Want to Scale Your Content Program Internationally? Take This First Step

Technology can make most tasks easier, better, and more effective, but there are still a few things it can’t pull off as well as a human. Translation is one of them.

The other day, I stumbled upon a tweet from a British punk music curator who had translated Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” to biblical Aramaic and then back to English. The experiment went about as well as you might imagine. Google Translate discerned the song’s core meaning but lost the nuance and voice in the process of moving it back and forth between languages. What resulted was a bizarrely profound version of the hit single, one that feels more appropriate for a recital in the Sistine Chapel than the opening credits of Shrek.

If you work for an enterprise brand, odds are you care about translation. Brands love to talk about scaling globally. But marketers don’t always know how to scale their content in a way that works out. It’s foolhardy to expect a widget to translate your latest how-to article into Spanish as your brand tries to expand its content efforts.

Instead of hiring a team of five in a new country and allocating significant resources from your budget, starting with content translation can help you understand the details of a new market before investing too much too soon. What you need is a human being to do that translation work for you—but even that process has its own complications.

When a brand scales internationally, good translation is often a necessary addition to its content strategy. But as evidenced above, the marketing team can’t simply run every blog post through an app and hope to see results. That’s how content chaos starts. Switching languages comes with unique challenges and cultural nuances to consider.

As our clients came to us asking about content translation, we decided to make a distinction to help them with their global efforts. Instead of just only offering standard translation (which does have its place for less intensive content like landing pages), we also made transcreation a priority. Transcreation is a more proactive tactic, asking writers and editors use their knowledge of cultural references, idioms, and common phrases to ensure that the content they’re producing matches the original style, tone, and context as much as possible.

For example, if we were turning a TCS blog post from Joe Lazuaskas into Italian, a transcreator would make sure it still sounds like it was written by an amiable guy who uses hip-hop metaphors and goes by Lazer. A translation service, meanwhile, may just decide to cut out unusual references to gonzo journalism stories about edible frisbees even if they perfectly represent Joe’s writing style.

In that sense, transcreation is more than just technology or a good algorithm. We partner with the firm TranslateMedia on all of our translation services, including our work with Marriott Traveler, and over time, we’ve seen how brands can avoid some simple scaling errors. It’s a common mistake, for instance, to assume transcreators must live in the same geographic area as a brand’s target audience. The only reason a transcreator’s location might actually matter is if a piece of content focuses on a specific event. If a transcreator has mastered cultural fluency in your new target market, they could theoretically live wherever they want.

In that way, transcreation is a technologically advanced process, combining human ingenuity with the systems that make remote work possible. It can even initiate a brand’s global expansion, laying track for event marketing and a bigger on-the-ground presence. If your transcreators are at work on content that blends your brand’s sensibilities with the culture you’re breaking into, they can help your brand scale long before any of your employees have to get on a plane.

Image by Unsplash / CC Zero

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