Why interpreters should think and act like a brand.

BrandSimple is a book I highly recommend for any individual or company that would like to be recognised as a successful brand. Everyone is a brand – the key is to start thinking and acting like one. Allen P. Adamson – the author, explains how the best brands keep it simple, and as a result enjoy huge success.

Earlier this year, I re-visited the main ideas of the book and felt inspired to share my practical insights on what I understand a brand to be; and why every individual or organisation should start thinking and acting like a brand – regardless of the industry and the size of the business. The research that I continuously dig up about branding is quite fascinating; all the authors, bloggers, and experts emphasise the same thing: that a brand is more of an experience rather than something we can touch and see. Its driving force is psychological and decisions are made by consumers unconsciously.

With this premise in mind; I would like to apply some fundamental principles to the interpreting industry, first as an individual followed by a business; and hopefully encourage readers to start establishing their own brands.

What is a brand?

A brand is often misunderstood and reduced to the visual elements that make up the brand, such as the logo, colours, shapes and the clothes worn. In fact, branding specialists Ignyte explain that a brand is a mental process of identifying emotions and actions that shape the perception in a person’s mind; it’s a memorable impression created in a consumer’s mind – both positive and negative.

The way that people perceive you as an individual has a huge impact on your reputation – your body language, the words you use, how you engage with others – people are constantly paying attention and making mental notes. So branding, personal or business branding, keeps evolving because you can decide who you want to be known for; and by strategically positioning yourself, you can change and control how stakeholders engage with your brand – this ultimately influences your reputation.

Thuli Zikalala is my personal brand. Yellow Owl is my SASL interpreting brand.

Here are three tips on WHY branding is so important, taken from Forbes.com

1) It distinguishes you from your competition

Your brand allows consumers and stakeholders to know exactly what to expect from you or your business. This is where you communicate specific elements such as your personality, values, purpose, mission – and by using branding road map tools, you are able to direct and measure overall progress. I’m passionate about leadership and driving positive change in my community – I want to be known and remembered for this.

Expressing your shared values and ideas is a powerful way to set yourself apart from your competitors because there is something familiar that audiences can resonate with; which influences them to choose you over someone else. Yellow Owl drives the message of making digital content refreshing, accessible and inclusive to a wider audience through SASL interpreting and captioning – we want to capture the users’ online experience.

2) It drives new business and increases your brand value

Your reputation always precedes you. There is an uncontrollable ripple effect, almost like a chain reaction when people mention your name or business. Word of mouth is also a form of advertising because people may refer your business based on the positive or negative impression they had when engaging you.

The good thing is that if stakeholders perceive you to be reliable and familiar; then new potential clients may find you because of already existing positive mental associations about you – keeping you one step ahead of your competitors!

3) It builds trust

In a world that is constantly changing; we keep looking for meaning, belonging, identity and purpose wherever we can find it. The best way to retain stakeholders in your company is to deliver on the promises you make; an this is the difference between intent and action – if customers will buy your products and actually buying your product.

But HOW do you build a successful brand?

Brand building experts Freshsparks tells us how:

1) Discover your brand voice

A brand voice includes elements that distinguish your company from competition advantage that’s easy for people to recognise. Examples of this are your brand story, logo, website, colours and taglines, mission and values. It is important to understand your passion and what you want to be remembered for – what positive impact would you like to make in society.

2) Always deliver on your promise

When you as a person or your business says it will do certain things or provide a certain experience; these are found in your messaging, tagline, launch dates. The expectation created is much higher when the promises are explicit and tangible. On the other hand, subtle promises are more achievable because consumers have more time to process branding signals unconsciously.

3) Persevere and be patient

One of the hardest reality checks is that success does not come over night; it takes a lot of work, consistency and practice. As mentioned in the beginning, establishing a successful brand is multi-layered that includes psychology, philosophy, art and science that continues to evolve over time in structure, experience and meaning.


When I started thinking of myself as a personal brand and being intentional in my business to communicate my vision, purpose and mission – my life changed. I became more focused and strategic about how I spend my time and who I surround myself with, like-minded people who share my ideas.

I would encourage readers and interpreters to be aware that everything they say and do is being watched and ultimately communicates a certain message that may be perceived as pleasant or uncomfortable. If you are currently unsure about how people perceive you, or you know for sure that your reputation is not that good: make a honest introspection about what you want to be known for and start moving into that direction through everything you so and say.

Before long, after some effort, you should see be on your way to building and developing your personal and business brand.

By Yellow Owl

Welcome to Interpreter Insider, so glad you could join us! As an Insider you’ll be a member of this limited group of like-minded thinkers with exclusive knowledge about the ins and outs of the interpreting industry – and other related topics. You will have access to insights, experiences, tips and Yellow Owl's personal take on what the future of SASL interpreting may look like. Thuli Zikalala is the founder of Yellow Owl. This blog is a reflection of her bold decisions made about a year ago that led her to this very moment. It is a collection of the lessons learnt along her journey. Enjoy!

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