Getting to Covia: Interview with Mary McMullin

The following is an interview with Mary McMullin, Senior Vice President for Organizational Advancement.

Tell me about the process of getting to Covia.

Initially we worked on our brand identity: what does our system stand for? What’s important? Based on that work, which was over several months, we sent information to professional namers, which was a team of three people. What they do for a living is try to probe an organization’s identity to then tie it to a meaningful name.

They came up with about 400 names. Then we went through and read the names silently, read them out loud, kind of did a gut check on how we felt about them, and got down to about 20 contenders. Then we spent time on the 20 contenders, searching for them online, looking to see what was similar because you don’t want to have a name that’s adjacent to something you don’t want to be affiliated with.

We also looked at some name trends. So, for example, in our field, there’s a whole bunch of groups that have “age” in their name, and there were a number of our names that had “age” at the end. After a while we rejected those because we realized we would just look like we were jumping on the bandwagon – and in the end we didn’t want to be Age-ist. The more we focused on the word “age,” the more we realized that we were not being as inclusive as we wanted to be.

There was some level of personal interpretation, but ultimately it came down to which names had the most meaning. And then of those with the most meaning, which ones could get all the rights we needed – trademark, web address.

So I would say the process was: identity, then name options, then paring down for meaning, then checking on what we could in fact control. And I think we ended up with three. And the more we all sat with Covia, the more we realized that was the name.

What does Covia mean to you?

I’m hoping it means to me what it means in general. It really is the “co” – the coming together – so you think of all the good “co” words: coordinate, collaborate, community, communicate. So all of those words are important. And then the “via” to me seems a little light-hearted. It’s upbeat. I love the dual meaning of “life” and “path.” So it really is like a command. Covia is “let’s come together on the path of life.” It’s a rallying cry.

What do you hope this change will accomplish?

I’m hoping it will simplify how we are known. All of these details and all of this work to make the change hopefully will lead to simplicity.

Before, we had multiple initials, the different companies that didn’t seem to be logically tied together, and made it really hard to explain not only who we are but all the work we do. Coming into the company last year after having been affiliated ten years, there were volumes that I didn’t know about what we did. And that’s a shame. And that shouldn’t be allowed.

So simplicity, but also getting credit, broadcasting the fact that we are multidimensional. I guess simplicity and story are what I hope it will accomplish.

What do you wish people knew about Covia as an organization?

That we take our mission and vision seriously. It is so not a statement on the wall. And the fact that we take it seriously – and also how it’s interpreted differently at each location and program. We are not in any way a monolithic organization. We have a lot of autonomy and creativity. But ultimately, it’s how do we meet that mission.

So the vision of the continuum is not just about being in a continuing care retirement community. We can offer a broader range of care and services involving people who don’t live in our communities, but create a sense of community.

I guess it comes down to, I hope people know we’re all about community.

What’s your favorite thing about this new brand?

Being able to tell the story. People say, “What’s Covia?” And that gives us an opening to talk about who we are. Using the old name, people didn’t ask. They just assumed. And so I like that we get to tell our story.