Content Marketing
How To Create Customer Content In Multiple Languages

How To Create Customer Content In Multiple Languages

May 19, 2016
4 min read

The requirement to deliver customer content in multiple languages is further evidence of how new realities are introducing new requirements that demand new approaches.

It’s also an example of how new requirements raise the importance of the ability to scale content operations. Content in multiple languages isn’t new. Technical publications, websites and marketing collateral have long dealt with this issue.

But that’s exactly the point. Look at how those responsible to meet that requirement had to change content processes, adopt new technologies, and develop new techniques.

You don’t know you say? Exactly, another point! The silo nature of organizations has created learning barriers. This post, and the book Global Content Strategy – A Primer, by Val Swisher can help you learn those lessons.

Global Content Strategy – A Primer

Over the last decade, our list of new content criteria has grown from 6 to more than 9 factors. Foreign language support has always been on the list. What’s different today are the methods that are used to address this requirement.

As Swisher points out, language support, especially in larger organizations, is usually handled in yet another siloed function. Insights, methods, supporting technologies, and even techniques have rarely been shared cross-functionally. This is true even when other silos handle foreign language requirements within the same organization!

As I read Global Content Strategy I processed the information in two categories. The primary focus of the book presents advice on global content issues such as localization and translation. But it also delivers relevant, universal advice, for everyone engaged in content marketing and strategy.

I learned many of these practices to prepare content for multiple languages are also applicable to work on all customer content. I would go further, to say they are necessary.

Universal Customer Content Insights

I learned several new words. One is “transcreation.”

“Transcreation is a content development process in which content is created – and consumed – for a particular culture, in a particular language, or for a particular region. Transcreated content is not translated from a source; it is a source. It does not necessarily exist in any other language.”

Remember these two main points:

“Done well, transcreated content evokes the desired emotional response in cases where the original expression of emotion might not translate.”

“Employees all over the world are already transcreating content. They just haven’t told you.”

I will add, you don’t have to go far to find it. Just look down the hall to your sales organization!

Doesn’t this description fit with eerie accuracy? For decades, sales people have transcreated content to evoke motivational desires in specific customer context. They had to, “the (marketing) expression of emotion just didn’t translate.”

“These days, there are several types of content strategy. Examples:

• Web content strategy, which focuses on content delivered via the web
• Technical content strategy, which usually includes structured authoring and content reuse
• Global content strategy, which includes al content, everywhere, in every language”

She mentions this includes “customer facing marketing content.” My view is this content marketing mindset means content for direct and channel sales, customer service, HR and other customer engaging groups is overlooked and under-addressed.

I suggest organizations must consider these groups more explicitly. The cost, adverse impact of inconsistency on brand and customer experience, as well as redundancy and inefficiency, requires a more universal, enterprise content strategy that goes beyond websites, content projects and marketing.

“The next decade is going to pose significant challenges for people who create, manage, and localize content. Many websites are already hundreds or thousands of pages deep. Many companies have lost track of what they have created and distributed. Once you go global, complexity exponentiates. Mobile devices are another reason for the explosion of content.”

To me, this is an argument for professional, centralized management and accountability of increasingly important, and expensive, customer content assets.

Indeed, Swisher adds, “That is why content strategy has become so critical, and why we have seen the advent of C-level positions in the content arena (for example, chief content officer).”

Primarily Global Content Issues

Val Swisher is an expert on preparing content for global delivery and consumption. The book addresses in helpful detail, with excellent examples, the specific global issues and practices of:

  • Localization
  • Translation
  • Vendor strategies
  • Generic technology requirements and considerations
  • Techniques (including TM, translation memory)

This book provides a comprehensive handling of content related issues, more so than strategy. For example, missing from this “global content strategy” discussion were other elements of content strategy such as the international implications for buyer persona and buying decision process analysis.

There are unique global characteristics to the content strategy competency we refer to as Understanding Audiences and Buyers. I reached out to my colleague Ed Marsh who specializes in helping B2B manufacturing companies expand globally. He observed he often sees marketing groups try to leverage for global use, existing personas and buying journey analysis created for a North American market.

Cultural and business practices can vary significantly country to country. For example, in the US a mid-market manager, along with HR, finance and IT may be important personas contributing to the buying process in different ways at different stages.

But in many markets, value is understood differently. Managing Directors often have strong power for unilateral decision making, and mid-level participation isn’t encouraged. This has significant implications for content decisions, before dealing with content creation and translation issues.

Summary Recommendations

As content volume grows, marketing leaders I speak with are looking for ways to improve efficiency and throughput of content operations, while preserving the creative aspects of customer facing content.

We recommend companies adopt as general practices the recommendations Swisher makes to address global factors.

  • Write shorter sentences
  • Use as few words as possible
  • Say the same thing, the same way, every time you say it
  • Avoid idioms and jargon
  • Use correct grammar
  • Deploy the right tools
  • Collaborate.

To support many of these practices, adopt the practice of terminology management. This involves a list of words to use and avoid, as well as phrases, and core statements. As the number of content creators grows, both internal and third party, this practice reduces the time and cost of learning curve, improves quality and consistency, creation and review cycle efficiency.

I routinely reference the book The Language of Content Strategy by Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie. Kevin Nichols’ Enterprise Content Strategy – A Project Guide is a primmer you want to have next to you if you are working on content strategy, or designing your customer content operations process. I highly recommend all three books.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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