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What’s in a Name? What if you change it?

Your name is your brand, so what happens when you change it? This can be an important issue, especially for women, who may change their last names through marriage or divorce one or more times during their careers.

When corporations change their brand names, they often spend millions on TV advertising and direct mail to re-educate customers. Women certainly can’t afford that, but can use less expensive methods. About 10 years ago I created a mailing for two female principals of a consulting firm who needed to notify clients and prospects that they had changed their names, one by marriage and one by divorce.

Recently I suggested to Diane Stafford that she write a column about this issue. Her article, focusing on my experience, appears in the March 28, 2010, Kansas City Star. Read it at http://tinyurl.com/yj2wxy4

In my own career I have changed my last name twice. I started with my first married name, Suzy Brown, while I was at Hallmark, Barkley & Evergreen and my first year at Kansas City Power & Light. Then I got divorced and decided to return to my maiden name, Selby, thinking I would keep it forever. Adding to the confusion, I also started going by Susan because it sounds more professional than Suzy Selby.

But less than three years later, I remarried and changed to Pepperdine. Larry thought it was important that we have the same name, though his three children were grown by then. I told him it was easy for him to say. Unlike me, he didn’t have to change his name on 66 records, ranging from credit cards to my driver’s license.

Working with the media created another problem since they couldn’t recognize me over the phone. When I called a TV station, for example, I’d have to say, “This is Susan Pepperdine. You might remember me as Susan Selby or Suzy Brown…” before I could pitch my story idea.

Some women also have a problem when job hunting. One associate said she thinks she once lost out on a job once because she forgot to tell the prospective employer she had changed her name when she got married. So when they called her previous employer for a reference, the company had no idea who they were asking about. “I learned my lesson,” she said, and edited her LinkedIn profile to include her maiden name.

I did the same thing. So if anyone is looking for the Suzy Brown they knew at Hallmark, they’ll have a better chance of finding me.

Have you changed your name in the course of your career? What impact has it had on your “brand identity”?

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