Jun 04, 2013

Is Translating Global Press Releases Really Necessary?

“Why is translating a press release so important?”

That is one of the most common questions I get from clients.   My answer is usually “Вы хотите, чтобы кто-то читал?”

If you didn’t understand that, then it perfectly illustrates my point.  If you did, then you know that it’s not just important to write good copy, but you need someone to be able to read it.

Ask yourself this question – how often do you open emails from people you don’t know, in a language you don’t understand very well?  The answer is usually “not often”.  If you’re a communications professional writing a traditional news release, the goal of that release is to get a journalist to read, understand, and write about your product or service.   Which release do you think would be opened – the one in English, or the one in the native language of the recipient?   Right – it’s the one in native language.

Newsroom realities require translation

Journalists are notoriously short on time.  Living on a deadline is difficult work, and with only a fraction of an hour able to spend on each article, having a news release in a format where copy, paste and edit can be easily done is a real timesaver.  It also increases the chance that the release will actually be used in that story.   It takes a long time to read a release in a language not your own – even if you have some fluency – understand the nuances present, and mentally translate in your head how to best convey the message in your article. Face it – most journalists don’t have that kind of time, and the finger hits <<delete>>.

Reaching audiences directly, in-language

There’s another important reason why translation is important if you’re distributing your press release ia PR Newswire – because we syndicate press releases online, all over the world,  audiences have direct access to the news.   However, most of the web sites syndicating our global content require translations – because they publish in the language of their audience – and you’ll need to do the same.   Search engines also sort content by language, so in order for your message to be found by searchers across the globe, you’ll need to ensure translated versions of your press release area available.

Translation services vs. DIY tools

So, you’ve decided to translate your news release and any related documentation, and you start looking at options.  Translation service?  That can be pricey and time-consuming, and where do you find a good one?  DIY translation tool?  Oh boy…

Let’s start with the translation service.  There are a lot of services out there to choose from, and finding the one that is just right for you can be a time consuming business.  Testing, sampling, and giving constructive feedback can take weeks or months.  There are also a lot of substandard translators and translation services out there.  My best advice is to get recommendations from someone you trust, and arrange to run some tests.  Have your local offices review the translations and provide a report back to you.  Beware of the low-cost services – those usually cut corners by hiring substandard translators and not editing.  Good translators are not cheap, but they are an investment in your company, time and message clarity.

Some companies, looking to trim some $$ from their communication budget, embrace the peril to be avoided at all cost – the machine translation.  You’ve all seen the funny photos with the mis-translations.  Those were done by one of many translation tools that are available on the Internet.   Imagine what your news release or marketing documentation just became after you run it through one of these services.  Worse than that, imagine what those who received it are doing as they read it.  You just gave them their laugh for the day.  The worst case scenario is a real PR nightmare – the accidental publication of offensive or vulgar content under your brand’s banner.

There are a number of fee-based tools creating translations based on complex algorithms, but in our experience, they just can’t replace a human when it comes to choosing words or phrases that best match the source document.  Even if you run the copy through a translation tool and then have a human edit it, in the end, you really don’t save either time or money.  Editing fees can be higher than per-word translation charges because they’re usually time-based.  It can take as long to do a translation from scratch as it takes to fix a severely flawed machine translation.

Because of the high translation volume and budget of PR Newswire, we’re solicited by just about everyone in the translation industry for our business.  Our number one requirement is NO software based translations!   We haven’t seen a program yet that will pass our high translation quality testing, and we’re not willing to risk our clients’ news on something that is not a high-quality product.

Are you willing to take that risk yourself?  We hope not!

PR Newswire offers advice and resources to help you get your global PR program off the ground, including free white papers like this one, about understanding the media landscape in Brazil.   You can also browse more information or contact us for more details.

Author Colleen Pizarev is PR Newswire’s VP of strategic communication, and has years of global public relations and media experience.

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