When the real world commandeers your brand name

It's usually good news when your startup's name sticks and everyone knows it. Sometimes the name sticks for the wrong reason, as mobile payment startup Isis is finding out.

Isis, which was founded by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless and allows users to flash their mobile phone to make payments using Near Field Communication or enhanced SIM cards, has the unfortunate circumstance of having the same name as the militant group, ISIS, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

ISIS, the militants, has made a lot of news, not much of it good. 

Now Isis, the startup, is making news — it's changing it's name.

Isis, the startup, posted a message from CEO Michael Abbott yesterday titled "Embarking on a New Brand." Abbott says:

However coincidental, we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence and our hearts go out to those who are suffering. As a company, we have made the decision to rebrand.

Abbott says the name change process is just beginning. But I suspect it will be swift.

Props to Isis, the startup, for the bold move. It's never easy to rebrand, but a service as critical as a mobile payment system must first exude confidence in its users. The company must eliminate any doubt, uncertainty or confusion that could compromise that confidence.


A PR master class from @Walmart

PR folks spend a lot of time cogitating over how to address articles or columns that just aren't quite right.

The New York Times ran a piece on inequality in the workplace that focused heavily on Walmart. The big retailer saw many inaccuracies in the piece — and responded in a novel and masterful way, including posting the response on its blog.

PR pros, here's how it's done. 

Newsjacking done right

Colorado legalizes pot. Ben & Jerry's capitalizes. 'Nuff said.



2013 by the numbers (courtesy of @NPRNews)

It's the last day of list season. 

NPR has a good one, compiled from sound bites from stories in 2013. A clever — and engaging way — to summarize the year.

Enjoy NPR's creative 2-minute video.

Putting the bottom of the list at the top

This is the time of year when lists rule — from Santa's naughty and nice list to the incessant best-of-the-year lists.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) added some new items to their growing list — how well patients fared after knee or hip replacement surgery at hospitals nationwide. The ratings are based on the rate of major complications and readmissions within 30 days for hip and knee replacement patients.

The list is not the story. How the lists are being presented in the media is.

NPR's health news blog, Shots, ran a piece titled "Medicare Names Best And Worst Hospitals For Joint Replacements" along with a list — of the nine worst offenders on the list.

Kaiser Health News played it straighter with a table that lists all 192 hospitals that were either better or worse than average.

In the past, most media would focus on the top performing hospitals and expose situational examples from those that were lacking. Now the focus is on the bottom, looking up.

Ratings are important, but they are only part of the equation patients must examine when they are seeking elective surgery. Your best bet is always to do research and ask around, especially of people who are familiar with the hospital, surgeon and care team at the facility you are considering.

For health care PR folks, you always need to be ready to show how you are constantly improving on quality and experience. Because even if you are at the top of the list, there is always room for improvement.