What’s in a name? How Penguin PR got its moniker


This week news broke about the remarkable three-year-old penguin who has taken on the role of ‘guide bird’ for its cataract-afflicted companion at a bird park in Surrey, writes Sarah Newton.

The first thing that struck me about this story, aside from the obvious ahh factor, was that the two birds in question had been named Penguin and Squid, presumably by the parkkeepers rather than their parents.

But why did they choose these particular monikers? Penguin the penguin does seem to lack any real thought, while Squid the Penguin could be forgiven for having an identity crisis, alongside his poor eyesight.

Simon Burch, Kerry Ganly and Sarah Newton with the penguins at Twycross Zoo

Which brings me to the question Simon and I are most often asked – why did we choose to call our company Penguin PR?

We know that a strong company name can play a critical role in a business’s success. It’s often the first thing your customers see, establishes your firm’s identity and sets the tone for all your future interactions.

We also know that in our fast-paced world a brand has just seven seconds to make an impression on potential customers, so if your company name is convoluted or unmemorable it’s unlikely to make the desired impact. It also needs to be easy to spell, search online and say aloud.​

The reality is names don’t have to be overly clever or creative but, to be strategic, they must help to tell the company’s story.

Which all means that Simon and I should have a fantastic story behind the name Penguin PR. We should, but like builders who never start their own extension and hairdressers that need their roots doing, we broke all our own rules.

We knew our name should be visual – so that ruled out Newton Burch PR (obviously Burch Newton was never on the cards anyway) and any suggestions that didn’t conjure up an immediate image were quickly abandoned.

Of course, in the digital economy the most important consideration was whether the domain name was available, because no matter how brilliantly appropriate the name, if you can’t get the matching website address, then your business is doomed before it begins. 

And this was when all our first ideas hit a wall. They either didn’t hit the brief, weren’t visual enough to be remembered or the URL was unavailable. In desperation I reached for my toddler daughter’s book – which happened to have a penguin on the front.

So, our name wasn’t inspired by the unusual pet penguin I adopted as a child or Simon’s daring Antarctic adventure – but was actually a random act that on another day could have led to us being called Bob the Builder PR.

But however randomly we came across the idea, we knew immediately that penguins would stand out in a sea of competition and they also represent many of the attributes we wanted our business to reflect. Penguins are fun, hardworking and resilient, they work brilliantly in teams (huddling together to stay warm) and their happy feet take them wherever they need to go.

But best of all, in our 13 years in business we haven’t met a single person who doesn’t like penguins. And I’m the perfect judge of this – I’ve had a fear of birds since I was little, but still like penguins (they don’t flap their wings or look as if they’d cheerfully peck your eyes out).

So happily we came up with a name that is memorable, likeable and reflects our brand ethos. They are also black and white and read all over (just like our work) and, as this sentence illustrates, perfect for jokes, puns and headlines.

After 13 years in business the name Penguin PR is still serving us well. Now all that remains to be seen is if the name survives as long as Squid and Penguin’s friendship.

This blog was written and shared by Sarah Newton. Do you want to find out more about how a blog can help your business? Find out how we can help by getting in touch.

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Penguin PR is based in Derby, but our happy feet take us to wherever we’re needed – we’ve got clients in Derby and Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and across the East Midlands.

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