Friday, 26 July 2013

A Hot Topic: Branding

We are actually having a heatwave! This is one of those times I find myself (once more) deeply grateful to be living in the countryside where it doesn’t get quite as relentlessly hot as in town and there are plenty of shady places for both humans and animals!

A Hot Topic: Branding

Throughout this hot month I’ve been thinking a lot about a pretty hot topic: branding. Before I became self-employed, “branding” was a word I associated primarily with cattle farming and with big, slick multimillion corporations. However, once I set up my translation business, I realised very quickly that not only did I need a clearly defined target market – I also needed a way of becoming visible to that particular market in such a way that they would remember me when a need for my services arose. I needed a brand!
Initially, my idea of what this “brand” was to be like was fairly hazy. However, as I worked with a lot of clients in the creative and cultural industries, I knew I wanted a website and business materials that reflected that creative flair in a way that was both professional (I wanted to be taken seriously as an expert in my field) and personal (I wanted to build strong relationships with my clients as individuals, not just as potential sources of income). I was pretty confident that I could produce the words to convey this effectively, but I needed more than just words – and here I enlisted the help of my artist sister Catherine Hiley, who produced a series of beautiful images that I felt captured what I wanted to convey to a T. I then worked with Astrid Nielsch, another artist and web designer, to create a website that incorporated these images and my text, reflecting my core values of creativity, professionalism and personal service. I am still thrilled with the result, several years down the line!
However, since then I have learnt a lot more about what a “brand” is. This month, my thoughts on the subject received fresh input in a brilliant workshop led by creative branding expert Jo Bradshaw of Minestrone Soul. Many of us solopreneurs feel self-conscious (or downright megalomaniac) when thinking about creating a “brand” – isn’t that something we should be leaving to the really big players? However, Jo encourages her clients to think about branding as something that is not really about them so much as about their “tribe”, or target client base. “A lot of marketing is really about providing a mirror so your tribe can see themselves and feel witnessed,” she writes. “Think about branding as the coat hook next to the mirror. It’ll give you and your people a sense of coming ‘home.’” A brand helps to reassure our clients that they have come to the right place for their needs.
Image © Catherine Hiley –
A brand also needs to reflect our core values, as “when your ideal client lands on your website (or lands face to face with you), they actually have a real need to know that you see eye-to-eye”, writes Jo. Ideally, it will convey your own unique strengths and skills, traditionally known as “unique selling points”. Jo charmingly defined USPs as “unique squiggly places”, comparing our strengths and skills to the squiggly shape of an enzyme travelling round the body looking for its ideal fit. Obviously, the more clearly defined our USPs, the easier it is for an ideal fit (our ideal client) to be found! 
Bearing all this in mind, I undertook a first miniature attempt at “rebranding” some of my business materials this month – in particular, my business cards! My old cards were home-designed and printed for me (very kindly) for free by the print room at the college where I used to teach. They were fine for starting out, but by now I felt they no longer conveyed the level of professionalism and class my brand required. Rather than use a cheap online printing service, I decided to work with local bespoke printers Spiegl Press (who I knew from a local business networking group) and we have worked together on a beautiful design that includes one of my sister’s images. The final results have not been produced yet, but I am confident they will be both creative and professional with a personal touch – exactly the qualities I want my “brand” to convey!
Some further resources on this topic:
  • Jo Bradshaw at Minestrone Soul is a source of inspiring information when it comes to creative branding! Thanks, Jo, for letting me share some of your insights in this blog post.
  • Valeria Aliperta of Rainy London Translations has written a very popular series of articles on branding for translators in Institute of Translation and Interpreting’s Bulletin, and her website and social media pages contain many excellent examples of successful branding.
  • Two translator colleagues whose websites I consider great examples of brands that work well are Megan Onions of Speechmarks Translation  and Sarah Appleby of Sarah Appleby Translations.


  1. So pleased you were inspired and took action, too! Thanks for sharing this with your tribe, and it was such a joy to meet you :)

  2. Thanks to YOU, Jo! I'll send you pics of the cards once they arrive (I got the proofs today, just a wee bit of tweaking left to do...).

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