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New name, same old story?

So, the RIBA is going to change its name. Are they dropping the ‘Royal’, in a fit of pique following Charlie’s attack on Rogers’ Chelsea Barracks scheme? Are they changing ‘British’ to ‘English’ as many in Scotland think would be more accurate?

No. They’re changing the ‘Architects’ to ‘Architecture’.

Rightly, their members are accusing them of fiddling while Rome burns. The Institution argues that it wants its name to reflect the broader remit of representing architecture, rather than just the interests of architects. It’s a fine distinction, still, they saw fit to devote a significant part of a Council meeting to the decision. The members wonder why they’re worrying about minutiae when the profession is reeling from the harshest economy in living memory.

But the truth about this is that it’ll take more than a unilateral attempt to change their name to change how people feel about them. You see, what determines who you are is not your name, but the collection of feelings and beliefs held in the collective mind of the market. As I’ve written before, there is no reality, there is only perception.

So is the RIBA’s attempt to show they feel they are more than a body set up to lobby on behalf of its members, that they are concerned with agitating on behalf of the built environment, doomed to failure? Well, maybe. It depends whether it’s accompanied by action.

You can change perceptions. It’s tough, but it can be done. But it takes action – dynamic, decisive and highly visible action which clearly demonstrates the change that you want people to make in their mental picture of you. If you want people to think you are capable of building big, complex projects, get out there, win one and do it.

So the RIBA just has to do something to get its message across. Something like win an argument with Prince Charles? Hmm.

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