Producing Engaging Content: From Global to Local
Content marketing continues to expand globally. Brands and businesses of all sizes use it to establish awareness and credibility. It is now a core marketing channel for nearly three-quarters of both B2B and B2C marketers, and that number continues to rise. Especially when expanding to new markets, building engaging content can quickly become challenging. Too often, businesses wonder why, despite their best efforts to translate or create global content, the engagement they need to build their brand internationally still needs to be included.
Make no mistake: content can make or break your brand. That statement is even more true when considering international audiences. Lee Densmer, Owner and Content Marketing Strategist at Globia Content Marketing, recently joined our Vistatalks podcast to discuss the nuances of creating engaging content and the need to move from a global to a localized strategy.
The Myth of Global Content
Taking a globalization approach for new markets is tempting, especially for businesses with an established content marketing strategy in their home market. Seemingly the path of least resistance, it involves simply translating content into new languages.
However, as Densmer points out, genuinely global content is a myth. It must be so generic that it can apply to everyone and avoid offense to anyone. That might work for technical writing and other content devoid of emotion. However, it will fail in any effort that requires more in-depth storytelling or engagement.
It will fail because global content would completely ignore the core engagement driver. Successful content must keep audience needs front and center regardless of location or origin. But audiences’ needs change significantly depending on their cultural context, wants, and preferences.
How Audience Nuances Shape Your Content Localization
It seems obvious to state that international audiences differ from each other. But at the same time, it is crucial to understand how different they can truly be.
Prospective customers in different countries and cultures have different beliefs and values. They have other habits in their daily lives and how they engage with businesses. Their needs, both personal and professional, are different. All of these nuances change just how they might consume your content and how they will interpret the content they do consume.
Frameworks like Hofstede’s cultural dimensions have sought to explain these differences in clear terms. Dimensions like power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, and short vs. long-term orientation can all shape how audiences behave and interact with each other in different cultures.
But ultimately, the process has to include intangible components, as well. Developing cultural intelligence is crucial, which describes understanding a culture where you do business well enough to adapt your approach to match it.
In that context, content localization is about getting your buyers’ perspectives right and developing content that matches their needs. Consider building buyer personas using data and research to describe your ideal customer’s needs, habits, and preferences. Once you know who your buyer is, what they need, and what channels they spend time on, you can move beyond simple translation.
Moving From Translation to Transcreation
An international content strategy has to be about more than simply translating content. In Densmer’s terms, random acts of translation do little more than waste money.
Consider Got Milk’s famous Latin American ad as an example. A direct translation of the slogan made the brand ask consumers whether they were lactating. Due to a lack of cultural knowledge or an unwillingness to go beyond straight translation, the campaign could have produced the desired results.
To understand the need to go deeper, it helps to understand the differences between translation, localization, and transcreation of content:
- Translation focuses on the words, simply translating them from one language to another. Cultural context is not a consideration.
- Localization is a deeper version of translation. It involves taking content, considering how different audiences might perceive and consume it, and adapting it to match those localized needs.
- Transcreation is even more in-depth. It describes recreating content to match the original intended message and emotion. That requires a deep understanding of culture and is as much a creative endeavor as adaptation.
Regarding global content marketing, transcreation becomes an invaluable part of the larger strategy. It allows the original goal of the message to remain front and center. This approach ultimately increases your chances of producing content reliably, generating audience engagement.
Differentiation in a Localization Context
Localization and transcreation also matter when it comes to differentiation in new markets. Differentiators are a challenging business proposition to begin with. Too often, brands try to stand out on features that their competitors highlight. White glove service, for example, matters less when every professional service highlights the same thing.
In an international context, differentiation becomes even more challenging. Differentiators in your home market may not matter to your new audience. Alternatively, they may be more common in the market into which you are expanding.
Localized differentiation requires finding one or two parts about your business, product, or service that align with your values, matter to your audience, and genuinely differ from what alternatives they might look to—quality matters over quantity. One strong differentiator in your international market has a much better chance of breaking through the noise than many less relevant messaging points.
Building Your International Content Strategy on Local Content
Perhaps shockingly, research consistently shows that most businesses need a content marketing strategy or need to improve their current approach. However, that strategy becomes essential, especially when entering and looking to thrive in global markets.
That strategy, as mentioned above, begins with researching your audience. But it does not end there. You will also need a global content calendar outlining what content you want to publish, when, and on what channels. All the considerations mentioned throughout this guide become relevant in this step, including the adaptation and transcreation of content.
Your budget also plays into the equation at the strategy level. Money will always be a limitation. Knowing how much to spend on your globalized content marketing can help you establish the scope and approach you want. Finally, you must select a way of measuring success before writing the first piece of content. Taking this step ensures that you know whether or not it drives the engagement you need as you go to market.
The Dream Team for Local Content Focused on Sustainable Engagement
Building a strategy for successful localized content requires the right team on board to both plan and execute it. In an ideal world, that team includes a few core roles:
- A content strategist and copywriter. Ideally, you’ll have one in every market where your brand looks to build its content marketing to establish a consistent transcreation pipeline.
- A strategic project manager. This professional can move the process along and ensure it remains strategic, even as content is adapted and created in multiple cultures.
- A global SEO strategist. Find someone who can research, understand, and apply search engine optimization principles according to the preferences and behaviors of each local market.
Of course, artificial intelligence also has a role to play in localization. However, it is essential to remember that AI cannot create emotional, culture-specific content to the degree that human specialists can. While it can help serve many tactical needs surrounding content marketing, it cannot replace the human creation (and transcreation) process.
Content marketing is complex, and globalized content marketing only increases that complexity. A reliable localization partner by your side can make a massive difference in building your international content strategy and ensuring that every piece you publish drives dedicated engagement, contributing to business success.