OK, that's a bit dramatic, and I never really thought about crying, but I'm about to make one of the most significant changes in my writing career, which goes back to high school in the mid-1960s.
I'm about to change my byline, beginning with the next issue. From the very beginning, I've used T.S. Peric'. I know that some people thought, and a few even told me, that I was being pretentious. They thought I was “stealing” the initials idea from some writer of whom you might have heard: seems his name was T.S. Elliot. Actually, quite a famous writer.
My reason for the initials is simple. I thought my name sounded too “foreign,” and in an attempt to Americanize Tomislav, I could have used Tom but thought it was a shortcut that wasn't totally accurate. The T.S. was a nice, different touch without making a concession to sounding foreign. (That would exclude many British writers who, for some reason, seem to favor initials.)
And so it went. Some people thought I was pretentious, others didn't know whether I was male or female. How do you ask for a T.S.?
But we live in an Internet time, and I'm ready to drop T.S. Peric' and go with Tom Peric'. I suspect this will be my first and only byline change.
If you've stayed with me this long, an obvious question must have formed. What does any of this have to do with the HVACR business and wholesalers? What connection could T.S. Peric's, oops, Tom Peric's byline possibly have with this publication? Allow me a two-word answer: the Internet.
You see, it's a matter of search engines. Without any braggadocio, my name pops up on search engines for a variety of reasons. I pop up as Tom Peric' a great deal and much less as T.S. Peric'. If we're in the business of optimizing our name, business, product or service, it makes sense to create all that “coverage” under the easiest, simplest and most clearly defined terms. Because I expect to be a part of the editorial process for a while longer, I want to ensure that when people want to know more about me, they have connective links that are unmistakable. And because when I'm on the other side of the interview process and the media is actually interviewing me, I used Tom Peric' and not T.S. Peric'.
This matters to wholesalers, too, because it should be a reminder for you to simplify your terms and ensure they are increasingly consistent. For example, studies have shown that people will post a name in a Google search before they go shopping locally. If you spell your company name a bit differently, sometimes using its shorter version, other times using the formal approach, you might not get the same results from search engines. Witness the Tom Peric' versus T.S. Peric' when I Google myself.
I might be jumping the gun; perhaps this change really won't matter as search engines become more sophisticated. They will “know” that T.S. Peric' and Tom Peric' are one and the same person. The sharp distinction I'm suggesting today could be irrelevant in a few years. Or it might occur when I'm out of the writing game.
But one of the most important rules in journalism that has never changed is clarity. No matter how refined you say it or how beautifully you express it, your work is a useless exercise if your reader doesn't understand, is left perplexed or actually misinterprets what you meant to say.
The same applies to content on the Internet. You want to define yourself as clearly as possible. You want the Internet to identify who you are, what you do and the exact nature of your message. Why send confusing signals?
I purposely chose the final issue of 2006 to say farewell to my “old” byline, T.S. Peric'. Starting with February, you'll see the new me, Tom Peric'. It also might be a good idea for you to examine whether your message is consistent, clear and compelling.