Acronyms may be short-cutting your outreach efforts.

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TBH2, whenever I see IMHO3, I immediately think this person is not really “humble.” I’m always Googling the meaning of the latest acronym. That’s because when I ask my son what something means, he sighs and says, “Dad, just Google it.” And I say, “But you’re right here, and you’re faster than me Googling it.” The eye-roll is enough to make me never ask him again.

My pet peeves include LOL —Does anyone really write that when they’re actually “laughing out loud”?—and JK—is your writing so unclear that you have to tell people you are “just kidding”? If you’re confused about the latest jargon, then you're not in the know. When it comes to the acronym short-hand, if you don’t know what they mean, then you’re left out of the in-club. Is that how you want your supporters and prospects to feel?

Remember My Name

Many organizations start abbreviating their names and initiatives for expediency, and they lose track of the “insider club” mentality that this establishes. If you are trying to attract more people, you need to use inclusive language, which means your name should be clear and understandable to anyone. It’s better to spell out your name when your communications are sent out beyond the staff. You never want to alienate the people you are trying to attract.

We want to be the BMOC4

We are spoiled by large corporations that spend millions of dollars promoting their initials. It’s cool to say “IBM5,” “NBC6,” or “AT+T7.” We don’t even care if we know what the letters mean when they stand in for a powerful corporation. Yet how many of us have the advertising budget, the marketing plan, or the broadcasting capability to promote our acronyms?

Here are two examples of brands we have designed that demonstrate how to create inclusive communications that better define who you are as an organization.

The Arts Project of Cherry Grove

When The Arts Project of Cherry Grove asked us to redesign their logo and website, we asked them what their goals were for the project. They told us that the theater in Cherry Grove on Fire Island was the longest-running LGBTQ+8 theater in the country and that they wanted to expand their audience to attract more diverse and younger people. Their old logo had featured a “cherry” standing in for the “C” in “APCG.” It looked cool, but it was confusing to newcomers. We wanted to directly connect the Arts Project to the LGBTQ+ cause, so we employed the language of colors inspired by the Gay Pride flag. We insisted on spelling out the organization’s name in the logo and encouraged the long-term supporters to say the name instead of the initials in order to create a more welcoming and inclusive impression.

TREO Foundation: Treatment Research and Education to end Obesity

When the ASMBS Foundation —American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery—renamed and rebranded their foundation to “TREO” they embraced the idea that a catchy name could include a descriptor that tells the supporters and donors what their all about. Writing out what “TREO” means can seem a bit daunting, but it’s more important that the public knows who they are. Michael Votta, Executive Director of TREO says, “Now I let the tagline speak for the Foundation. Previously we always used to feel like we had to explain who we were. The new brand reinforces that we are about Treatment, Research and Education to end Obesity.” The new name was developed by Julie Cottineau of BrandTwist, who collaborated with Langton Creative Group to develop a new brand and website for the TREO Foundation.

WDYMBT9?that is the question!

Give your brand a little TLC10 by promoting your name without getting caught in the acronym trap. I know if you think about it, you’ll agree because GMTA11. Otherwise, you might just think WWTPOT12.

Unidentified acronyms used in this article:

  1. ICYMI: In Case You Missed It
  2. TBH: To Be Honest
  3. IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
  4. BMOC: Big Man On Campus
  5. IBM: International Business Machines
  6. NBC: National Broadcasting Company
  7. AT+T: American Telephone and Telegraph
  8. LGBTQ+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or "questioning") and the “+” represents other sexual/gender identities.
  9. WDYMBT: What Did You Mean By That
  10. TLC: Tender Loving Care
  11. GMTA: Great Minds Think Alike
  12. WWTPOT: What Was The Point Of That (I made that one up.)
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Langton Creative Group is a NY communications design firm dedicated to improving the way businesses and organizations interact with their audiences. We were founded as Langton Cherubino Group in 1990.

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