We let the facts do the talking.


Why linguists make such good PR people

Linguistics is the science of language and its structure, meaning and context. The study of linguistics first began in earnest in the early nineteenth century and has since become a dedicated discipline that explores the meaning of words, the formation of sentences, and the complex relationships between language, society and culture. It also examines how languages are used differently in multicultural communities in our increasingly globalised world.

It is no surprise that many people who study linguistics degrees go on to a career in public relations. This is because language is the foundation of all communication and thus plays a leading role in PR, where every word, turn of phrase and headline matters inordinately. In fact, the written and spoken word weaves through every moment of our working lives in the PR world, whether we are:

  • Writing for clients: press releases, reports, feature articles and opinion pieces
  • Conducting media interactions including invites, pitches and interviews
  • Engaging clients with reports, proposals or even simple emails
  • Posting on social media channels with tweets, Instagram captions or LinkedIn articles
  • Networking — face-to-face or over the phone — with the media, clients or partners

In the communication profession, words and language are important because we are our client’s voices and our audience’s storytellers. As PR specialists, we write such varied content for so many people that we need to learn to speak in many ‘languages’. We don’t require linguistics expertise, but we really do need to think about the language we use and how we use it.

As each person develops language skills and speech differently due to factors, such as heritage, culture and education, the importance of language increases. This is even more true in a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural city like Dubai, which is home to roughly 200 nationalities. Where I work, at least eight languages are spoken, but we all need to communicate in high-quality, media-ready English and Arabic that suits our environment.

This is one of the main reasons that PR agencies have specific personnel responsible for content writing and editing. Content writers are responsible for not only bridging language gaps and communicating clearly with the local media, but also with learning the specific ‘language’ used by each client. Good content writers keep these languages in their heads, allowing them to complete their tasks in a productive and well-written manner that speaks to the reader.

I believe this responsibility should go beyond the content writer. Indeed, every PR professional should focus on refining their language skills to ensure their clients’ messages are heard.

How to unlock the PR linguist in you

We do need to be experts at communicating, and this mainly depends on our use of language.

Linguistic analysis happens almost subconsciously in the mind of a professional copywriter or editor, but I feel that it is equally important that every PR person in the agency develops and enhances their language, as well as their communication and writing skills. As we are constantly in contact with the media, we are responsible for communicating engagingly, honestly and always with integrity to gain our audience’s trust.

In order to improve the language we use today, we should take the time to think about what we are saying. There are many simple things we can do to make our words our greatest assets, and ultimately ensure that our audience understands and engages with content:


  • Good PR language focuses on the facts. You should avoid using emotional, effusive language, whether positive or negative, and also try to employ real facts, figures and data to support your writing wherever possible. Say it like it is and you will reduce the risk of being misunderstood.


  • Lead your readers through a logical structure and don’t be afraid to remind them of key points throughout your content. It’s best to write the story as if you are saying it – this is the human way to engage your audience.


  • In the UAE, and indeed anywhere in the world, it is important to be sensitive to the local culture and use appropriate language. Remember who your audience is and write to them in a language that speaks to them and their values.


  • Simple and correct is better than complicated and misleading. Use words you are confident with and that you understand – then it’s likely your readers will understand them too.


  • Avoid long, unintelligible sentences. Remain short and to the point where possible, and make sure to vary any longer sentences with shorter ones to break up your writing and keep the audience interested.


  • This applies to everything. Whether it’s drafting an email, fact checking a feature article or proofreading a press release, always think twice about exactly what is being said and the language you are using to say it. You never know when a better word might be round the corner.

Above all, remember that language can be the most powerful of PR tools when you give it proper thought. Decide to make an effort and unlock the PR linguist in you today.

The UAE was quick to respond to the growing impact of influencers in the country, when the National Media Council introduced the UAE influencer licence for those who make money from their posts. The licence is similar to the Dubai media licence, which magazines and newspapers acquire from the authorities.

However, more regulations shouldn’t be too far behind, following the findings that 84% of UAE influencers do not disclose branded content or partners, in a survey conducted by marketing consultancy Bukhash Brothers.

A separate study – The 2019 Social Media Influencers Survey,  by BPG Group and YouGov – threw into stark relief the fact that four out of five consumers will unfollow influencers based on their promotional content.

It’s all too clear that transparency is crucial if influencers want to maintain an authentic relationship with their following.

Influencers who respect their subscribers can carry a lot of weight for brands: 73% of the Social Media Influencers Survey’s respondents have purchased from a brand, or tried a service mentioned by an influencer.

Perhaps the most important finding – and one that comes as no surprise to PR practitioners – is that 70% of respondents follow an influencer based on the quality and type of content they produce. Developing content that attracts and speaks to consumers will always top superficial posts based on commercial decisions.

How important is it that influencers are transparent when featuring and recommending products for commercial reasons? Extremely important, is the short answer.

Antoine Boghos is the Account Executive of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA. |