Buy a Vowel?

In the past couple of years I’ve given presentations on “new media” or social media to several marketing-oriented health care organizations.

At Monday’s meeting with FSHPRM (Florida Society for Healthcare Public Relations &Marketing), I began to notice a pattern. Some other similar organizations to which I’ve presented:

  • MHSCN (Minnesota Healthcare Strategy and Communication Network)
  • WHPRMS (Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society)
  • FHS/FCBMS (Forum for Healthcare Strategists 12th annual Forum on Customer Based Marketing Strategies)
  • SHSMD (Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development) – that one was in my pre-blog days, and was just  a presentation on media relations.

I was struck by the complete absence of vowels in any of these acronyms, and the resulting difficulty in pronunciation.

First Rule of Word of Mouth: To have word of mouth about your organization, people need to be able to pronounce its name.

Possible reasons for the completely consonant acronyms:

  1. They were created by committee. PR needed to be included in the name. So did Marketing. With a letter to represent the state name, you have four consonants, including a P and an R that need to be together, and everyone gave up on the possibility of pronouncability.
  2. They want to keep the organization secret. Maybe they don’t think marketing, public relations and health care go together — or are concerned that other people might have that opinion. So by choosing a vowel-less acronym they are sabotaging word of mouth about their organization, to keep a lower profile.

What do you think? Is it #1 or #2, or is there some other explanation? And do you know of any health care PR/marketing associations for which the acronym contains a vowel and is able to be pronounced?

(Organizations from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah don’t count, since their state names begin with a vowel. But it would be interesting to know whether they still managed to avoid a catchy acronym.)

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 14. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

5 thoughts on “Buy a Vowel?”

  1. Boy, have you hit on a pet peeve of mine–and a client recently recommended I speak at SHSMD, which (I am told) is pronounced sish-med. For a long time, I’ve thought the science-related PR folks should organize as PRION, the Public Relations and Information Officers Network, which at least makes the acronym a scientific term and includes vowels. Maybe in my next life…

    I’d add that many, many organizations’ spokespeople refer to their groups with acronyms, even when their audience isn’t familiar with it. Somewhere, we forgot that there are terms of art within a group and others outside it. Acronyms don’t aid in understanding, nor the advancement of vowels.

  2. Here in NYC the Greater New York Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society goes simply by HPRMS. As for the reason that healthcare PR and marketing groups use vowel-less acronyms, I’d go with No. 1. Never underestimate the ability of a committee to suck the creativity out of anything.

    On a side note, our local science writers group, Science Writers in New York, goes by the acronym SWINY, pronounced swy-knee. I’d call that a happy accident.

  3. LoL – in the assn world we’re always playing alphabet soup and in fact our association of association blogs is Acronym. One fun story is about SHRM (think the HR prof) which not long ago did a big branding project to discover that the majority of folks used Shrm (as a word) not the mouthful of Society of Human … . So they followed usage and made it their brand.

    Bottom line in assn world is that you need to either make it your brand (think NRA, AARP) or use words.

  4. So true Lee. I’m doing a presentation on social media for HPRMS Greater New York chapter next month and have been equally confused. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to revisit the site to make sure I had the acronym right. On the word of mouth front, great point. To get people talking, needs to be a topic, brand or name that lends itself to a name that can easily be passed along.

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