Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's in a filename? The story of scipak and why filenames matter

There's an ambassador for your brand, company, organization or self out there, one that could be working harder for you--if you'd name it differently. It's the filename for that document you just emailed, uploaded or shared with your client, customer, or colleague. You know, the one you titled "contract.doc" or "newsrelease1234."

A little over 20 years ago, I came up with a filename that is in such wide use today, it's taken the place of the original product name. It's "scipak," my filename shorthand for what was then called "the Science package," a weekly embargoed release of new research findings published in the journal of the same name, where I was then communications director.

Today, scipak's now in use the world over by the journalists and public information officers who use the package, long after I left the building at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes the journal. My former colleagues there tell me that filename has taken on a life of its own. I'm just glad I went with a handy abbreviation for the real thing, something short, convenient, recognizable and specific.

Perhaps you don't think of filenames as "electronic mediators," but you should, in the same way that you may have customized your email signature or fussed over metadata. Is your file name lazy? Subtle (and thoughtless) resume mistakes puts it this way for job-hunters:
If you're emailing or uploading your resume, be mindful of the file name. The person doing the clicking probably doesn't know what a stunningly unique snowflake you are, meaning that all the signals they're getting about your personality, work ethic, and attention to detail are mediated electronically--it's the same reason your terse emails offend people or you text like thissss. Designer Pete Juratovic has a word of advice: He says that candidates often send resumes titled "Resume2013" or "revision5résumé." This makes you look clueless to how other people experience your work. Instead, help them out: re-title that file to your first and last name.
Like most good "sticky" messages, that filename needs to be something concrete and specific to make it memorable--and to help it stand out from the blahblahblah filenames around it. Do your filenames pass that test?

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall, and you get good discounts if you register this month for Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

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