CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I am launching my own PR firm in a few months and I can't think

of a name for my agency. I have run through thousands of different

possibilities, and I've asked for everyone's advice. I really want to

come up with an original name, something that will reflect the

personality of the firm, my creativity. But will that put clients off?

And how should I come up with this name, anyway?

Ms. D, Knoxville, TN

A: Choosing your agency name is as great a responsibility as picking

your own child's name. I phoned a couple of experts in uniquely-named

agencies for help with your question. Peter Shankman, CEO of The Geek

Factory, a firm that is known for its offbeat approach to PR, says he

chose his agency's name primarily to vex his parents.

But Peter later found the name to be a very useful litmus test for

potential clients. "Clients who didn't like it or who would freak out

about it, we probably wouldn't want to work with anyway," he says. "If

you're going to have a problem with the name, you'll probably hate the

fact I'm telling your clients to jump out of an airplane."

Elaine Cummings and her two (female) partners were prompted by a contact

to name their firm Eastwick Communications, a sly reference to the novel

The Witches of Eastwick. "We didn't want a string of last names that

would sound like a bad law firm," says Cummings. Elaine adds that you

shouldn't be afraid to take risks. "I think it can help you stand out

from the pack. You can have humor without being too frivolous about


It's not easy to advise you on how to cultivate inspiration, but it will

help to write down some of the core qualities you want your firm to

embody, and think up words that depict those qualities. And don't ask

too many people for advice. As Elaine says, there is always someone who

won't like your name. "At some point, you have to go with your gut."

Q: I just graduated from college and took my first PR job with a small

agency this summer. The firm specializes in public policy work. One of

the things that they told me in my interview is that it is really

important to stay on top of the news, particularly out of Washington.

But I am finding it really tough to digest all of the material that I am

supposed to read every week. I manage to get through all the newspapers,

magazines, newsletters, and stuff, but I get so overwhelmed with

information that I don't seem to retain anything. Then when people

discuss current events in meetings, I flounder and can't contribute

anything to the conservation.

Can you give me any advice for keeping track?

Mr. E, Arlington, VA

A: If you plan to stay in PR, you will need to make friends with the

printed word. It does not help to view your reading as an endurance


Try writing down a few brief details of the most significant news

stories as you read them. Don't take too much time over this, just jot

down three or four words that will remind you of the story's


As the weeks pass, you will see more clearly how the story develops,

because you are making a connection to the article both visually and

through your writing. Eventually, you may be able to abandon the note


But you may find it valuable to keep it up.

Going into work just a half-hour earlier and devoting that entire extra

time to reading can also be a big help.

- Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try

Pandora. E-mail her at

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