Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

February 12, 2013

The Power of a Good Gift

Many families are celebrating the Lunar New Year this week, exchanging gifts with relatives and friends. It got us here at UNO thinking about the power of a good gift, and how a thoughtful present can often bridge cultural differences.

The exchange of gifts among kings, chiefs and presidents is a centuries-old tradition. From the ancient civilizations of Rome and Egypt to the native tribes of North America, ceremonial gifts have paved the way for peaceful coexistence between peoples of different cultures. They are universal symbols in the language of diplomacy.

When President Obama met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in April 2009 he put a modern twist on the traditional exchange of gifts by presenting her with an iPod. The Queen was delighted as the iPod was loaded with images of her trip to Virginia as part of her official tour of the United States two years prior to that, in 2007. The President was roundly celebrated for his careful and considerate choice of gifts.

While your present may not warrant international scrutiny or acclaim, getting the right gift can make the difference between a warm welcome and a moment of discomfort that may put the whole meeting off. Taking the time to select a unique token of your appreciation for your host – whether he is a friend or business colleague – makes everyone feel good.

Whether you are attending a party at a new international friend’s home or a business meeting of a potential international investor, remember that gift-giving customs vary from culture to culture. What may be considered culturally savvy in one country often becomes a cultural faux pas in another country. Not only do customs vary from place to place, but the importance placed on exchanging gifts, and the protocol associated with giving, will vary. It is important to understand how various countries view gift giving. Gifts may be viewed as thoughtful gestures, generosity, business development and promotion, bribery or payment for special favors.

Do your research and find specific guidelines for each culture. Sometimes a simple internet search can do the trick. Research will help you determine if there are any “taboos” or things not to do when giving gifts. For example, in some Asian cultures, the number “4” is an unlucky one, so never give a gift in sets of four!

Here are some helpful resources to help you get started:

The Art of Cross-Cultural Gift-Giving

International Business Etiquette 101

Gift-giving in Asia

Preventing International Gift Gaffes

Business in Brazil

December 27, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions

As the holidays draw to an end and we begin to prepare for the end of the calendar year, we think of endings. And, in turn, of new beginnings. Now is a good time to reflect on and recognize the progress made this past year, and make goals for the next.

sunrise SC

We at UNO have a lot to be thankful for in 2013. We’ve had a successful 2012 and are continuing to grow. But, like all humans, we’re continually looking to improve and advance. In this light, UNO has assembled its top New Year’s resolutions for small businesses.

  1. Go local. The online world has become an essential place for businesses to connect with their local community. Make sure your business has a local listing on key search engines: Google PlacesBing maps, and Yahoo maps.
  2. Social network in the real world. Business is driven by referrals and connections. In 2013, put some effort into networking by signing up for an industry conference or seeking out a local meetup group. These are invaluable ways to develop relationships and share advice with fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners.
  3. Refresh your website. In the race to master new social media tools, don’t overlook your own website! It doesn’t make any sense to build a beautiful and savvy Facebook presence that funnels people to a boring, out-of-date website. Keep it current and engaging!
  4. Diversify your workforce. Studies have now shown that having a diverse workforce does in fact lead to competitive advantage. Diversity of the seen and unseen – culture, thought, style, skills, education, workplace flexibility, and perspectives – ensures that every member of the team is represented and valued. When looking to hire new employees, think outside the box! Diversity of thought, view point and mindset leads to more innovative results than “like-thinking.”
  5. Think Inside the Box. Identifying potential new clients might be easier than you think. Reach out to your workforce, existing clients and personal contacts and ask them if they know someone who may need your product or services. Enable your workforce to act as “brand ambassadors” for the business to help raise awareness of the company and help identify new business opportunities.
  6. Learn how to delegate and do more of it. When you’re just starting out or times are tough, it’s natural to tighten the purse strings. However, consider what you could gain by handing over certain tasks to employees, assistants or contractors. By relinquishing control of administrative tasks, you’ll free up time for what’s ultimately going to keep you in business: bringing in new business.
  7. Reward Yourself! In 2013 be sure to reward yourself – and your employees – for specific milestones like a big client win or meeting a tough deadline.

We want to hear about your New Year’s resolutions – what are your goals for your business in 2013?

December 12, 2012

Dance Through La Vida

On September 13, 2012 I had the pleasure of speaking at the Sterling Women luncheon, an organization founded to create new networking opportunities for business women in the DMV, about my life experiences as a Hispanic woman – served with a hint of salsa!


I spoke about family, strength, compassion, the power of music, and learning how to overcome life’s obstacles by “dancing through la vida.” As one of my favorite sayings goes “it’s not about the storm, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

You can watch the full presentation here: Dance Through La Vida presentation

Hispanics make up the fastest growing segment of the US population.   Are you making an effort to reach out to this group?  Don’t know how?   As always, we are available to help point you in the right direction.

For more information on UNO services and speaking availability, give us a call at 571-333-5515 or email us at

December 6, 2012

Going Global?

In our last blog post we explored the importance of “culturally rebranding” to meet your target audiences’ needs. This week, we will take the discussion a step back and focus on how to prepare your business to “go global.”

UNO works with a lot of companies that want to develop a presence in international markets. Before embarking on new territory it’s important to understand the culture, customs, needs, and unspoken rules that will ultimately help you better tailor your concept for that country.

It is essential, before entering a new market to identify the motivations behind your decision to explore entering the international marketplace. Look at what your domestic marketing strategy has been and how the business plan needs to be tailored to be positively received in a different market.

Here are UNO’s top tips to help prepare your business to enter the international market:

  1. Learn the customs and business etiquette. When entering a foreign market make sure you know the country’s history, the proper way to greet someone, the ordinary times for lunch and/or prayer. Make sure you are communicating with them in the expected way within their society — using appropriate salutations, etc. Building rapport with people and understanding their value system are essential tools for doing business globally.
  2. Learn the language. Understanding the language of the market you’re entering is essential. When you visit a country for the first time, hire a local guide or translator—especially if you’re not fluent in the language. The U.S. Embassy should be able to put you in touch with a guide; ask for someone with connections in your industry. The price for an interpreter depends on where you’re going and what level of expertise you want. Make sure you know what you’re getting – a good guide will open up doors for you.
  3. Check out the competition. Has one of your competitors tried to enter this market before? What obstacles did they face? How did they approach the new market? And most importantly, what would you do differently? The Department of Commerce website is a good place to start for helpful information including country fact sheets and press releases.
  4. Check in often. If you’re looking to expand globally, you’ll need to be in constant communication with distributors, sales reps, and other colleagues. Phone and e-mail can be impersonal – using online-video conferencing could be a good alternative if you’re unable to travel to the new market often.
  5. Learn the laws. Overseas, your company will be subject to unfamiliar regulations. Get solid contracts with the companies you’re working with in the new market – preferably contracts that you can enforce in the United States. And, when you’re doing business in a non-English speaking country, make sure you can communicate effectively with your local partners. Again, learning the language is essential to ensuring success in international markets.
  6. Focus groups, focus groups, focus groups! Understanding each country’s culture means you have to find ways to reach what would otherwise be the same demographic but in a different location. A new approach may be needed to make your product or service suitable to the needs of a new market. Studying these cultures, including their professional and personal customs, will ensure that you conduct yourself in a respectful way. This will also signal to business leaders and potential customers in the new market that you know their protocol, you’ve done the research and you’ve taken the time to adapt your business to their culture.

More and more small businesses are finding it easier and more profitable to expand their business internationally. A well-conceived strategy to go global can actually reduce risk for your business and build sales.  For more information on the consulting services that UNO offers to businesses going global, contact us at

November 29, 2012

Cultural “Re-branding”

In our last blog post we talked about how rebranding can make a business stronger and, in some cases, completely revitalize a company. We decided to rebrand a year ago to better position ourselves as a company with a proven ability to connect cultures. Successful, forward-looking companies that do business with non-English speakers, or in multiple countries, understand that it takes more than a language to connect cultures. You don’t have to veer away from your business identity, but smart companies will “rebrand” to fit the local culture and business climate.

Nestlé is an example of a consumer company that knows how to tailor its products to local niches – which is one of the biggest reasons why it managed to gain market share in most business segments during a global economic recession. Nestlé’s “glocal” approach is what has helped it land at the No. 1 spot in its category in Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies list every year but one since 1998. This mindset has created items like Nescafé with creamer and sugar included, useful in places lacking refrigeration, and a huge range of products targeted to subgroups like Hispanics in the U.S.

All business is local, not just in the retail industry. Nobody wants to be embarrassed when doing business in another country. Yes, translating your company’s website into the languages of the countries that you’d like to do business with is important, but beyond that you need to understand the country’s culture. What if you reach to shake the hand of a new Japanese business acquaintance, and you were actually supposed to bow to that person? We need to develop cultural knowledge, cultural awareness, and cultural sensitivity to improve cross-cultural competence.

When working on building your brand’s international presence and market-share make sure that you’re thinking globally and creating a comprehensive strategy. The extra level of insight and understanding you bring to the table will signal to potential clients that you’ve done your homework and that you know how to successfully “rebrand” your company to their culture.

November 13, 2012

The Power of Rebranding

In 18th century Prussia, Frederick the Great was looking for ways to help feed his nation and lower the price of bread. He proposed the potato as a suitable new addition to the nation’s diet. But the people were unimpressed, prompting one town to write “The things have neither smell nor taste, not even the dogs will eat them, so what use are they to us?”

Rather than accepting defeat, Frederick decreed the potato a royal vegetable, planted a royal field with potato plants and ordered his guards to protect them. This had the effect of making the potato incredibly desirable, so much so that peasants would risk breaking the law to steal from the king’s garden.

Frederick the Great had successfully rebranded the potato.

Rebranding a company’s goals, message, and culture is hard. Many have tried and failed.

A successful campaign requires more than a revamped logo. It demands a vision that inspires customers, investors, and others to see the company in a new light. Through savvy marketing and better quality control, some companies discover new ways to revive their brands and in some cases, make them stronger than ever.

One of our favorite examples is Old Spice. Thanks to former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa who told women to “Look at your man, now back at me,” Old Spice is suddenly a new Old Spice. The rebranding of Old Spice has shown how a clever ad campaign and smart use of social media can produce a fresh identity, even for a brand that many associate with their father’s deodorant.

It’s now been a year since UNO successfully rebranded itself as UNO Translations and Communications LLC. We at UNO felt that we needed to reinvent ourselves to ensure that we continue to best meet our customers’ needs. Changing our name from UNO Communications to UNO Translations and Communications helped fully reflect the diversity of services we offer in the growing arena of international business as well as communications with immigrant groups in the U.S.

To create a new look and feel for the company, we developed a new logo, launched a revamped website and implemented an aggressive social media strategy to help drive organic online conversation and engagement around our core services.

The rebranding campaign made a significant difference in the exposure of UNO Translations and Communications, LLC and has brought us a substantial increase in business inquiries and new clients. It has helped us evolve beyond being known solely as a “translations” company and into a company that has a proven ability to connect cultures. UNO helps our clients foster cultural awareness by breaking down cultural barriers and developing an understanding of the people of the countries they want to conduct business in.

Brands come in all shapes, sizes and levels of success. Your brand is the emotion that a customer feels when thinking about your product. As important and effective as rebranding can be, let’s not forget that the one thing that truly creates customer emotion is the customer’s experience with your product. If you don’t have a quality product, all of the rebranding in the world won’t help your company achieve its goals.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will explore how important it is for international companies to rebrand themselves to fit the local market.

July 16, 2012

Lessons We Can Learn From The Candidates – How To Reach Hispanics

With more than 21 million registered voters, Hispanics represent almost 10 percent of the total population registered to vote. It’s important the presidential candidates reach this critical segment because federal decisions about healthcare and immigration will impact Hispanics more profoundly than just about any other segment of the population. Wherever the candidate stands on these issues and how well they communicate it to Hispanics will greatly influence whether they get the Hispanic vote, and possibly, the presidency.

A recent Gallup Poll has Obama with a two-to-one lead over Romney in his support from Hispanics and it’s not hard to see why. I’ve been advising U.S. firms how to reach Hispanic audiences for more than 20 years. This summer, I have been watching the presidential campaign closely and have rendered an assessment for both candidates.

Here’s a peek into why Obama is doing better, with a list of my six best ways to reach this influential audience and how each candidate is doing in that effort.

6. Use mobile phone apps and texting to reach the 18-30 year olds. Use English.

  • Obama – He scores an “A.” Obama’s sites are optimized for mobile phones. He has an official mobile app for Hispanics. Has a texting campaign: Unidos.
  • Romney scores a “C.” Romney has a mobile optimized website. Some SMS texting. No mobile app.

5. Use influential celebrities to reach women over 50.

  • Obama – Obama gets an “A+” for releasing a series of 30-second TV ads featuring the “Spanish Oprah” Cristina Saralegui. He could not have picked a better celebrity.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “C” for obtaining an endorsement from Florida Senator Marc Rubio. Yes he is Hispanic, however, according to Massachusetts State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, most Hispanics don’t even know who Rubio is. As a hard line Republican, he may not give the Hispanic voters the warm fuzzies Romney needs.

4. Use the American Dream as a central theme – it’s still the most powerful force drawing Hispanics to settle here.

  • Obama – Obama gets an “A+” for directly using the American Dream phrase in its Spanish-language TV ads through the context of immigration and education. As a child of an immigrant himself, his sensitivity and compassion to their plight comes through in his speeches naturally and with sincerity.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “B” He has promised to focus on jobs for Hispanics, however, he has tread too lightly on American Dream phrasing, possibly due to its connection to immigration. He gets points for his latest ad featuring his son speaking fluent Spanish about another theme central to the Hispanic culture, family.

3. Use Hispanic TV and Radio to reach Hispanics in America. Univision and Jorge Ramos are considered the single most influential media outlet and news personality among Hispanics in America.

  • Obama – Obama gets a “B” for his efforts. Although he is outspending his opponent with nearly $3 million of his $100 million in TV and radio ads on Spanish language ads like “Estamos Unidos” in key Hispanic states of OH, CO, FL, and NV, Obama crossed a line in using Jorge Ramos’ image in some ads without his permission. Arguably the most influential celebrity in the Hispanic American culture, Ramos retains a fiercely independent stance on the campaign and refuses to make an endorsement. He was not at all happy with the Obama campaign for the misstep.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “C”. As of early July, Romney had spent only almost $500K on TV ads like “Juntos Con Mitt” in NC and OH, and on radio ads “Unidos Con Mitt” in AZ, CA, FL and NV. Most recently however, his son has been featured speaking fluent Spanish in a series of ads, with messaging about family. It’s a really smart move for Romney, but it’s unclear yet whether this will have the necessary impact for the candidate that he needs.

2. Focus on access to affordable healthcare and/or messaging about health. Hispanics are the single largest segment of the population without access to affordable healthcare and some of the most prone to diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

  • Obama – Obama gets an “A+” for a healthcare law that provides access to affordable healthcare for all Americans.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “D” for opposing Obama’s plan, for planning to repeal it, and for flip-flopping on the topic altogether. It has been reported that Obama’s plan was the same plan Romney modeled the Massachusetts healthcare law from when he was governor there.

1. Focus on immigration reform that balances security with humanity.

  • Obama – Obama’s recent executive order to forgive children of immigrants who came to the states illegally earns him an “A+” as it shows his compassion and focus on smart, effective reforms.
  • Romney – Romney gets an “F” here, for wavering frequently on how he plans to address immigration reform. He’s historically been a staunch opponent of Obama’s Dream Act though the popularity of the president’s Executive Order has caused Romney to back off. He is losing not only Hispanics with this lack of clarity, but members of his own party.

May 15, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be An Accent. That Is The Question.

What’s in an accent? Accents come in all shapes, sizes and tones.

All countries have accents that are regional. We know that here in the US, because there are southern accents, New England accents, New York accents, etc.

And then there are the accents of immigrants when they speak English.  Again, this is universal. I remember that I was 10-years old when I met my grandfather for the first time in Argentina. He was originally from Poland, and to my surprise, he spoke Spanish with a heavy accent!

I started really thinking about accents because my social media specialist, Rob Whitley (who is awesome by the way) asked me how I feel about the way my name is pronounced. So for example, when he says ‘Brigitta’ on the phone, he said he could say it with a Spanish accent, the way Samantha [Samantha Villegas, my awesome public relations consultant] says it, which is with a soft G. But he said that he often says it with  a regular G sound. He also asked, when or if someone whose native language is English, and they DO make the effort to pronounce my name in a Spanish way, do I care if the ñ is accented? But mainly, he wanted to know whether I appreciate it more if someone makes this effort altogether when the language that is going to be spoken during that conversation is English for example.

Rob’s question made me realize that this was a very important topic, and one that has hit close to home for me my whole life. First  because I grew up in a household of immigrants with accents, also because I married an immigrant with an accent, and  because I have a difficult name to pronounce, no matter what country you’re originally from.

The quick answer to Rob’s question about my name is that I prefer for people to pronounce  it with a Spanish accent (soft G). But I don’t create perceptions or assumptions about people if they don’t pronounce it correctly the first time. Maybe this comes from growing up in the 60’s and 70’s where there was not much diversity in Alexandria, Virginia, where I grew up. EVERYONE had trouble saying my name, or even attempting to pronounce it. I was constantly having to pronounce my name, and I admit that at that time I pronounced it with a more “American” accent – so as not to complicate matters. Today, I pronounce my name with a Spanish accent for many reasons – including the diversity of names that I hear around me.

My parents came to the United States from their respective countries, Argentina and Ecuador, as adults. They spoke English with very heavy accents. Then I married someone from Central America who, as my parents did, came to this country as an adult, and speaks English with an accent. I have been surrounded by accents my whole life!

Research shows that when someone leaves their native country as an 11-year old or younger, they will be able to learn the language of their new country without much of an accent ( Age Vs. Learning A Second Language Study).  My own experience with that are two cousins that came from Ecuador to live with my family when one of them was 13-years old and the other was 10-years old. The 13-year old ended up speaking fluent English with a slight accent and the 10-year old ended up speaking fluent English with no Spanish accent at all.

I was born in Maryland and grew up in Virginia so I don’t speak English with an accent, except for a slight “Northern Virginia” accent. Is there really such a thing as a “Northern Virginia” accent though? Well, when I was a teenager I visited family in Michigan, and the native Michiganders (and yes, they have  accents) asked me if I was a southern belle because they could distinguish somewhat of  a southern accent.  I had never considered myself a “southerner,” but there you go – someone heard that accent in my speech! Now, there are some people that suspect I’m from another country only because they say that I enunciate words clearly. That person must have a very fine ear…

Rob then asked me: “Overall, when you  hear a person whose native language is English, speak Spanish fluently in sort of an “English” way versus trying to speak it as if Spanish was their native language, what do you think?”

Another great question. I  am thrilled when people learn more than one language and have the courage to try to speak the second or third language without being shy about making mistakes. So I applaud anyone that does their best to converse in their new language, whether or not they are speaking it with the “correct” accent.

What about Siri on the iPhone. She doesn’t  understand people that speak to her with an accent. How do you teach a “machine” to understand accents? There are accents everywhere, right? That’s a challenge for Apple, but if any company were able to tackle it, Apple could, and I believe they will.

At least Siri has an excuse for her issue. She’s a machine that hasn’t yet been programmed. But how do we program people to understand accents, or at least have the patience for those with them? How do we teach tolerance throughout the world to people who are listening to others trying their best to speak their new language: can we learn to be patient with the person speaking our language with a heavy accent, and making grammatical mistakes? Can we agree that speaking louder to the person learning the new language is not going to help? Isn’t there a better way than yelling out, “What? I don’t understand you.” Yes, it’s frustrating, but instead of impatience, or annoyance, I think a drop of tolerance and patience will go a long way for a person learning their second or third language and it will bridge together our ever-growing melting pot of cultures.

May 1, 2012

Brigitta Toruño, CEO of UNO Translations and Communications, Appointed To Apple Federal Credit Union Member Advisory Group




CONTACT: Samantha Villegas, APR


Brigitta Toruño, CEO of UNO Translations and Communications, Appointed
To Apple Federal Credit Union Member Advisory Group

LEESBURG, VA – April 30, 2012 – UNO Translations and Communications, a full service multilingual services
firm, announced today that its CEO and Founder, Brigitta Toruño, has been invited to serve on Apple Federal Credit
Union’s Member Advisory Group. Her term begins this month.

“I believe Brigitta’s knowledge and skills as a local business owner in the important field of multicultural
communications and international business consulting, as well as her being a business services client of the
institution, will be a tremendous asset to our Member Group,” says Apple Federal Credit Union Branch Manager
Kris Haig.

As part of Apple’s Member Advisory Group, Brigitta will offer ideas for improving or adding products and services,
and how they can engage the Loudoun community more – with particular focus on reaching out to multicultural

“It’s an honor to have been asked, and I am very excited to be able to support the education community through my
service on their Advisory Group.” says Toruño.

About Brigitta Toruño

Brigitta Toruño, CEO and Founder of UNO Translations and Communications, LLC (UNO) launched the company in 1998 after
more than a decade of work in the corporate world. Before UNO, she was the Hispanic Communications Manager of Fannie
Mae, a Fortune 500 financial corporation. She worked to develop a Spanish-English Glossary of Mortgage Terms that was a
first in the financial industry. She gained valuable experience managing the translation process at Fannie Mae. Prior to joining
Fannie Mae in 1993, Brigitta worked in the Marketing Communications department at Freddie Mac, also a Fortune 500 financial

About UNO Translations and Communications, LLC

UNO is one of very few DC-Area companies to offer translation services for more than 100 languages, and consulting in
international business issues. UNO is a woman, minority-owned company, graduate of the SBA Section 8(a) program, a
Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certified company, a State of Virginia
SWAM certified company, and a Virginia Minority Supplier Development certified company. UNO was recognized with
Honorable Mention in the 2011 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards and received the SBA District Director’s Choice Award
in 2004 and Brigitta received the Business Woman of the Year in 2003 by the Loudoun County Commission on Women.

About Apple Federal Credit Union

Apple Federal Credit Union is a 56 year old not-for-profit financial institution aimed at supporting the education community.
They offer a full-range of high-quality, low-cost financial products and services designed to help members achieve their financial
goals. Every one of Apple FCU’s more than 143,000 members owns an equal share of the credit union, and it is because of
this dynamic that all earnings are returned to the membership in the form of lower loan rates and higher dividend yields. Plus,
member deposits are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), a federal government agency.

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