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Name That Gulf

Names matter to people. Names are especially important in the PR business. We go to extended lengths, with mixed success, to get the print media to render our clients’ names as COLLOQUY, not Colloquy, and as the AIR MILES Reward Program, for example. Sometimes its necessary to tell clients their company name confuses customers about what they do, so they should consider a change.

When I was a news reporter, one of the requests I heard most often was – spell my name correctly. I can tell you good reporters are diligent about being accurate on the details of company names. I’ve seen stories held up while it was determined if XYZ business is XYZ Co. or XYZ Inc.

So, I think I can understand what might be called the mother of all ongoing name controversies. It centers on a well-known Middle Eastern waterway. Iran likes to call it the Persian Gulf. Neighboring Arab states prefer Arabian Gulf.

Iran is in the news for warning airlines flying to Iran to use the name Persian Gulf, not Arabian Gulf, on their electronic display boards and elsewhere شركات نجوم الخليج, or be banned from Iranian airspace for a month. Repeated offenses could result in aircraft impoundments and flight permit revocations, Iran has threatened.

Iran punished a foreign employee of one of its own airlines for using the wrong name, and what has been described as a mini-Olympics, known as the Islamic Solidarity Games, set for April, was cancelled when offense was taken at the fact that hosting Iran used the term Persian Gulf on medals.

A London newspaper said the Iranian aviation crackdown reflects growing tension between Iran and regional Arab states. Some have speculated about the aviation sanctions spreading to the maritime sector.

It’s tempting to call for a compromise name, such as the Gulf of Peace. But as I look out the window at my own neighborhood waterway, the Ohio River, I know that’s too easy. For a few hundred years it’s been argued that the Ohio is actually in Kentucky – but it just wouldn’t seem right to change the name of that mighty river.

As for the Iranians and their neighbors, they could agree to disagree. Short of that, I suggest an online re-naming contest, or auctioning the naming rights and donating the proceeds to an appropriately named charity.

Tim provides customized promotional programs and strategic counsel on media relations that benefit from his keen journalistic scrutiny and extensive PR experience. Before joining JZMcBride & Associates, Tim was with two Cincinnati and Dayton strategic communications firms where he specialized in media relations and crisis communications.

Tim was a senior news correspondent in the Washington D.C. bureau of Knight Ridder News before entering the PR world. He reported on political and business news from the White House, Pentagon, Congress, Supreme Court and diplomatic corps in Washington. A former member of the National Press Club, his by-lined stories were distributed by Knight Ridder to major daily newspapers throughout the United States and on international wires.

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