Finding and Leveraging External Communications Professionals

By Anne Connor

service provider

Cassandra works at a firm spearheading a park renovation project and was tasked with producing a community outreach survey in a nearby city. After hiring a copywriter who specializes in public relations to draft the text, the city indicated that the questionnaire would also need to be distributed in Spanish and Vietnamese in order to maximize participation among the neighborhood’s residents who were not proficient in English. Cassandra thought she had found the solution because she had two bilingual coworkers who could render the English text into those languages. Everything was going according to plan until the engineer manning the hotline given in the survey started receiving calls from residents she could not understand. To make matters worse, many of these same residents attended the project’s informational open house, only to find that there were no interpreters available to assist them. They not only expected to be able to communicate in the language they felt the most comfortable with, but it turns out they also had questions about the ambiguous language in the translations. The situation caused major confusion, requiring Cassandra and her colleagues to work overtime to clear things up.

Communications is a tricky business, especially when you’re dealing with foreign languages. That’s why many companies—both large and small—turn to outside experts to support their communications and language needs. Whether you’re looking to hire a freelance translator or a full-service communications firm, here are five tips for selecting the right service provider:

1.Define your needs

This first step actually starts by defining the needs of your target audience. Who are they and how do they communicate or consume content? Think about how you will communicate with them from beginning to end. For example, if your website is going to be translated into Spanish, then customers will expect a Spanish-speaking contact person to answer their questions either orally or in written form. Outline your requirements. Do you need help with advertising, content development, digital or social media, marketing, public relations, strategic communications, or all of the above? Perhaps a freelance marketing copywriter or copy editor is all you need to take your website copy up a notch. More comprehensive communications campaigns will likely require the services of a communications firm or consultant with expertise in multiple media channels. Some consultants even offer media training services for your staff to help them look and sound professional in TV commercials and radio spots.

2. Begin your search

Communications is an artform—one that can vary from industry to industry. Look for professionals with proven experience in your company’s field or with your project’s requirements. In today’s connected world, you don’t always have to hire someone local. However, before looking too far away, consider how doing so might affect your bottom line. Start with your local Chamber of Commerce for audiovisual media production companies or check out The Society for Editing (ACES) to find local copywriters and/or copyeditors. The Public Relations Society of America is a useful resource for finding a nearby PR company.

Briefing your service providers properly can often make or break your project’s success Click To Tweet

3. Be prepared

Briefing your service providers properly can often make or break your project’s success. While preparing to interview specialists or full-service consultants, gather five pieces of information needed to adequately assess, quote and execute your job. Obviously, you should expect communications professionals to do their homework, but even the most specialized firms will need your help to get to know your company, your needs, and your objectives. Make sure they understand your industry jargon—the language your target audience speaks. Take a “more-is-more” approach and in the long run you’ll save time, money, and embarrassment.

4. Ask questions

If you’ve picked out proven experts, then you’re already on the right track, but don’t make assumptions. Question the offers you have received and ask the service providers to walk you through their processes. If your project involves multiple languages, ask how the providers intend to deliver. Do they partner with professional language service providers adept at managing multilingual translation (written communications) and interpreting (oral communications)? By asking all the right questions, you’re more likely to avoid unpleasant surprises and steer clear of awkward situations—especially those that could damage your reputation.

5. Stay Engaged

Your job doesn’t stop once you’ve hired a communication professional or firm. Though it is important to let the experts get to work, make sure you follow their progress and are highly responsive to their questions every step of the way. View your relationship as a collaboration and make them feel part of your team. And once the project is over, ask for feedback and ideas. What other opportunities do they see to further your business goals? The answers just might surprise you!

Had Cassandra followed these steps and consulted with professionals throughout the process, she would have likely leveraged their expertise and avoided an embarrassing and costly situation.

Anne Connor is a Spanish- and Italian-to-English translator and language-services professional with over twenty years in the business. She holds a BBA in Business Law from Temple University in Philadelphia and is an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. For more information on ATA and to hire a translation or interpreting professional, please visit www.atanet.org.