That's Not My Name

"Can I just call you Jane?" A teacher at the boarding school she went to in Zimbabwe my friend Tsungai when she was younger.

That's not your name, I said, appalled. It had taken me a good six or seven tries (and another 3 in the mirror when I got home) to pronounce Tsungai correctly - soon-ghee (hard g like in guess) btw. I was determined to call her by the name her parents had chosen for her.

I was reminded by this struggle last weekend at AdColor - where some of the most fabulous
multicultural individuals gathered to inspire and be inspired. Individuals who had names that had wonderfully rolling Rs and secret letters.

Took me a few tries with some people's name, the syllables kept stumbling out of my mouth like an old drunk. But I kept checking to make sure I was correctly pronouncing their names. That's what their mother chose to call them. And I want to call them that. They deserve to be called that.

Having your name hooked, hung and butchered ranges anywhere from annoying to painful. ("Ni-ee-sha" makes me cringe.) Accepting being called something else because your name is too “difficult” can’t possibly feel good.

But even beyond that, it’s not good for your brand.

When it comes to advertising in particular, there’s all this talk about self-promotion and personal branding. How far can you go if people don't even know how to pronounce your brand name? 
You’re not being a jerk by asking people to say your name. Simply say it clearly when you introduce yourself. Enunciate and make a reference if necessary, like “Mitra as in Myth-rah. Like a Greek myth – and She-ra.” Then encourage them to repeat it until they get it right. If Siri can learn how to pronounce names right, your coworkers, colleagues and business contacts can, too. 

Whether you're networking, in a job interview, on your first day at the job or about to give a client presentation, you want people to say Ron Burgundy, not Rob Beargerdy or Ron Whatever-his-name-is. Your name, your brand and what people know you as matters. 

You are responsible for where your career goes. And you are responsible for what people call you on your way there. 

** Note: I had something else set to post today, but then overhead someone call another coworker by a different name because “it’s just easier to say.” Sigh.