The Power of Telling Stories
When talking about marketing it is pretty much impossible these days not to mention the word “content”, so much so that in recent years a new term has been circulating amongst the insiders—“content marketing”—to describe:
“… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
as defined by the Content Marketing Institute, an online resource for information on all things content-marketing related.
What makes “content marketing” special are the key words “valuable” and “relevant”; that is to say, quality content, created to be useful for the receiver.
Content marketing, however, is not a new concept. Brands have been telling stories for well over a century to attract and retain customers, using a variety of media. From printed publications like John Deere’s customer magazine The Furrow launched in 1895, through radio programmes known as “Soap Operas” sponsored by companies like P&G in the 1930s, through the use of advertising spots since the dawn of television, all the way to the latest forms of advertising that can be found on the Internet and in social media channels like Facebook and YouTube, stories have been at the core of advertising strategies.
The power of telling a story has been a driver in the world of marketing in all its forms. In SEO, search engines reward businesses publishing high quality, consistent content, while successful PR strategies address issues readers care about, not just the business they are promoting. Content is key to driving inbound traffic and leads, and content marketing strategy should come before your social media strategy and be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy.
The Power of Making Your Story a Global Success
If your marketing strategy includes a plan for introducing your product to a wider global audience, you need to start the process of making your content global-friendly even before creating it. When entering the global market, your message needs to speak to your target audience, and this transformation requires localization to adapt your message to the needs and the norms of the target country or market.
Linguists and translators, however, can only work with what they are given, and that is why the document’s creator has an important role in ensuring that the localization process is effective. A quality translation depends on how well the original is written, as poorly written English cannot be turned into good German.
Companies tend to invest heavily in their technical and marketing writers, while providing little guidance or training on how to prepare content for international exposure. Writers tend to focus mainly on an English audience when creating their content, ignoring the notion that their text will be the basis for the content in other languages after translation and localization. That is why it is important to apply some best practises when writing for a global audience.
- Knowing your audience
Knowing and defining the audience you want to connect with is a key stage in the creation of “valuable” and “relevant” content to that audience. Knowing the audience you are targeting means being aware of its background – cultural as well as legal, since laws and censorship change from country to country. It also helps to know what the most important topics are for that particular audience, to better address their needs and experience as buyers.
When planning a strategy it is important to recognise what type of content can work internationally and what needs to be created specifically for a particular market, to avoid inappropriate occurrences in the target language. Generally speaking, it is advisable to avoid slang and colloquialisms, and examples that apply only in specific countries, as they never translate well.
- Keeping technicalities in mind
One of the most common phenomena that happens when translating or localizing content into another language is text expansion, as the content changes its length from the original. This can badly affect the layout in the target language, particularly in places defined by certain constraints like web or app interfaces. Sometimes, in order to solve such an issue, it might be necessary to go all the way back to the software engineer in order to change the limitations and allow longer words, or completely change the settings of the User Interface – I’m thinking for example of an educational game I had to redesign in collaboration with the engineer to make it work in my own language, but the examples are endless. Anticipating this kind of problem can save time and money at a later stage, as sometimes the discrepancy becomes clear only once the translated text is implemented, at which point it might need to be sent back to the translator to be worked on again, be changed or modified, if it does not fit correctly where it needs to go.
- Providing appropriate tools to achieve the wanted result
Developing glossaries, including explanatory contexts to words which can have more than one meaning and specifying which words don’t need to be translated, are some of the most important steps when preparing contents for localization. Translators and linguists can never stress enough the importance of being provided with resources like glossaries and approved terminologies to make sure that their work will be as consistent and as coherent as possible – as well as save them a great deal of time in queries and emails to their localization managers.
Similarly, compiling a pronunciation guide for projects requiring a voice-over makes the task in the recording studio much smoother and flawless. Not knowing how to pronounce acronyms, names of products or companies, either in the original or in the target language, can lead to decisions being taken on the spot, and that might consequently require corrections later on if the decisions taken in the studio end up being wrong. In practical terms that could result in the need for some recordings to be done again using the correct pronunciation – and that means paying for the cost of the recording studio, the actor and the sound engineer all over again! Providing a script with an appropriate pronunciation guide can definitely save a great deal of time and money.
- The final cut
Always make sure that your text is final before submitting it for translation. Make sure your content is proofread for typos and inconsistencies, as the cost of a single error in the source document is multiplied by the number of languages that are involved in the localization process. Doing it right from the beginning makes the process more efficient and less costly.
In conclusion, including some planned strategies for content localization before and during the creation of your content can avoid a number of challenges further along the process of translation and localization, can avoid costly hiccups and mistakes, and can increase the chance of success for your content when launched in the global, more competitive marketplace.