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Professional is as professional does

When improvisation just won’t cut the mustard

By Josephine Ornago

Over the years, in my role spanning Italy and the UK, managing both the PR presence of English speaking businesses in Europe and that of Italian businesses looking to establish their presence abroad, one thing has become glaringly evident: far too many businesses rely on improvised translation services on the cheap, or on employees who are not professional writers to draft their communications. The result? Clunky and unprofessional at best, but often just down-right unintelligible; hardly the impression you want to give your clients.

These poor translations (I once read a description by a wine producer that praised its pinot’s ‘noble dregs’…) make it impossible to figure out what your business does, but most of all they make it look as though you are happy to cut corners and sacrifice quality; not a sought-after quality in suppliers and partners. And this is not just an issue in highly technical industries such as biotech, medical devices or IT, in fact, it’s almost more pervasive where there is less demand for specialist terminology as the issue really boils down to not having the tools and experience to write about business issues in language. Similarly, it’s not reactive bits of copy that are being drafted on the fly by non-professionals to respond to immediate demand, rather whole websites, marketing materials and brochures are being contracted out to people who, even if they speak the language, clearly have no editorial and no business experience.

On the other hand, I’ve also come across a handful of excellent examples of businesses that really understand the importance of ‘talking the talk’ and have invested in making sure they have access to a team of mother tongue professional writers and PR professionals. These businesses are then able to enter foreign markets on a par with the competition and reap the rewards that professional communications in language can bring. Let’s hope 2018 brings the others some enlightenment!