You’ve worked hard to become an entrepreneur. As the founder and or CEO of your company, you know how to introduce yourself without even thinking about it. But sometimes people spell your name wrong in a publication or forget your title when introducing you to others.
Everyone gets unintentionally misidentified at some point in their career, whether a colleague introduces you to a potential client and forgets to mention you’re the founder, or a nationally broadcast TV news story misspells your name on their online segment. Honest mistakes happen.
While it might seem easy to just go with a mistaken name spelling or incorrect title once or twice, those honest mistakes don’t accurately represent who you know yourself to be. If you never correct the mistake, you’re not being fair to you or your customers or company.
So how do you take agency of your identity and tactfully deal with those mistakes when they happen?
Standing up for oneself can sometimes be difficult, especially for women, but what you do matters. Here are some of the reasons we hesitate to correct these wrongs, and here are some of the ways we can take agency of our identities when people get it wrong.
Situation 1 : The Title Introduction Mishap
A colleague or friend introduces you to important potential clients, giving you a significantly lesser title. “This is my friend Nancy Smith, from Acme Consulting Services.”
From? You’re the founder. You didn’t pay yourself nothing while Acme Consulting Services got off the ground its first year to be introduced as, “from.” You’re the founder and CEO.
But you can’t blurt that out. It would be awkward. But from doesn’t tell anyone what they need to know.
Your initial reaction might be to just smile and go with it, but that doesn’t do you any favors. The situation can be complicated by feelings of embarrassment for the person introducing you. You might feel forgotten, thrown off balance, or even insulted. All valid thoughts and feelings. But jumping into these assumptions can devolve into a mountain of complicated feelings.
This is the time for a quick solution, not a psychological analysis.
Adjust Your Mindset:
Make it easy for your mind and take the quick, clean road; Assume the person didn’t mean anything by it. Assume it was a slip of the tongue and an honest mistake. Even if it’s somehow not true, this will make you instantly feel better and give you the wherewithal to fix the problem with tact.
How to React:
Don’t let it slide, but don’t make it awkward and call your colleague out either. Use tact and get a little creative. Simply shake the person’s hand you’re meeting, and say something like, “Person’s Name, It’s great to meet you. As, the Founder and CEO of Acme Consulting Services, I’m happy to help you in any way I can.” Correct the wrong while making it look like it’s about them and how you can help them.
The trick to working with, and sometimes in spite of, your feelings in the moment is learning to act only with the information at hand. Assume everyone means the best for you, until you have proof of otherwise. This will take the edge off and free up your mind to actually focus on solving work-related problems at hand. Please note; This is, of course, assuming you’re safe and with people who likely mean you no actual harm. Don’t cross the bridge of “why did they do say that weird thing? Maybe they hate me,” unless you actually get to it. Hopefully, you’ll never get to it.
Situation 2: The Misspelled Name in the News (Especially Online)
You just gave a great interview on TV or the radio, a podcast, or elsewhere. You check the news outlet’s website, where they host your story, so you can share it on social media. But you notice they spelled your name incorrectly.
It’s only a flip of the i and e. A lot of people have done that over your life. They only shortened your name from Jennifer to Jenn. Your friends call you that, but it’s not how you are professionally known.
You might just leave it. Especially if there were other technical obstacles they had to overcome to book or post your interview. Their job is hard, you’ve already asked, “a lot” from them. But this thinking won’t get you what you deserve.
Adjust Your Mindset:
A “news” agency or media outlet has the job of getting the details right. They might not have all the existential answers, but they should at least get the known facts right. Your name spelling, pronoun, title, company name spelling, and URL are critically important (and part of why you did the interview in the first place). The media outlet needs to correct their mistake ASAP so their audience knows who the heck you are and how to contact you if they are in need of your services. This is not the time to let it slide. You want to be found.
How to React:
Write a short email, or call your contact person at the media outlet. Make it more about correcting this mistake so, “their readers/listeners/viewers, will know where to find you.” Make it about their audience, and serving them. This is your common ground.
Be upfront about asking them to correct it and give them the exact spelling. Don’t pad your request with niceties. This is a simple editorial oversight that needs correcting.
Try something like this; “Hi Contact Name. I just noticed and error in the spelling of my name on the website (include URL) and I wanted to make sure your readers can find me and know what we’re talking about. Please let me know when this is corrected and I’ll send it out over my social media channels ASAP. Thank you.”
Incentivize it. Ask them to let you know when it’s corrected, so you can, “send it out over social.” This lets them know you care, and that you want a status update, but that you aren’t completely self-centered, since you’re doing them the favor of sharing the post.
As a female entrepreneur, you’ve worked hard. It’s worth it to stand up for yourself. You deserve to be known by the name and title that you have. Be direct and tactful about getting the recognition you deserve.
Jennifer L. Jacobson is the founder of Jacobson Communication, a PR firm for startups. She has been misidentified at trade shows, and seen her name misspelled several times throughout her career, and each time, has worked to correct it with tact. She says: “As women, we work hard to get where we are. We deserve to be identified correctly for it.”