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Operation Name Drop: A New Communication Method

By: Guest | September 13, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Laura Petrolino.

Today, with endless ways to communicate, we are producing messages thrown into a sea of faceless consumers. The challenge for any business is to make sure their message resonates and find its way through the clutter.

I’ve discovered, in working with clients, many need to re-learn what ‘communications’ actually is.

So, straight out of Communications 101, here is a little experiment to try. I like to call it “Operation Name Drop” (It is times like these that I wish my blogs had a soundtrack, because this one would be an award-winning cross between Indiana Jones and Superman).

Operation Name Drop can be executed the next time you are interacting with someone you don’t know well. As you are giving your order to the waitress or checking out at the supermarket, take a look at the name tag of the person helping you and….wait for it…..at some point in the conversation say their name.

I know…this is big. Take some time to fully absorb the magnitude.

Instead of…

“How’s the Cedar-Planked Salmon?”

Say, “Hi Wendy, how are you? How is that Cedar-Planked Salmon?”

And then, observe the change, because there will be one. Wendy will suddenly drop her guard. She will subconsciously understand you don’t see her as a nameless, faceless, ‘thing,’ but as another human being – by the name of Wendy.

Congratulations my friends, you have experienced the power of personalized communication.

We live in a nameless, faceless world where, sadly, personalized outreach has become the exception, not the norm. While online interface is thriving, actual communication is suffering. Making yourself and your business ‘the exception’ is more powerful than anything else you can do.

Enter Operation Name Drop

Operation Name Drop is a good example of how simple it is to personalize communication. Each strategy is different depending on the organization, but the overall goal is the same: Make sure whomever you communicate with knows they (as individuals) matter to you. The emphasis is on THEY, not their money, not even their business.

By this point most of you have settled into three camps:

  1. Group A: Those who are already brainstorming the simple changes to make in the communications strategy to personalize messages.
  2. Group B: Those who are sitting there mumbling something to the tune of, “Well, sure, that is easy for a business like X, but doesn’t work for my business.
  3. Group C: Those who are craving Cedar-Planked Salmon.

With all the methods that now exist to better facilitate communications, we often become so engaged with the communication platform that we forget to engage with the communication’s target (your customer).

You can use the most innovative communications methods and measure ‘impressions’ and ‘effect’ and ‘influence’, but in the end these are just numbers that have nothing to do with the resonation of your message.

Humans are ruled by emotion, not algorithms and analytics, so make a meaningful emotional connection with every Wendy, Joe, Bill, and Linda!

Laura Petrolino is chief communication officer at Ignite Venture Partners, which brings together consulting, capital, and concept incubation to build value in early and growth stage businesses.

82 comments
keithbloemendaal
keithbloemendaal

I am the absolute WORST at this! I have a restaurant client that I frequent for cocktails and after 3mos I STILL couldnt' remember the bartender's name! I do know (Amy) and yes it makes a difference!

hackmanj
hackmanj

I name dropped the flight attendant "Janet" on a flight today, I could see the difference, very cool :)

Now look what you've started! :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

Laura, listen to this. I hate TSA. With a passion. I'm pretty sure they're here on earth to make my life miserable. I've never understood their rules and they're never the same from airport to airport. And, being executive platinum has no meaning to them. They suck.

But today, I was in line at security at LAX (LAX + TSA = misery) and the guy checking IDs said hello to every, single person by saying their name and asking how they were. Not just the good-looking people. EVERYONE. By the time I got to him, I told him he's going to run the joint someday. What a HUGE difference.

Al Smith
Al Smith

Thanks Laura. I mentioned this on my blog post today. People love the sound of their own name. It's not so much communicating (we all do that) it is Connecting. When you use a persons name and then follow up by actually listening to them, they feel like they matter, that you CARE, and presto, a connection is made. Thanks again.

Al,

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

My Dad is the consummate name dropper. If there's a name tag on a server or someone working in say a Home Depot, you can bet he'll use it. I love it. It does immediately bring down some barriers and begin to pave the way for smoother communications and relationships. At the end of the day, we all want to be heard, valued and noticed. Simple as that.

Griddy
Griddy

Ha!

This article couldn't have come at a better time Laura :). You're so right!

Just last night - I was hanging out with a few friends. There was this one girl there who I don't know well at all but who I bump into often for we share a few friends in common and we pretty much go to the same places - but her and I have never really spoken before - nor officially met.

Well earlier in the day - I bumped into her at a restaurant during lunch and I said hello to her using her first name.

When I saw her again later in the evening she came up to me and said how much she appreciated me referring to her by name when I said hello earlier. It's funny because I didn't think she had noticed but I was wrong - not only had she noticed but it stuck with her and she felt the need to let me know that she appreciated it (me recognizing her personally) and that not many people did that. It would have been easy for me to pretend I didn't know her name and just say a regular "hello" with nothing else. But I do know her name and I know she knows who I am as well - so why not?!

Seeing that we were at the same table later that evening she came over and pulled up a chair next time which actually lead to a pretty interesting discussion and a complete change of perceptions.

All that to say - it may have been a silly little hello - but it made a difference. And in all honesty - I'd like to think that in general I'm pretty good about recognizing people - no matter who they are, what they do and what they can or CAN'T do for me.

As for waiters and waitresses (and a lot of other professions that also use name tags in the US) - unfortunately where I come from - it's rare that they were name tags - but when I know them - I do refer to them by name. Same thing goes for when I talk to someone on Twitter - if I don't know them - I click on their profile to reply using their first name.

Anyhow - I'm sure you get the point here with this little novel of mine lol.

I really enjoyed reading this piece Laura - thanks for the reminder. I hope more people realize the worth of others and how a simple little thought or gesture can go a long way.

Cheers

hackmanj
hackmanj

Hi Laura! I read this earlier this morning via Email and love the idea.. I think people really appreciate when you take the time to recognize them (in some small way even). Great reminder that people are people (in your words - ruled by emotion). Hope you are well! -Joe

jshuey
jshuey

Another great post. Laura I am always impressed by your ability to put what we all should be doing into words with practical and actionable points. Well done!

kamichat
kamichat

I did this at the bank the other day. I said, "Hi, Pedro" and he blushed, lowered his voice, and said in a conspiratorial voice, "My name is actually Manny, but I forgot my nametag and had to borrow one for an inspection this morning." We both laughed, and he went out of his way to help me that day. I am a big fan of nametags, probably becuase I am not the best at remembering names. I am working on it though. Kami the Kagaroo, anyone? I might have added a forth category for the forgetful people. :-)

JackiePurnell
JackiePurnell

I totally agree Laura. Although I will add that you should be careful when you're trying to surreptiously trying to check out someones name tag.

This happened to me the other week. I was partially distracted by a friend and I was caught staring at the poor girls chest. I'm sure she thought I was checking her out.

Using her name after that little episode would have only looked like I was trying to get more friendly.

Embarrasing to say the least...but pretty damned funny, especially to my lunch companion.

Ameena Gorton
Ameena Gorton

Interesting! I am group A for sure ... I hate salmon ... but the Bs are the ones who get me going ... excuses or lack of understanding? I can't yet decide.

lauraclick
lauraclick

Well said, Laura!

I think this lesson applies in social media too. When I respond to people on Twitter or on blog posts, I try to use people's names quite often. I really think that makes a difference and helps you stand out. Simple advice, but oh so important!

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@hackmanj Awesome! I love it! (And I"m sure poor Janet did as well, flight attendants have it the worst!) Nice work Joe :)

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@ginidietrich Absolutely love it!

I've long thought that TSA needed a totally rebranding. If done correctly they could position themselves in a way that resonated with peopie's desire to feel protected, instead in most cases they completely disregard the fact that the people going through their lines are living, breathing, feeling human beings and herd us like cows going to slaughter, yelling, berating, strip searching. Instead, if they took a breath and targeted their message at the individual desire to be cared for and taken care of and made small adjustments to how they communicated with us, the whole process would be alot less miserable on both sides.

Amazing how that one small change affects the whole perception of the process. The agent's simple act of treating people....gasp....like people, created a much better opinion of TSA than any multi-million dollar horrendously ugly (because you know it would be) billboard saying "TSA cares" (most likely with a smiling Asian woman so they could be 'multi-cultural") ever could.

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@Al Smith You are exactly right Al! We are in a world where we communicate more and connect less...and that is pretty tragic!

Love your blog by the way!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Griddy WTH!?!? You FINALLY come back online and you comment on a guest post (no offense, Laura)?!?

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@Griddy Such a fantastic story Ingrid! Especially interesting the power of name dropping in a situation like this where that was the one variable that changed the nature of the relationship. It's almost like I have you on payroll...to help validate my post :) (let me know where to send the check)

And I love this last quote "I hope more people realize the worth of others"...and I think that is exactly it to a tee. We are so used to interacting with technology that we often forget how to interact with humans, who unlike computers have value and worth that deserves to be acknowledged.

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@hackmanj Thanks Joe, appreciate you stopping by to comment! Drop me a line, would love to catch up and see what your latest and greatest is!

So exciting, three of my favorite J-Men, Joe @hackmaj, Jeff @jshuey and Joel @FranchiseKing all dropping by!!

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@jshuey Ah...thank you Jeff! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your kind words! How are you doing?

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@FranchiseKing Good thing you are royalty, or I might have some choice words for you, King #@$%! :)

It's Princess 'Blondie' to you :)

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@kamichat hahaha! Honestly, I'm not the greatest at remembering peoples names either. I can remember details about them, and I record conversations in my head so that tends to be much easier for me to recall in a tight situation. Try that and see if it works better for you...so for example, if I see someone, I 'should' know and can't remember their name right off, I'll normally instantly go up to them and bring up something about our past conversation, "How is your dog doing, I know you said he was sick last time we talked". That way, I"ve still made it clear, I KNOW and CARE about them, even without having a name :)

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@JackiePurnell Oh my gosh Jackie! That made me laugh so hard!! Yes, please use name dropping carefully! I should have put a disclaimer. "I will not be held liable for any restraining orders that are put in place due to inappropriate use of Operation Name Drop"

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@Ameena Falchetto Probably a bit of both. Also 'communications overwhelm". I often see that people get so overwhelmed by trying to use the most newfangled communications platform and monitoring their 'impressions' or their 'influence' they forget the basics.

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@lauraclick Very true! It really doesn't matter what form the communications outreach takes, on or offline, people want to feel special.

jshuey
jshuey

Doing well. I just landed in my homeland ... LA. I still want to see if we can collaborate on a few posts too. I have them in my tickler file (wow, now that sounds really archaic).

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@lauraclick@lkpetrolino I have to admit, when someone I don't know tweets me on @spinsucks and calls me Lisa, it REALLY gets my attention. Because they took the time to look at the bio, see that I'm tweeting, and call me by my name. I completely agree. Weird. but I'm so easy!

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@jshuey Hahaha! Wow, the number of 'South Park-esque" jokes about being in your 'tickler file' are never ending.....But YES, we definitely need to set aside the time to make it happen this fall!

lkpetrolino
lkpetrolino

@Lisa Gerber@lauraclick Yep, I'm the exact same way......it really is the little things, this is why it KILLS me when I see people pour tons of money into elaborate 'marketing' campaigns, all the while they are forgetting the simple details that really make a difference!

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