Happy New Year’s Lesson #1: if you’re a woman and you’re gonna brand your name, be sure it’s the one you were born with. After spending a lot of time, money and energy consistently and deliberately branding my name — and my byline — over the past few years, I did the unthinkable. I got married.
Now don’t misunderstand. It was a great personal decision that has started my 2011 off in an unforgettable way. And, I’m happy to report, so far, so good! And, no, I’m not one of those women who feels compelled to take my husband’s name.
The problem, it appears, is that Melinda Kaitcer, the name I branded so diligently is, in fact, my ex-husband’s name. Can we all say, together, “Duh?!?!?”
So how did this happen, you ask? What could have possibly made this seem like a good idea? Well, for one thing, I had a small child at the time, and for all the right reasons, I chose to keep my name the same. I was also, at the time, busily churning out magazine articles, trying to establish my byline and build an identifiable body of work — and as many different kinds of published clips as I could. Millionaire Blueprints. Fort Worth Magazine. Texas Monthly. REO. Cowboys & Indians. Then came the books: Gordon Weinberger’s Infinite Persistence Life Book (my first ghostwriting assignment), and then Clinton Anderson’s Lessons Well Learned, my first collaboration.
The higher my stack of Melinda Kaitcer clips and credits climbed, the happier and more settled into my writing career I became. (And frankly I wasn’t planning on getting married again. Ever. But that’s another story for another time.) While all that was fine and dandy on the personal side of the fence, it has now posed a challenge I never thought of — and in the process, provided an excellent branding lesson I’m all too happy to share. (Why waste a good lesson, I always ask?)
As writers, don’t we all mine our own life experiences for material? For me, this is a self-serving tendency. (Hence the ironic new title of my upcoming book, The Smart Women’s Guide to Midlife Horses, Trafalgar Square Books, March 2011) However, it always takes a little of the sting from my own painful lessons when I can share what I learn to help others confronted with similar struggles. It also helps me to distract myself by looking for the entertainment value within my sometimes colorful missteps. Usually as I laugh through my tears and/or embarrassment and/or annoyance to present whatever help and information I found to solve my own problem, I end up feeling a little bit better about the whole thing. In fact, these are what I call “my hidden paychecks.”
So as I negotiate these tricky waters of rebranding, if you or one of your clients is in the same boat, grab an oar and hop aboard. Feel free took over my shoulder, ask questions, make suggestions, tell me something that will cheer me up, and glide along with me to the other side of this unexpected new adventure!
So where do we launch this dinghy? (Yes, pun intended)
First, I contacted my web dude, the gifted Bo Parker of Thinq Different Design, and asked him to help me work out a rebranding game plan. After running his analytics, he said I had indeed done a good job with my branding activities, and as a result, was pretty deeply embedded in Google.
“Is that good or bad?” I asked.
“Both,” he said.
(Always putting the good first) It means, WooHooooo!!! the search engines are finding me and even though I’ve been slacking terribly on this WordPress blog. And even though I’ve set up all the right pages and accounts on Facebook, You Tube, Flickr, Twitter, and LinkedIn, I’ve been too busy making my deadlines to get those things rolling. still done a decent job getting enough stuff out there to fill several page of hits on Google. And really, the bad wasn’t so much bad as just a yellow light: slow down and proceed with caution.
Switching cold turkey to a new professional identity, Bo explained (he’s exceptionally patient with me and, upon request, speaks very slowly when we’re talking about this stuff), means all previous work connected to my former byline will disappear. However, if I am smart and consistent in how I go about making this change — and don’t make any sudden moves — I don’t necessarily have to lose all that good ground. Simply put, this new identity of mine must be accomplished in stages — and it’s going to take a while.
After talking it over with my new husband, David (and after we both had a little too much fun with my first idea of just using my first name. Like Cher. Pink. Jewel. Prince. Right? Oh wait. I can’t sing. Besides, having just one name would make me feel conspicuous, which is my least favorite thing.), we decided I would use my family name, Folse, for business (changing The Kaitcer Group LLC to The Folse Group LLC), and change my byline from Melinda Kaitcer to, first of all, Melinda Folse Kaitcer.
Quite by accident, I already started this switch with last Spring’s release of Grandmaster: a Story of Struggle, Triumph and Taekwondo. For some reason it just seemed right to add my family name to what I consider my biggest professional accomplishment so far. So sporting the debut of my interim byline, Melinda Folse Kaitcer, Grandmaster has been out in the world seeking its fortune for almost a year.
Bo tells me that using Melinda Folse Kaitcer on everything I do for a while will help the search engines find me again — and that after enough repetitions, they will start to see my new professional name, Melinda Folse, as a phrase. Once the analytics show that the search engines are linking my names (bringing up my work under the Melinda Kaitcer byline when you Google Melinda Folse Kaitcer, and eventually, just Melinda Folse), it will be OK to drop Kaitcer completely still, all my old books and articles should still come up when someone searches my “new” name.
Meanwhile, as I wait for Melinda Folse to become an official Google “phrase,” I think it’s time to climb off my bliss cloud and gets back to work. I’ve got Casserole Wedding in the oven, and it’s starting to bubble into something I hope will be as delightful to those who partake as it has been to prepare!
I can’t be the only woman writer who’s been through this name change rebranding process. I’d love to hear your stories! What would you do differently if you had it all to do over again? What can I share with others about this process that might make it a little bit easier?