As a news reporter in the early 2000s, Patricia Rivera watched journalism go online. As a Spanish speaker, she saw how translations often struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of the internet.
"Unfortunately, the content was really poorly translated," said Rivera, who worked for The News Journal for eight years and the Dallas Morning News for 2Â½ years. "As a result, there was a lot of misinformation out there for immigrants."
In 2003, Rivera decided to leave journalism behind and start a translation company called BilCom in Lewes. That company became Hook PR when Rivera expanded into public relations and multilingual marketing in 2007.
Today, Hook PR works with a mix of for-profit and nonprofit companies, including Perdue Farms, the Delaware Higher Education Office, and health care systems such as Bayhealth, Nanticoke Health Services and Beebe Healthcare. Translations, which account for about a quarter of the business, place Hook PR at the intersection of the state's changing demographics and business environment.
"On the consumer side, the Hispanic population is growing, and it's a population that really demands content in Spanish," Rivera said.
Rivera was born in Bolivia and came to the U.S. in 1978 with her father and older brother after the death of her mother. She said they intended to stay for just two years, but their lives became rooted in
work and school.
"Our story is typical. We thought we were coming to learn English and experience a different lifestyle," Rivera wrote in an email. "But life in the United States becomes very captivating, regardless of your financial and educational background."
Rivera said her care for language comes from her father, a poet and college professor.
"My father was a professor of Latin American literature," she said. "He always had us speak correctly. He was always strict about that."
Rivera worked with her father, a certified translator, to shape the company's approach. She said all the company's translators are certified. "It's not enough to be bilingual," she said. "Being bilingual doesn't make you a translator."
Among its first clients, Perdue Farms contracts Hook PR to provide translation services for internal communications. This includes translating company news, health information and benefit packages for employees, and some sales materials and packaging.
"Perdue has really been on the forefront of making sure they communicate effectively with their employees," Rivera said.
Beebe Healthcare hires Hook PR for the crucial task of translating medical consent forms. These documents give physicians legal permission to treat patients, and need to be provided on a timely basis.
"The turnaround time with this agency is amazing," said Alina Ferrer, certified health care interpreter for Beebe Healthcare.
Ferrer said about 100 percent of consent forms are translated into Spanish. She also noted that the majority of the health system's translation needs stem from Hispanic patients, but that Beebe has worked with Hook PR on other translations as well, such as Haitian and Portuguese.
"We are seeing a need for languages beside Spanish," Ferrer said. "As the population in this area gets more diverse, we will need to stay on top of it and have our documentation reflect that population."
She added that clear communication vastly improves patients' experience, especially in tense or uncertain health care situations.
From a business standpoint, she added, running a successful business in an area dominated by tourism and agriculture requires her to seek clients outside of the state.
"I think you have to be really creative and very resourceful when you're doing business in rural areas," she said.
Photo by Maria DeForrest