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Our Stories

On Using Languages in Public Relations

Editor’s note: The following was written (in likely just one language!) by KWT Global UK account executive Lara Conradie. 

I am fortunate to speak a few languages. Along with English, I have an Afrikaans and German background and I studied French and Spanish at University. Naturally, I have always wanted to find a job where I could use my languages -– after all, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

A common misconception is that language graduates can become teachers, translators or diplomats. Nothing else. Unless they relinquish all linguistic capabilities and “sellout” to finance and law. I must admit, it seemed impossible to find a job where I could use my languages. I initially undertook an internship at a French wine company, before giving up on my language-based job hunt and joining KWT. I had accepted my fate: my languages would dwindle but it was maybe, possibly, okay because I watch Narcos and go to Oktoberfest every year …?

Alas, how wrong I was! Who knew that public relations would exercise and challenge my languages? First of all, linguists are crucial in cross-European/global new business pitches and campaigns. Advising on the market nuances and whether messaging is translatable in multiple languages is essential to know for the success of a campaign. Secondly, it is likely that clients work across many different markets. At KWT London, we serve as a European hub for many of our clients, translating materials into the target language to give to an in-market agency for distribution or even distributing ourselves.

This year I have expanded my French, Spanish and German vocabulary on chicken broilers and vitamins in pig feed, written about technological clinical partnerships across France and Spain, translated CEO profiles, familiarised myself with the Spanish telephone manner and was repeatedly told that I spoke French and Spanish with a Swedish accent.

Using languages in public relations is no easy task and it can bruise your ego. Years of grammar lessons on the subjunctive and the passé simply disappear when you’re on the phone with a French journalist from Normandy demanding why your story matters. Your translations of Molière and Voltaire have no match on creating native-quality press releases about a medical product launch.

However, if you can look past the ego-bruising, it is a great challenge that will vastly develop and diversify your language skills in ways that university could never have predicted.