“We speak German and we have Germans in our team – why can’t we do it ourselves?” is quite a common question to ask. The answer is you can do it yourselves – there is nothing wrong with it, as there is nothing wrong with going to court without a lawyer, fixing a car in your own garage or cutting your own hair. There is simply nothing wrong with it – but would you do it? Your hair would still be shorter, your car still (hopefully) fixed… why would you refer to a professional then?
You trust professionals because you want quality and high standard of performance within shortest possible time frame. You do not want everyone on the street to stare at your new haircut and wonder what happened to you, although you’ve spent good two hours in front of the mirror; you want to impress everyone with your sharp looks.
The same is true in public relations – you want to radiate professionalism, trustworthiness and above all, quality. There are common words and phrases that a journalist would never use in a press release and there are specific layouts and specific terminology (these are different from English speaking countries). Just the fact that you can speak German or you are German does not mean anything.
For example, there is a term “Materndienst”. This word is centuries old and has no direct translation into English, but everyone working in press or closely connected to media in Germany would have heard this term many times. In fact, they would use it on a daily basis, as it means “press service” or “media service”. However, if you have never worked in or close with German media, you will most probably not know the meaning of it, even if you were born and raised in Germany.
Here is a little self-test for English speakers: how many of your team can understand and explain the meaning of such words as fiduciary duty, estoppel, restitution or covenant? Or Latin terms ad hoc and res ipsa loquitum? It’s just common legal language and any lawyer in your team would find it a very easy task, but what about the rest?
In addition to terminology, cultural differences are not to be forgotten as well – this is Germany, and attention to detail is paramount.