Thursday, August 24, 2006

Declining Membership in Genealogical Societies: WhutzInaNayme?

What's in a name? The essence of your group is in your name. The first thing people see about your group, whenever it's mentioned in print, or on the computer screen, is the name. It conveys a great deal to the reader, but is it conveying what you want it too? For a brief discussion of the words "genealogical society" and what impressions they give see my blog post of August 21. To sum up in a word, I would have to go for "stuffy" or "stodgy".

There's a whole psychology to word impressions which I'm not going to get into here. But I will make some suggestions for ways you can create a name for your group that will give it a different image. If you're looking to attract some new members from the huge pool of potential members I described in my post of August 22nd, you may seriously need to rethink your image.

Contemporary names are trendy and appealing. Most people are trend conscious. If you pick a trendy name, you're more likely to get a variety of people to click on a link to your site or check out your meeting. If you're not prepared to "deliver the goods" meaning give them appealing, accessible genealogy research advice and information, they won't stick around. But at least we're driving more traffic your way. Keeping them interested is a whole 'nother ball game (see my previous posts for ways to make your group more appealing). For now, we'll look at new name strategies that have appeal.

For the sake of comparisons, I'm going to use some traditional names reworked to create a totally different image. Same group, different name, and well... you'll see.


The Genealogical Society of Detroit becomes: iGene/Detroit
The Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan becomes: PolGene/MI
The Downriver Genealogical Society becomes: dRiver/GeneGroup

The common word you'll find in all three names is "gene" as opposed to the traditional abbreviation for the word genealogical, "gen". Why? Actually, either would be OK but "gene" has a softer sound and softer sounds are more often associated with attributes like passive, friendly, and positive. Also, we are genetically connected with our ancestors by our genes not our gens, so it's good fit for the nature of the group as well.


The Genealogical Society of Rochester becomes: RootSleuths::48308 (48308 is a zip code for Rochester, MI... a take off on Beverly Hills 90210)
The Genealogical Society of Genoa County becomes: GeneGenies of Genoa
The Genealogical Society of Minnesota becomes: FamilyFinders in the Minn
The Genealogical Society of Florida becomes: TreeMakers/FL
The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego becomes: CyberRootSleuths/SanDiego or SanDiCyberRootSleuths

So here we're using fun, happy, cutesy, game/challenge-sounding words to create serious but light hearted images of genealogy groups. They don't sound stuffy, they aren't generation specific, but they still refer to what they are in a catchy sort of way.

No, they aren't serious or studious names. They don't sound academic or scientific. That's the point... drop the old image and try something new. These names hint at cleverness and humor as well as giving a sense of what they're about.

You can also change these names up and add an ethnic flavor...



There's a trend that started on the internet a while back where words (in domain names) were intentionally misspelled but still sound the same when pronounced. This is known as "typosquatting" (don't ya just love new words?). Wikipedia explains it this way:

The shortage of poignant and generic domain names in the coveted .com generic top-level domain has left many hopeful registrants with no alternative but to locate catchy variants of existing generic words e.g. (popular travel site with "z" to replace the "s") in an effort to find "new land" on which to build their website.

Well, this sort of intentional misspelling has really caught on and become quite commonplace and even popular. So with this in mind, we can create group names like:

The Genealogical Society of Fresno becomes: FamiliFindingFamli of Fresno
The Genealogical Society of Tennessee becomes: TreeTrakerz of Tennessee or TennTreeTrekerz
The Genealogy Computer Users Group becomes: RootQwesters on the Net

The thing you need to be careful of is letting some of those not-so-fun words slip in when you're trying to find a clever name:

Document and Deed Diggers of Detroit
Ancestor Analysts of Atlanta
Roots, Records, & Research of Rhode Island

These are all catchy but I'm not sure they're going to get people to want to drop by at one of your meetings or click on the link to your web site. You still need to stay away from words that sound business-like and dry.

Have some fun playing with new names for your genealogical society. Here're some ideas for you to play with...

Instead of "society", try: group, gang, bunch, or org (but not organization... "org" is trendy, "organization" is not)
Instead of "genealogical", try: gene, family, people, genies
Instead of "research", try: find, search, detective, sleuth, mystery, solve, trace, seek, journey, quest
Also try: roots, trees, branches, arbor, lines, paths, pathways

I'm partial to alliteration but you certainly don't need to go in that same direction. You can use puns, rhymes, abbreviations, misspellings, or numbers. Get creative!

One last note... if your genealogical society happens to be in a historical town, you should definitely keep the old, traditional, image words in your group's name. I don't mean a town with a history, all towns have that. And I don't mean a town with a historical society either. I'm talking a town who everyone equates with history, like Gettysburg, Charleston, or Mackinaw Island. When people go to these cities they expect to find that the entire town looks and is "old". The town's whole image is designed to be old and marketed as such. If your group is located in such a place then don't mess with an old sounding name. It will only sound incongruent and tacky.

So much for names. Next we'll look at smart marketing and promotion for genealogical societies. Right about now you're probably wondering if this series will ever end. Don't worry, I'm only planning one more post on the topic after the marketing/promotion post and that will be a reflections/wrap up post. So the end is in sight! Yeah!