The World Wide Web has reduced the barriers to entry to global markets significantly in recent years. It is now commonplace for businesses of all sizes –large, medium or small – to trade across international borders.
Expanding your operation to all four corners of the world opens up new possibilities when it comes to trade – but that doesn’t mean it’s straightforward – far from it in fact.
The global market is a ruthless and rapidly changing environment that can make or break your business very quickly. In fact, according to Professor Richard Foster of Yale University, the average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of leading US companies has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today.
So, there isn’t a lot of room for error. Just one poorly executed international campaign can mean the difference between success and failure.
Despite this, more companies are beginning to offer information about their products and services globally in the language of their target customer than ever before. This, however, can dramatically backfire if you fail to translate your messages accurately.
Not only do you risk making your business appear culturally ignorant but your mistake could lead to fines for non-compliance and other legal problems. What is certain is that you will undoubtedly lose money and damage your reputation.
Content management systems (CMS) make it easy to publish content online that can be seen by millions of people in just a few minutes. This democratisation of content has led to an explosion in content marketing from businesses of all sizes. However, this has not led to an increase in the quality of the content produced.
The content marketing industry in the UK alone is worth almost a billion pounds and yet, according to the Content Marketing Institute, 52% of marketing professionals admit that they are not managing their content efficiently and 58% don’t have a documented content strategy.
This is precisely why a CMS needs to be used in tandem with a robust editorial process in order to avoid unnecessary mishaps and associated costs.
Taking care of the editorial side
Below are some tips to ensure your editorial process is as robust as possible.
Recruit a talented team
Your editorial team is the bedrock of your content management process. Ensuring you have native speakers of the language of your target audience for both content production and proofreading is key to the production of high-quality content.
Hiring the best translators guarantees the best translation. So hire a professional translation agency but resist the attempt to go for the cheapest option available as you often get what you pay for in terms of experience and skill.
Define goals and objectives
It is important before you start to produce any content that you clearly define your business objectives. Using these objectives you can then define your target audience.
Use personas and outline the types of content, the formats, the channels, the messages and even the tone of voice that you feel would best resonate with them. If you’re marketing to an international audience, it’s important to have an editorial team comprised of native speakers of the local language to ensure your business objectives can be met in the target region using the proposed approaches.
Create a detailed roadmap
Having an editorial calendar in place is also extremely beneficial when it comes to managing the editorial process and ensuring that your content helps you achieve your objectives.
An editorial calendar can help define and control the content creation process. They also inform your team of planned content for the future so they can improve their ideas and work together more effectively to enhance the content that is finally produced.
Track, review, audit
Having a good review and auditing process is also essential. This allows you to identify mistakes early, fix them quickly and then move on. The process must be thorough, leaving no stone unturned.
Maintain a paper-trail
It goes without saying, but save as you go. This can prevent any information losses should something go wrong. Also, save anything that you delete or decide to scrap, as it could prove to be useful as inspiration for future content. What doesn’t work today, may work tomorrow.
Monitoring, measurement and optimisation are key to ensuring that you keep improving. You can always do better, so pick out things that you could improve and work on these moving forward.
After all, a faultless body of content will resonate better with your target audience, so make improvements where possible, measure the changes and apply these to future content production.
The real hard work comes in the creation of the work, so don’t be afraid to go above and beyond in terms of effort – the results will be much more rewarding, plus you won’t offend anyone in the process.
Prevention is the best cure
If you get a translation wrong, even if it’s just a single letter in a whole sentence, you could find yourself recalling millions of mistranslated brochures or shelving a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign that may have taken months to develop.
Getting it right in the first place pays dividends. So, instead of relying on machine translation, go the extra mile and hire professional (human) translators.
Word order matters when it comes to translation and this where machine translation often fails. Adverbs, verbs, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, subjects and objects in the wrong places can also have devastating consequences.
Examples of translation blunders caused by a poor editorial process
• A shopping centre in London displayed banners and t-shirts to welcome visitors to the 2012 Summer Olympics. They read “Welcome to London” in languages from all over the world, but the Arabic banner didn’t come out exactly as planned. The message in fact printed backwards and spaced inaccurately in Arabic. An English equivalent of the sign and staff t-shirts would read something like “N O D N O L O T E M O C L E W”.
• Back in 1987, a t-shirt manufacturer in Miami printed shirts in Spanish to commemorate the Pope’s visit. But by referring to the Pontiff as “la papa” instead of “el Papa”, their shirts read: “I saw the potato.”
• Finally, a company once needed the line: “Healthy Kids Day” for the cover of a brochure it was printing. Thinking a free online translation service would help, they published the brochure with the translation that came from Babel Fish – but it said: “Dia Sano De los Cabritos” – which, much to their dismay, turned out to be something close to: “Health Day of the Baby Goats”.
Read more about managing a translation mix-up.