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The HBS Blog offers insight on Delaware corporations and LLCs as well as information about entrepreneurship, start-ups and general business topics.

What to Think about When Choosing a Company Name
By Brett Melson Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's in a (Company) Name? What to Think about When Choosing a Company Name

Choosing a company name for the new business you are incorporating is a big decision, one that requires quite a bit of thought and effort. Some people like to keep their company's name as vague as possible while others prefer to spell out exactly what their company offers; still others think of a creative and unique name to catch the public's attention. Both of these approaches have advantanges and disadvantages. By keeping a company's name vague, potential clients may not know what type of business the company offers. However, advertising the exact activities of the business via its name often results in a too-long and/or awkward company name. The problem with creating a really unique name is that it might be too hard for potential clients to remember. A great way to settle on a name is to conduct a mini-focus group by asking family, friends and associates for feedback.

Once you have decided on a favorite name and you're excited to name your company, let Harvard Business Services, Inc. help you take the next step. We offer a free name availability service--let us check on the availability of the name you'd like to use. Simply call us or go online to Both options are fast and easy. 

If you wind up choosing a company name that is not available, adding another word, such as partners, group, international, worldwide or enterprises often helps. I tell everyone that choosing their company's name is usually the hardest part of the entire incorporation process. If you put some time and effort into the decision now, you’ll get the name right the first time. 

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Craft Your Story: Technique # 1
By Christina Cornelius Monday, March 23, 2009

Sometimes it is hard to get started with a writing project. To generate the raw material to craft your story, a journalist would start by asking you a few engaging questions. I have found this technique works just as well, however, when you have to play the role of journalist AND story subject. For those of you who enjoy writing, the questions below can serve as a point of departure. If you are more at ease in conversation, these questions can be posed to you, by you, or by another.

1.    Where were you and when did you come up with the idea for your business?
2.    What inspired you to take the leap and start your business?
3.    Can you talk a little bit about what you needed to start-up, whether equipment, training, or seed money? How did you secure those things and get what the business needed to get started?
4.    What was your first concrete step in starting your business?
5.    Share with the Harvard Community a situation that turned out to be one of your greatest challenges as a business owner? How did you handle it?
6.    Can you talk a little bit about specific things that you have done in order to survive in business during economic downturns, recessions, and otherwise tough times?
7.    What would you say is one of your biggest pet peeves as a business owner? How do you cope with it? What do you find most challenging about running a business?
8.     What do you find is the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?
9.    If you could offer a piece of advise for those out there who are just starting out or thinking of starting a small business, what would it be?
10.    What are you up to now? What are you looking forward to?

I hope you find these questions helpful to get the juices flowing. If you want to share Your Story on The HBS Blog, we would love to hear it. Please submit it to our Managing Editor,

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Book Review: How to Master the Media
By Rick Bell Friday, March 20, 2009

I have a library of business books that I’ve read and retired to the shelves, most were interesting in some way but were not compelling. A good many of them postulate dangerous business practices as though management were a science and people are predictable. Follow their advice and you’ll really have problems.

But a few of them have become reference books for me. This elite group of books occupies space on my desk – not the shelves -- and is referred to often enough so that they become dog-eared and do not outwardly represent the great wisdom they contain. These books teach me something specific; there are so few of them.

The writer is invariably at the top of his game in the particular field and is a good teacher. Someone who has earned the title of expert on the topic in the trenches, and yet is generous in his gifting to you the specifics he has discovered that WORK EVERY TIME. Rules that are pearls of wisdom.

One of these books is new on my desk, but I wish I’d had it all through my career. Its title, How to Master the Media is about as bold as you can get. If you could actually learn how to master the media by reading any book on Earth, it would be amazing. Well, get ready to learn how to master the media when this book is delivered by your UPS driver next week.

Every one of the twelve chapters in this book is a complete lesson in mastering one aspect of the media and coming out on top. The topics go from "How to look good on TV" to "How to speak in a crisis" and everything in between.

Let’s take for example Chapter 4: Successful Interview Tools.  In this chapter the author explains the skills you will need and rules to follow to nail your interviews. He even tells you the tricks of the reporter’s trade. He explains how to prepare yourself, how to get your message across and how to handle the investigative reporter. He instructs you to ask every interviewer five questions before agreeing to the interview. He reveals the professional reporter’s top seven dirty tricks. He tells you eleven rules for acing any interview including, “Don’t go off the record” and “Don’t Guess” and tells you when it’s time to shut up! In twenty-seven pages this chapter really does get you prepared to master your next interview.

The author, btw, is George Merlis the former Executive Producer of “Good Morning America”, “The CBS News,” “Entertainment Tonight,” and “The Dick Cavett Show.” As you can imagine, he’s worked with many of the top names in news and entertainment over the past twenty-five years. He’s personally trained rock stars and rocket scientists to meet the press and he has earned his stripes. He really KNOWS how to master the media and he really tells you how to do it, in detail, with rules to follow and examples to make his point. He’s a great teacher.

Whether you’re just starting your business or have been running a successful company for twenty-eight years you need this book. It is fascinating reading, highly inspiring and the kind of jewel you’ll want to have at your fingertips when the need arises for you to encounter the media, in any context.

We are thrilled to announce that George Merlis will be our first Guest Blogger! Stay tuned, for his series on Mastering the Media right here on The HBS Blog.

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The Weekly Media Trainer: Part 1
By George Merlis Thursday, March 19, 2009

Today at The HBS Blog we are thrilled to introduce our first Guest Blogger, George Merlis, he is the President of Experience Media Consulting. This is the first post of his weekly series based on a keynote speech, media training workshops and his book, How to Master the Media. Welcome George! The stage is yours........

1. The Fundamentals

I give a keynote address for business people called “You Can Make the Media Work for You.”  I begin the address by recounting how, years ago, when I was executive producer of “Good Morning America” our show overtook the “Today Show” in the ratings and the chore of booking guests got much easier because politicians, writers, actors, singers, college professors and lawyers clamored to be interviewed.  But not business people.  They had to be sold on appearing.  I suspect that many executives feel they are exposed to more than enough critical scrutiny from customers, shareholders, directors and employees.  Why subject themselves to media probing as well?  The answer is that a well-prepared executive can -- as my keynote title indicates -- make the media work for him or her.  An executive with an agenda can turn almost any media encounter to his or her advantage.

The key word in the last sentence is “agenda.”   If you go into an interview without an agenda, you’ll come out of it wishing the reporter had asked you this question or that question, that he or she had covered this point or that point.  A business person armed with an agenda,suffers no such post-interview remorse. An agenda changes an interview from a challenge into an opportunity.

In a future post I’ll cover how to create an interview agenda and how to make it media-friendly.  But for now let me cover the most basic elements of mass media communications.  These rules are so fundamental that I have the temerity to call them commandments. There are only five -- my temerity has limits.  I’ll list them and then explain each one.

The Five Commandments of Interviews:

Thou Shalt Be Prepared
Thou Shalt Know to Whom Thou Art Speaking
Thou Shalt Be Quoteworthy
Thou Shalt Practice, Practice, Practice
Thou Shalt Not Lie, Evade, Speculate nor Cop an Attitude

While these rules may appear self-explanatory, it’s worth putting a little flesh and muscle on their bones.

Thou Shalt Be Prepared: You can’t get a message out if you don’t have a message to deliver; you need an agenda.  How large an agenda? I recommend just four or five message points plus a URL where people can get more information.  Go in with more agenda points and you’re setting yourself up for frustration because you’re unlikely to deploy all of them and, even if you do, the reporter’s not going to use all of them.

Thou Shalt Know to Whom Thou Art Speaking: You are not speaking to the reporter.  You are speaking THROUGH the reporter to his or her readers, viewers or listeners.  This is especially important if you are dealing with a media specialist.  He may ask very sophisticated questions which you may answer at a matching level of sophistication.  Back in his office, he decides he gets what you’ve said but his readers won’t, so he paraphrases you, diluting the impact of your agenda.  And that brings us to our third commandment.

Thou Shalt Be Quoteworthy: Reporters categorize answers in one of three ways: “Can’t use that,” “Could use that,” and “Gotta use that!”  You want to get your agenda points phrased in “gotta use that language.”    Reporters would much rather use your words than paraphrase you, but you need to give them the raw material -- the pull quotes or soundbites. In a future posting, I’ll give detail how to turn message points into soundbites.

Thou Shalt Practice, Practice, Practice: Fella comes up to me and asks, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”  I answer, “Practice, practice, practice.”  That joke by the late Henny Youngman inspired this commandment.  The most important part of my media training workshops are the practice interviews. It’s critical that you get used to deploying your agenda out loud and in answer to questions.  The best way to do that is to have someone throw questions at you so it becomes second nature to reply using your agenda points. I recommend taping every practice sessions and critiquing your performance.  Then do it again.  And again.  I.e.: Practice, practice, practice.

Thou Shalt Not Lie, Evade, Speculate nor Cop and Attitude: If you tell a reporter a lie and he learns the truth THAT becomes the story.  Also, lies destroy your credibility.  If you don’t know an answer, don’t get evasive.  “I don’t know, I’ll find out for you,” is much better than any kind of evasive tactic.  Speculation is dangerous because you could be wrong, the reporter can leave out the speculative nuance of your remarks and you look like you’ve made a mistake.  Finally, on copping an attitude, the media loves knocking people off high horses.  If you don’t get up in that saddle in the first place, they can’t do it.

Next week: What is News? I’ll deal with the realities of the mass media in the era of 24-hour news cycles and multiple media sources.

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30 Years of Change
By Carleigh Lowe Monday, March 16, 2009

When I visit my parents one of my favorite weekend rituals is watching The CBS Sunday Morning show together. I found this recent video focusing on the last 30 years of change very poignant. With everything going on in the world right now I believe it is important to remember that American optimism and creativity will prevail.

Watch CBS Videos Online

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