Client Talk: HeraldPR

In Client Talk, we chat with people who buy (or should buy) language services. We try to determine when, according to these clients, professional translation is worth it. As for those who don’t buy, why don’t they? How do they handle their needs instead?

By chatting with current and prospective translation clients outside of a sales environment, we hope our industry will be able to better identify what truly motivates buyer decisions. And who knows? Maybe we’ll expose some misconceptions about our industry as we go along…

The client

Michael Kosowski, director of digital marketing and public relations at HeraldPR in New York City, New York. It is located in the neighborhood — the borough — of Harlem.

According to Kosowski, “HeraldPR is a boutique public relations firm. We represent a diverse range of companies — from restaurants to property developers to art dealers. We also work in event planning, search engine optimization, crisis communications and digital marketing.”

The need

HeraldPR works with clients who speak Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, Arabic and French —the latter, Kosowski says, is needed “very rarely.” Hebrew is the company’s largest need. On an average day, HeraldPR’s employees need to understand Israeli newspaper articles written in Hebrew, write two to three quarter-page pitches to those papers, and place calls in Hebrew and Russian. “This of course changes on a day-to-day basis,” Kosowski shares. “Some days are 100% English. Some days are the complete opposite.”

What is the budget?

As HeraldPR doesn’t purchase professional translation, no budget is set aside.

How important does the
client say professional
language services are
on a scale of 1-5?

Kosowski didn’t give a number, but says, “Professional translation isn’t important. Being bilingual is. We don’t professionally translate anything.”

The client’s solution

“We do not purchase translation,” Kosowski says. “A translation company is, however, one of our clients. But they do not work for us; we simply get them press.”

Kosowski explains what they do instead: “I can successfully speak, read and write Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish, and I have some experience in Polish, Arabic and French. Our Russian clients work with me directly, and our Israeli clients work directly with the CEO, Warren Cohn, whose Hebrew is a bit more fluent than mine. Very importantly — since Hebrew and Russian are not our native tongues — we constantly check with one another on issues of grammar, syntax and vocabulary. It is so important to have more than one employee who speaks the same language. That way they can cooperate on how to sound the most professional in their second languages.”

Why this solution doesn’t involve professionals

“We don’t have the time for a professional translator. In the world of PR, what is considered ‘news’ changes in seconds. You need to be able to operate in different languages, and different time zones as well.”

There is also the challenge of needing to communicate in less-known languages. “I got a client — CyberSem, an online seminary for Jewish women — with an article in Yiddish,” Kosowski says. The article was from The Yiddish Daily Forward, a bilingual Hebrew-English paper published in New York. “Yiddish is all but a dead language except in some small communities in New York, Canada, UK, Russia and Israel… I doubt many translation companies have Yiddish speakers.”

A clarifying note

When I asked how HeraldPR could represent a translation company if the company doesn’t think professional translation is important, Kosowski clarified, “I completely agree that translation companies are important — and can greatly aid in a variety of corporate environments. It’s just important to be able to function in the PR world with internal bilingual employees.”