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THE INFLUENCE OF LINGUISTICS ON PR

Part 1: Why linguists make such good PR people

Linguistics is the scientific study of language and its structure, meaning and context. The study of linguistics first began in earnest in the early 19th 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 word 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 need to be linguistics experts 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 environmental 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/or 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.

But 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. In the next part of my blog I’ll be exploring some simple tips for unlocking the PR linguist in you.

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. | www.cbpr.me