Name: Diane Hummerston.
Job: Marketing and communications manager,
Qualifications: Secretarial diploma. Last job:
Development manager, Merseyside Drugs Council.
First job: Secretary, Merseyside Passenger
It’s tempting to dismiss companies and organisations that change
their names as being preoccupied with style over substance. But
sometimes a new name is needed because the old one no longer
reflects an organisation’s ethos. This was the case for Merseyside
Drugs Council, which rebranded last December as Lighthouse
The charity runs 11 projects and services for drug users, former
users and their families in the North West, including treatment
programmes, community drugs teams, needle and syringe exchanges,
relapse prevention groups, vocational training and employment
support. Set up more than 35 years ago, Lighthouse Project is now
one the biggest independent drugs agencies in the region.
“We’d outgrown the name,” says marketing and communications
manager, Diane Hummerston. “Having the word ‘drugs’ in the title
was very negative for our service users – it reinforced the
The charity also felt restricted by being seen as a local
organisation. “Some grant-making trusts will only fund national or
regional charities,” says Hummerston. “Our long-term strategy is to
move beyond the Merseyside area. We want to expand. There are many
areas in the North West which don’t have the range of services we
Once the trustees had agreed it was time for a new name, the
charity commissioned market researchers to talk to users, staff and
the general public.
“They asked our service users to make some suggestions. They came
up with some very creative ideas. A lot of them were delighted we
were changing our name.”
“Lighthouse” and “beacon” were two of the most popular suggestions,
and Lighthouse Project was finally chosen by trustees. Hummerston
acknowledges it is not the only organisation with Lighthouse in its
title, but says that in the North West the name does not have the
association with HIV work that it has for many Londoners.
“There is also a Liverpool Lighthouse which is part of a local
Christian charity. We spoke to the church about our plans and they
didn’t feel there would be any conflict or confusion.”
Hummerston adds: “It’s very hard to come up with a name that is
entirely original and which reflects the ethos of our
Surprisingly, there was no staff resistance to changing the name.
“I think everyone accepted a change was needed, and that we would
have to spend some resources doing it.”
But the new name got a mixed reception. “There were some
apprehensions with staff not liking the name or the logo. It’ll
take time to bed down. People feel comfortable with what they know
and the key to keeping staff on board through change is consulting
them and keeping them informed.”
Hummerston admits that the rebranding process is lengthy and can be
frustrating. “Trustees had to ensure it was the right decision – we
Once the decision had been made, the next step was to get the new
name registered at Companies House and by the Charity Commission.
“They have to check there isn’t anyone else with the same name. We
chose ‘project’ because another organisation called ‘The
Lighthouse’ already exists.”
Legally the name was changed in December but the official launch
was only held last month. “All the letterheads and key stationery
were ready for December. We then had six months to get the
Lighthouse Project’s promotional material, signs and noticeboards
A launch at the Liverpool Maritime Museum provided an opportunity
for marketing the project to existing and potential partners. “As
well as the Lord Mayor and our partners, we invited dignitaries
from other areas and representatives from the three local
universities – people we hope to be developing further links with
in the future.”
Inevitably it will be some time before everyone gets used to the
new name. The children’s charity Barnardo’s dropped the “Dr” 17
years ago, but despite large sums spent on marketing some people
still refer to Dr Barnardo’s and think it runs children’s homes.
Hummerston and her colleagues are hoping their rebranding will be
quicker to achieve.
- Consult as many people as possible.
- Involve your service users – they’re the people all this is
- Have a working plan to roll out your new image.
- Spend a fortune on image consultants and expect staff and users
to like what they come up with.
- Try to please everyone.
- Keep everyone in the dark until you’re ready to unveil the new
name and logo.