When Frankencontent goes global…

The all-too-common issue of Frankencontent – content whose effectiveness has been undermined by excessive, uncoordinated stakeholder input – takes on a whole new dimension of horror when it comes to localisation, writes Yusuf Bhana of TranslateMedia

 When Frankencontent goes global…

As organisations expand, their domestic markets often become saturated, leading them to eye up new growth opportunities overseas. While many businesses opt for expansion into regions that are linguistically and culturally similar (eg the UK and US), there are many more that recognise the potential of regions that are experiencing huge growth such as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) or MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey) countries.

Often these emerging markets do not share the same language or culture, so companies need to consider translation and cultural adaptation of their websites, marketing material and sales literature for use in these new territories. This is where the recurring nightmare of Frankencontent – threatens to take on a whole new dimension of horror. So what are the risks and what can you do to mitigate them?

Monster in translation

The easiest approach to entering a new market is often to launch a website in the new territory. Typically the site has been translated into the local language from content already available. More often than not, this requires the help of a translation agency or freelance translators who are required to translate the content while maintaining the tone of voice and brand values.

But if the original content is Frankencontent, this creates a huge problem for translators.

It’s extremely difficult to translate content created by committee with a multitude of different writing styles into a consistent well-written piece. By introducing the additional element of a translator, this inevitably leads to even more mixed messages, an inconsistent tone of voice and, ultimately, disengaged users and lost opportunities.

So what can marketers do to minimise the issue…

1. Avoid unnecessary jargon

Marketers should avoid using unnecessary jargon, especially if the content is going to be translated. Most reputable translation agencies will have glossaries integrated into their translation management tools that allow for commonly used technical jargon or other specialised vocabulary to be easily identified and translated. But you always need to consider whether the jargon is necessary.

Copy written in plain language is much more likely to be understood by both the translator and users in the target market. If your local users are confused, your global users will be completely baffled.

2. Avoid irrelevant legalese

Although your company should always obey the law and ensure that your online and offline communications are legally compliant, it’s important that you don’t allow the law to compromise the effectiveness of your message.

When your content is translated, it’s necessary to remove any legalese from the source text as laws that apply in one country do not necessarily apply in others. In some cases such as the US, a single country might even have different laws for different states.

3. Pay extra attention to your calls to action

Aside from confusing your customers and diluting (if not destroying) your intended message, poor copywriting and an overabundance of different messages can diminish the effectiveness of your call to actions. Clear, simple and specific call to actions are usually the most effective.

That said, some target audiences or cultures are less prone to distraction. As a westerner visiting a typical Chinese website you might be overwhelmed by the overload of information of Chinese web pages. The Chinese, on the other hand, seem comfortable navigating these sites which are positively cluttered by western standards.

4. Minimising the risks of unfaithful translation

The approach your business should adopt depends on, among other things, your brand values, target audience, native language, country or region, and the legal requirements in the regions you intend to target.

To ensure success, you should seek advice from a professional copywriting agency and translators with experience in your niche. This will ensure that the original content is of the highest quality, increasing the likelihood of a faithful translation and soothing the symptoms of some of your company’s growth pains.