media was more blunt.

“This is not a smart move, NSA. It looks like such a blatant ripoff,” wrote user @rodlie on Instagram.

“This is disappointing. If you didn’t know you were impinging on another brand, you need to talk to your design agency and find out why they felt okay with copying major elements of an industry peer,” echoed user @mariagudaitis.

The organization immediately went into damage control. While rebranding efforts should be a cause for celebratory change, the NSA had to call an emergency Board meeting and shared numerous video updates on the process via YouTube.

“It appears that, even with our best intentions, we’ve offended and upset a number of our members,” Shep Hyken, President, NSA, said.

“After carefully measuring member sentiment, we’ve made the decision to move away from the brand Platform,” Hyken added in a later video.

While every association professional knows that anything new will inevitably be greeted by some frustration from seasoned members, this branding backlash is an important reminder to go to great lengths to gather plenty of feedback before investing more money in brand development and unveiling the new image.

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