The Pros and Cons for Changing the Name of NSA

Many of you are speakers and this post will focus on the name change of a very important organization to our industry. For those who do not identify as a speaker, you will still take away important lessons of what to consider when making a big announcement.

I attended the 2014 National Speakers Association (NSA) Conference this week in San Diego for the first time. I joined NSA in July 2013 and have been looking forward to this event for almost a year. Filled with life-changing content, building blocks to life-long friendships and inspiration from the world’s greatest speakers, this week was an event that will be remembered for a lifetime!

The organization made a HUGE announcement during the conference and over the past several months the Board of Directors along with staff, special committee, hours of deliberating, surveys and questioning- the leadership team has decided to change the name of the National Speakers Association to Platform.

I have mixed feelings about this and don’t know why we needed a major name change overhaul like this (As I have heard, membership has been at an all-time high and we had a $100,000 surplus in our operating budget last year) but they said “the rate of change in recent years has outpaced the evolution of the organization, and it was clear we needed to make a number of changes to stay relevant as the premier association that serves the speaking profession.” Here are the pros and cons to changing the name of NSA:

Cons to changing the name of NSA

It is SO broad that it doesn’t tell people who we are.
I like the word “speaker.” I understand that others don’t identify as speakers as many of our members are entertainers, comedians, bloggers, authors, etc. and we are wanting to be more inclusive but there are many other organizations, associations for those people to join. This group is focused on speaking and using our voice to inspire, educate and entertain. Speakers first, blogger/author/comedian/etc. later. It is a disservice to Cavett Robert (Founder of NSA), our members and those we serve for not including a form of “speaker” in the name of our organization.

It sounds like an event, not a group!

I feel like I am going to Platform, not that I am part of Platform. It doesn’t tell me who I am or what I do. TED is an event. SXSW is an event. Sundance is an event. As I heard it explained, the Medial Doctors Association is not changing their name to Emergency Room, Plumbers Association of America are not change their name to Toilet and the Sailing Association of Australia is not changing their name to Ocean. Just because we speak from the platform, it does not need to be the name of our organization. I am afraid this word is trendy and what will it mean in 10 years?

What does this mean for everything else? 
When they rolled out the name change on stage, they didn’t explain what else was changing. What about the website? What about the membership requirements to join? Where do we learn more about this and how can we get more information about how we incorporate this into our marketing?

Pros to changing the name of NSA

It will help grow our industry to include more professions.
The term “platform” allows other professionals to join our organization who do not feel they are speakers but rather thought leaders in a variety of mediums (blogging, vlogging, writing, entertainment, etc.). As much as I like the word speaker, I think it will grow the organization and attract new members around the world.

It is no longer a national organization but rather encompasses a global scale.
We should have changed it to Global Speakers Association with Platform being what our events were called and breakout sessions focused on platform specifics for speakers, bloggers, entertainers, comics, etc. But Platform is a more inclusive word than National, as we now have 20+ countries represented around the world. But again, why not Global Speakers Association?

The tagline is spot on!
Inform. Influence. Inspire. This, as an industry, is what we do and they did a wonderful job summarizing what value we add as speakers to those we serve with these three words. This will be a great way to help explain to others what I do for a living and that I am more than a public speaker, I am a problem solver.

Regardless of what you think about the name change, this involved a big announcement and a HUGE change to an organization who has more than 40 years of history. I commend the leadership team and Board for making this change and actually taking action to try and remain relevant. So the next time you are planning on making a big announcement at work, home or to your members, here are things to remember:

1) Remain professional and get insight from the world’s experts
2) Be prepared to answer questions and have staff trained and ready to answer FAQs
3) Have a place for people to get in touch to answer even more questions
4) Ask the right person to deliver the news to the group
5) Do a great job explaining “why” but also the “now what?”
6) Do your homework on what others inside and outside the organization think
7) Practice, Practice, Practice delivering the announcement beforehand

However, I don’t think associations are dead, I think the way we market them needs to improve and how we reach our target market could use some work. Because we are in over 20 countries now, I understand the need to change the word ‘National’ and would have like to have seen it be changed to The Global Speakers Association.

We are moving forward with Platform and it is an exciting time in the organization’s history as we plan to continue to serve thousands of people around the world each year with our messages, our ability to solve problems and add value to the masses.

QUESTION: I want to know what other (speakers and non-speakers) think about the new name change. Do you like the name Platform, why or why not? As speakers, let’s do what we do best and start talking and creating a conversation by posting our opinions below.

Ryan Avery

Author Ryan Avery

Hi, my name is Ryan! I share motivational stories and strategies that improve the way you communicate at work, at home and with yourself. When we meet in person, I will most likely give you a "would you rather" question and say "y'all" way too many times.

More posts by Ryan Avery

Join the discussion 55 Comments

  • Daisy Yu says:

    I just heard about the name change and really did not know much about it until I read your blog.

    last night I was watching TV on TN BBQ, and in one occasion one of the restaurant owners said really apply to this, sometimes it is about being who you are and not about trying to please everyone else, sometimes by doing so, you loss uniqueness about you, your store.

    I fully agree with you when you wrote: “We should have changed it to Global Speakers Association with Platform being what our events were called ”

    I am not a real NSA member yet, but I can say I am disappointed with the change, if one day I do join as an official member and when other asked me which organization do I belong to, and I answer “platform”, I can guarantee you no one think it make sense.

    • Ryan Avery says:

      Thanks for sharing Daisy. I agree that you can loose uniqueness if you try and please everyone else. Thanks for sharing your opinion because it matters.

    • Warren Evans says:

      As point of clarification: one reason not to just change the name to Global is because there already is a global association (The Global Speakers Federation; comprised of national speakers associations from about a dozen countries) . . . and NSA is a member of that association, and has been for 15 years. The 0verwhelming majority of “international members” NSA references are not NSA members at all, but members of their own national associations, which also belongtot the Global umbrella organization.
      Hope this helps

  • Sean says:

    I’d say a pretty big con is the fact that Michael Hyatt (michaelhyatt.com), who has one of the most popular blogs on building a platform, already has a book called Platform as well as an online program called Platform University. The graphic is even similar… Can you say “brand confusion?”

  • Gerard Braud says:

    The cons are spot on. I see no pros. A tagline is not a pro. A tagline can be added to any brand.

    The word Platform is meaningless. I never hear anyone outside of NSA ever use the word “platform” to describe a stage.

    A good brand name should be self-evident. It should NOT have to be further describe using phrases such as, “Platform, the premier association for professional speakers,” as NSA is suggesting. The stronger brand would be “The Association of Professional Speakers,” or “The Association of Professional Speakers, Trainers, and Entertainers.”

    I hate to see a single penny spent on this or a single minute spent marketing an unknown brand to replace a well known brand.

    I give it a big, fat, thumbs down.

  • Scott says:

    I personally don’t like the name change. I hope they will come to their senses and issue a statement soon

  • Kyle Dowden says:

    I was going to point out exactly what Sean said about Michael Hyatt. He has already developed an entire business based on the Platform name.

    NSA comes off as either having not done their homework, or trying to ride someone else’s coattails. Even if that is not the case, that is how it will be perceived.

  • Andy Traub says:

    PRO – Piggy backing on Michael Hyatt’s brand.
    CON – Theft of Mike’s branding, especially the color scheme and design.
    CON – Stirring the pot of Mike’s tribe of hundreds of thousands of engaged readers, listeners and friends.
    CON – Wasting a lot of money on a brand you don’t own. Whatever outside firm they hired wasn’t cheap and in the end all NSA got was Mike’s brand, not original thoughts.
    CON – Confusion. Google the word Platform. How does NSA think they’re going to overcome a NYT best selling book, an existing conference with the same name and an on-line community with thousands of members? Answer; They’re not.

    • Ryan Avery says:

      Thanks Andy, I should have mentioned Hyatt in this list and thank you for bringing it up! Thanks for sharing your viewpoint.

    • Andy,

      As an ardent member of Michael’s tribe, I couldn’t agree more.

      Well summarized. I took a less measured and perhaps more heated approach. Just had to jump to Michael’s defense.

      Connie

  • Sundi Jo says:

    It saddens me that a reputable organization such as yourself takes what Michael Hyatt has made successful for your own, expecting no backlash. I hope you’ll reconsider your actions.

  • Mike says:

    I agree with Sean. There are so many reasons to NOT (almost) copy someone else’s brand. Michael Hyatt has worked very hard to promote his work around his brand with the same name. With what appears to have been a lot of time and effort to change the name and branding, really, someone should have noticed when you type “Platform” in Google, Mr. Hyatt’s site is listed just under the definition of the word!

    Call it a mistake. Call it a stunt. I call it crossing a line and bad promotion.

  • Ian Griffin says:

    One weakness in the new brand strategy was the failure to secure social media and domain name registrations related to the brand. The current URL for the organization is NSAspeaker.org. Before the announcement platformspeaker.org was available on GoDaddy for $12.99. No longer. There are a whole bunch of new gTLDs such as .expert and ,pro which show availability for platforspeaker – but for how long? Also, what URL should regional chapters use? Northern California uses nsanc.org, should they try and secure platformnc? With what extension: .net to match the parent organization? Then there’s the Twitter handle @platformspeaker…. and so on…

  • Liane Faneca says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Andy Traub. Excellent analysis, Andy. I believe you speak for many others also.

  • Joseph Iliff says:

    It does seem like this has not been thoroughly thought out beforehand. If NSA did not expect to have to address these questions, they should have. If they expected this controversy and decided to use the Platform identity anyways, then it would have been better to address it up front. They should have said they understand that others use that term and brand, and they expect that there is room for all.

    I wonder if they’ll have a problem with anyone else using their soon-to-be discarded NSA brand. Or are they concerned that would be confusing if another organization branded itself that way. I would love to find our their reaction to that.

  • Erin Snyder Dixon says:

    I agree with Andy. It feels like we ran out of original content and lifted a whole brand. If we are to become a global speakers’ alliance, we can certainly find a better way to convey that direction

  • Cheryl Jones says:

    As a NSA Chapter Board member and a speaking professional, I am disappointed in the new name primarily because it has no credibility nor does convey who we are as an organization. In the past, when I’ve spoken to individuals or groups referencing that I am a member of the National Speakers Association, their response is, “Wow, that great!” The NSA name was clear and conveyed credibility, professionalism and expertise at speaking even if the individual had never heard of the organization prior. I am imagining future conversations when I say, “I’m a professional member of Platform.” To which, I expect them to reply, “What the Heck is that?”

    It seems that this is the year for national association name changes. The American Society for Training and Development just changed their name to “atd” – Association for Talent Development. At least their name is a bit more descriptive. Why do we have to make things so complicated?

    • Ryan Avery says:

      Thank you for you thoughts on this. I tried this out on the plane today where I told the guy next to me I was part of Platform and he was entirely confused.

  • Carol says:

    There is a singer “formerly known as Prince”.
    I certainly can’t remembe his name change!

  • Melinda says:

    I wonder if there are any Trademark issues that are being infringed here? That’s a question for an IP/TM lawyer, however if I were Michael Hyatt or the board of Platform.org I’d be looking at sending (former) NSA a cease and desist letter.

    • Ryan Avery says:

      Good question. I don’t know if you can trademark an english word like that by itself? Hmmm… we will see what happens! Thanks for your comment Melinda.

  • Marc Gabris says:

    I completely agree with your analysis. Global Speakers Association would be much better.

  • Darryl Davis says:

    I so agree that Global Speakers Association would work so much better or even International Speakers Association, or International Association of Speakers.

    I just sent this email to platform@nsaspeaker.org:

    I STRONGLY oppose the name change. Here are just SOME of my reasons:
    1. The word Association distinguishes who we are. Taking that out makes little sense. When I call someone and I say I’m calling from Platform, they will not know what that means. And you can spend several millions of dollars promoting “platform” and it still will not make sense. I’m not a platform…I’m a speaker.

    2. Let’s try Platform Association…it sounds like companies that make staging.

    3. The video on http://www.platform.net said the word “Association” is the word our grandparents use and it’s old news. The official definition from the IRS is: “An association is a group of persons banded together for a specific purpose.” THAT SURE SOUNDS LIKE US. And by the way, currently there is over 1.9 million Associations in the US…doesn’t sound like it’s old news to me.

    4. We are speakers first and foremost. All of the other members who do other things are free to be a part of what we do, but we are, always have been, and always should be…speakers first and foremost! When I introduce myself, I say I am a Professional Speaker. If someone is a Blogger and they consider themselves that, then they should join the Bloggers Association….or of they are Comedian/Entertainer, they can join the Association of Entertainers. When the announcement was made and the slide listed ALL of the things we “do”, it still is not WHO we ARE! By the way, I have written 3 books, I blog 3 times a week, I sell my services, I tell jokes in my seminars, I deliver training & coaching, I sell educational CDs….but these are all outlets for my message that I SPEAK on! I am a speaker first!!!!!!! I want to be hired to SPEAK not blog, entertain, or do stand up comedy.

    5. One of the main points of the video was we are so much more than speakers. WELL…you can say that about ANY PROFESSIONAL. Bobby Flay is an author, marketer, entertainer, entrepreneur, restaurant owner, etc. but first and foremost HE IS A CHEF who belongs to the American CULINARY Federation. How about the Robert De Niro. He is a restaurant owner, marketer, writer, producer, director, speaker, etc….but first and foremost AN ACTOR who belongs to the Screen ACTORS Guild. Or a REALTOR. They are also marketers, celebrities in some cases, landscaper, blogger, speaker, counselor, etc. but they are called Real Estate Agents that belong to the National Association of REALTORS. I can go on with hundreds of examples.

    6. The announcement on http://www.platform.net said we want to be hired by all these other organizations that do not call themselves Associations. That’s right…they don’t call themselves Associations because THEY ARE NOT ASSOCIATIONS they are EVENTS. And most of the events presented on the video are mostly in the entertainment industry. It made no sense what was presented.

    7. Lastly, if we try to be an organization for everyone, this organization will lose the essence of who we are. And you can count on another new National Speakers Association growing.

    By the way…take a look at our Mission & Vision Statement, along with Key Competencies. Based on the direction of this announcement, we will have to re-write this, which means we are no longer a Speakers Association. Unfortunately, I want to be a member of a Speakers Association…not a member of a platform of people (I can’t even make the word “platform” work properly in that sentence).

    Mission: NSA is the leading source for community, education and entrepreneurial business knowledge needed to be successful in the speaking profession.

    Vision: Every expert who uses the spoken word to present content to an audience for a fee belongs to NSA.

    Our Key Competencies: NSA seeks to always advance professional speakers’ skill sets in four core areas:
    • Eloquence – The art of speaking and the use of powerful and persuasive presentations. This means creating the proper setting for an effective presentation as well as the concrete skills related to presenting, performing and theatrical methods.
    • Expertise – The knowledge, skills and experience in a specific area. Speakers should know which body of expertise is ideal for them and be able to effectively research and develop their content.
    • Enterprise – The purposeful undertaking of a successful speaking business venture. This includes business management, sales and marketing knowledge, as well as the skills necessary to generate income through speaking engagements and other revenue streams.
    • Ethics – The principles or standards governing the conduct of those in the speaking profession. Ethics is the foundation and summation of the three other competencies. It is about who you are as a person — both personally and professionally – and encompasses your reputation, character and integrity.

    It would have been nice if the current NSA Leadership had asked the entire membership for input, before spending all this time and money on something as important as this. I guess the membership input was not important.

  • Thank you for taking an even-minded approach to this. This needs to happen more. I love the name platform and I’m looking forward to helping it grow.

    p.s. you have a bad link to the platform site towards the end of your article.

  • A platform is an area you stand on while you’re waiting for the train.

    A platform is a shoe with very thick soles.

    A platform is a raised structure in the middle of the sea from which oil or gas can be drilled.

    A platform is the declared policy of a political party.

    What were they THINKING?

    • Ryan Avery says:

      Platform does have a lot of meanings. I am really looking forward to hearing what their next announcement will be and who makes it with an update about Platform. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • Joel Heffner says:

    The worst part about “Platform” is that members will have to waste time explaining what it means…if the even want to mention it at all. The most surprising thing is that none of those responsible got up and said, “This is a dumb idea!”

    • Ryan Avery says:

      I tried it out on the plane and told the guy next to me I am part of platform and he was so confused. It will take a decade for people to know who we are and what we do.

  • Of all the changes to consider that would move NSA forward, why make one that takes us back to ground zero? Mercy! And further, introduce it as a “surprise” with no one weighing in except …. who? Good to know the direction since it is dues renewal time. This move by NSA reminds me of a million abusive relationships I have counseled, that is, no true partnership, just edicts (evidences of thirst for power from the ultimately powerless). Life is about one thing – relationships. This one appears broken. Man up, NSA. Admit your mistake and seek forgiveness. We are a forgiving bunch but not a “follow them blindly” group. You have forgotten what many of us preach, that is, integrity in group process for starters.

  • Ed Rigsbee says:

    Changing the name of an organization does not increase the value members receive. Changing the organization is the way to create more value. If it is members that we want…give more value. New names with old organizational paradigms does not move an organization forward. I do not have a strong opinion on the new name: Platform. However, I do have a strong opinion that Platform must reinvent itself from the inside out rather than from the outside in. And the core of change must be providing more member return on investment. I believe this so deeply that association executives all around the world are reading my book, “The ROI of Membership-Today’s Missing Link for Explosive Growth.” If you would like more, you may access articles adapted from the book at:
    http://www.rigsbee.com/associationarticles.htm

    Ed Rigsbee, Certified Speaking Professional, Certified Association Executive

  • Jack Sims says:

    I wonder how many of you were asked whether the NSA brand needed to be, or should be changed, I know that I was not.

    The chances are that there are a few good brand building experts who are currently members, and I would venture to say that they would not have come up with the “Platform” direction had they been given the task to change the name of the organization. I wonder if any NSA brand building experts were asked for their opinions.

    I would assume that that whoever made the change asked the fundamental questions like:

    What was the reason to change the name?
    Did we not have any equity in NSA?
    Does anyone already own Platform?
    What are the downsides?

    In my experience, in changing names or logo’s it usually is best to work by taking an aspirin, not to have major surgery. You do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Having launched many brands, I do not understand, when the speaking industry is not in great shape and we have a very recognizable brand, that we would basically re-launch in a very difficult marketplace!

    Just my random thoughts.

    • Ryan Avery says:

      Great thoughts jack and thank you for sharing your insight with us! Good questions to think of when we are looking at rebranding our own companies as well!

  • Connie Bennett says:

    Ryan, your blog post is certainly intriguing. It’s also a lot more measured than my two blog posts. Frankly, I’m very, very disappointed with the National Speakers Association leadership. More like I’m appalled by this name change, which clearly steps on the toes of Michael Hyatt, who has branded Platform in a big way.

    I was at the NSA convention earlier this week, and I was simply astounded by the announcement and the look-alike logo and colors! See my blog posts (in which I mentioned you). http://www.sugarshockblog.com/2014/07/the-platform-debate-authorspeaker-michael-hyatt-and-the-nsa.html and http://www.sugarshockblog.com/2014/07/did-nsa-leaders-forget-to-google-platform-before-stomping-on-michael-hyatts-brand.html – Look forward to reading more from you.

    • Ryan Avery says:

      Thank you Connie. I am looking forward to reading your article and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Can’t wait to hear what they say they are doing next.

  • I can’t imagine anyone saying, “I am a member of platform.” The reaction could be, “Oh, so you’re a tap dancer.” One of many points: The prestige of being a member of a professional speaking group would be so submerged that it would become meaningless. I wonder if the proponents reflected on what happened to Coca Cola when it rebranded. Methinks the people who voted for this had a herd mentality and did not truly reflect on the long-term negative affect it would have on membership by losing the prestige of NSA.

  • Mike Wiley says:

    Frankly, the name National Speakers Association is great. It is clear and descriptive. It has years of history behind it. You don’t have to explain it. It explains itself. The attempt at change seems almost an effort to be too cute, and too “with it.” In a decade, it risks being “so 2010s.” I hope the current leadership simply sticks with NSA. A name change is simply unnecessary, and because it is unnecessary, the money and effort spent on it is counterprodctive.

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