The Dire Need for Specialized Translation Services for PR

Public relations and advertising professionals, as well as marketers and business owners who want to expand their reach internationally, may need specialized PR translation services.


Will Pepsi bring your ancestors back from the dead? Will a FARTFULL desk from IKEA improve your working environment?

PR translation blunders happened to many of the top companies in the world. Product launches and advertising campaigns that have not taken into consideration local cultures, have often resulted in negative PR. From General Motor and Parker Pens, to Pepsi and Coca-Cola, there are countless of anecdotes that illustrate what can happen when marketers fail to understand cultural divides, slang and the intent of the message.

These all could have been avoided by employing native certified translators, instead of counting on nonnative interprets and DIY solutions.

DIY is still the main nemesis of businesses all over the world. In many cases, DIY works: it saves a small fortune in the hands of a talented individual. But there are cases when DIY costs a fortune, and it is a pity to count on it when it comes to something as affordable as professional translations.

Is there a reliable translation service for public relations, marketing and branding? Many companies offer language solutions and related business services to the public relations industry, but do they go beyond the interpretation of the press release and press kit?

Sadly, the truth is that very few of them do. Specialized translation services for PR need translators with extensive experience in linguistic screening, capable of conveying concepts, metaphors, technical terms and slang from the source language to a target language, without losing meaning, while ensuring brand integrity and cultural relevance.

Such a service should cover all communications needs, from product brochures, catalogues, and packaging, to press releases, newsletters, news articles and ads. It should also include brand name checks, and creative content translations such as website content and blogs. And finally, the service should be extended to social media, available near to real time for businesses large and small.

There is no comprehensive service to cover all these needs. There are, however, attempts.

Lingo24 has a PR translation service, which covers creative website content, brochures and other marketing materials, as well as brand name checks, market surveys, press releases and financial documents. However, this lacks social media near real time translations, and localization.

tolingo is mainly focused on press releases, but also offers translations for presentations, brochures, catalogues, and market research texts. They too, lack the social media element.

TransPerfect specializes in providing language solutions and related business services to the public relations industry too, and they have stellar clients, like Burson-Marsteller, Porter Novelli and others. Still, there is no clear overview of what they do. One can only guess.

ComTranslations, doesn’t have a PR translations service, but they do have the social media aspect, through SociaLingo, a first-of-its kind in the industry solution, as it provides near real-time translations of social media messages supporting some 140 languages, as well as social media management.

Still, no matter how many translation companies we will list here, none manages to cover all the needs of the modern PR agency in one comprehensive service. This is a clear sign that most translation companies don’t follow, or don’t understand industry trends. They survive because translations are, sooner or later, needed, but very few are focused on innovation. It is time for a change. Let’s see which company goes there first.


  1. John Smellie - E-Files, Inc. says

    Thank you Mihaela, this article is a step in the direction of raising awareness on the part of both buyers and sellers. In my experience of PR translation, buyers already have low expectations of “translation” and many sellers oversell the “adaptation” aspect but don’t deliver, which just perpetuates the low expectations.

  2. John Smellie - E-Files, Inc. says

    Totally agree – teamwork between specialised translators and editors, marketing professionals and subject matter experts is the key to producing compelling content in other languages!

  3. Kelly O´Donovan says

    Hi Mihaela, you have made some strong points here.

    Translating PR materials goes far beyond the actual translation itself but I do think there are some great Translation Agencies out there who are closing the gap, ComTranslations being one of them ;)

    Every aspect of your business and marketing communications can affect your brand and bottomline, cultural mistakes can easily be avoided with the help of “real” professionals in the industry with their know-know and passion.

    Great article!

  4. yusufbhana says

    Hi Mihaela,

    You’ve made some very valid points here. I work for TranslateMedia – a medium-sized translation agency based in London. We try to encourage our clients to pay for transcreation services, rather than relying on literal translations, for all the reasons mentioned above.

    Sara also makes a good point that clients need to educated on the importance of cultural adaptation of marketing and PR messages as much as translation agencies.

    We are the official translation partner for the PRCA ( so have a lot of experience translating PR content into over 90 languages.

    We’d be happy to have a chat with anyone who needs high-quality PR content translated.

  5. Mihaela Butler says

    Thank you, all, for addressing such important aspects in the industry. I run a PR agency myself, and I stay clear of accounts requiring languages I do not understand. (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian). Even so, there are times when I really need a translation agency that can deliver. The best ones are too small to take in every order. The large ones are too lazy. And most translators… are behind pigeons when it comes to new industry trends. They need training. Very time consuming, and costly. Plus, they will charge the PR for the service, despite the effort to bring them up to date on social and mobile trends. This should be an exchange, a fair business proposition. It is not. You all are, obviously, very in-tune with industry trends. Do you have any suggestions for translators to keep competitive and fair?

    • Sara Freitas, SFM Traduction says

      I don’t know if I have any specific suggestions, but I totally agree with “The best ones are too small to take in every order. The large ones are too lazy.” :-) This is exactly the experience most of my PR/marcomm clients have had in the past.

      A sort-of suggestion : My best PR/marcomm clients have effectively made me a part of their teams, giving me invaluable opportunities to learn “the business” and keep up with trends. I get paid back for the time spent in spades (by being able to offer premium services to other clients at rates tthat reflect what those services are worth). My loyal clients get a return on their investment in me by having a “go-to” person for English copy who already knows their business and who they know they can trust to handle their messaging. So I guess it is all about encouraging both buyers and sellers of PR translation to invest in those relationships, to spend the time up front to find the right people, include them in meetings, briefs, presentations, etc (and pay them for their time). The returns can come pretty quickly (in a matter of months).

      And for the “best ones too small to take in every order”, this is a problem that can largely be overcome by trying to plan just a little better (warning the translator ahead of time that something urgent might come in)…I am often able to cope with really fast turnaround times simply because my client took a second to give me a heads up a couple of days (or even hours) before. Another solution is by forming small teams of translators (who know each other and can work together or cover for each other as needed).

      Translators are often anonymous. They work alone, and never meet the users of their services or the other service providers involved in the process. My most successful client relationships all have one thing in common. Everyone knows each other, from the writer to the creative director to the designer…and there are no barriers (ahem…agencies) to direct communication between all of the players.

  6. Margarite Heintz Montez says

    As a tranlator who works in the PR, advertising, marketing, news and now social media fields I can say that there are translators out there who do have the skills needed. Many times such translators were former copywriters or PR people themselves. But rarely are we in-house on staff.

    We are called in on a per project basis or when something goes really wrong with a campaign that was sent to one of the big translation agencies. As Sara stated in a previous post when a company has one go-to person or “champion” to make sure that the message is effective it really makes a difference for the company and their client.

    In this day and multilingual age PR firms should really invest in hiring a person or small team who can make certain that the message or brand really communicates in all languages.

  7. imcxl8 says

    Great article on an important issue. As a PR and marketing translator, I cringe all too often at some of the translations I see out there. Unfortunately, many companies don’t even invest in PR itself what they should, let alone in the translation of their PR materials. Add to that the fact that marketing and PR work can’t be translated literally, which means prices for good, quality PR translations can be quite high. It is important, however, to remember that you get what you pay for.

    • Mihaela Butler says

      PRs and translation agencies should work together. There must be an innovative way to close the gap. We are working on it. :)

  8. Faiz Ahmed Faiz says

    DIY is good to save a few quid but may return “Engrish” result. Thus, yes, we need professionals and experts.

  9. Sara Freitas, SFM Traduction says

    Businesses where I see this working (I am a marketing translator) often stand out for having an in-house “champion” to make sure all messaging across all channels is being translated/adapted effectively and consistently.

    This means coordinating translator/copywriters and in-house subject-matter experts (product marketing managers in the countries, community managers, bloggers, etc.) and making sure the in-house and external members of the team know each other and can work together. It also means finding specialized translators with strong copywriting skills and marketing know-how to deal wtih messages in formats ranging from Tweets to brochures to direct mail to POS materials. Not to mention bringing the translators in on new product presentations, marketing briefs, giving them campaign guidelines, house style guidelines, etc.

    How many “one-stop-shop” translation agencies actually make these things happen (the last thing many of them want is for the end customer to know the translators personally!)? How many customers even know what to ask for?

    More education and awareness are clearly needed on the part of both buyers and sellers of marketing translation services.

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