Creating a global communications strategy
When your company decides to globalise and export products and services overseas, it will inevitably face cultural and language challenges along the way. But having a communications strategy in place from the start will go a long way to meeting those barriers head on in the future.
While your business identity will, for the most part, stay the same as it ventures into global markets, there will come a time when certain aspects will need to change.
A one-size-fits-all solution simply doesn’t exist in a multi-market environment. So successful expansion relies on being adaptable across everything from sales and creative, to management and production. Not only to meet the demands of international markets, but ultimately be a business that ‘makes sense’ on a global scale.
With a robust communications strategy in place, your business can prepare for the cultural and language roadblocks that come with globalising. Here’s how to formulate a strategy starting with these three steps.
1. Create an internationally versatile voice
English has long been the unofficial language of the world and remains the go-to choice for most people when engaging with international stakeholders – whether it’s their first language or not. English is taught as a second language in hundreds of countries around almost 1.3 billion people speak it today.
Yet this reach covers just 17% of the global population. So when it comes to business, you’re likely to need an ‘internationally versatile voice’ – to be able to communicate in the local language of your market. Be it communicating with your workforce, native suppliers or your customers, speaking at a local level is now expected.
The Common Sense Advisory’s Can’t Read, Won’t Buy research series has found that 40% of people won’t buy unless information is in their language, with this figure stretching to 65% where content is concerned. The desire for a localised approach reaches as far as product and service reviews, where seeing their local language influences 73% of buyers in their purchase decisions.
2. Develop an international communications plan
Putting an international communications plan in place not only acknowledges the barriers to exporting your products and services overseas, but the entire ethos of your company.
But with a strategic approach, it can be done. It all comes down to having both solutions and guidelines on how to best deal with cultural and language challenges in each market.
Naturally, these will vary from project to project and market to market. But generally speaking, there can be quite a lot of overlap with regards to anything from translating internal documents – such as your code of conduct – to localising marketing . Having a framework will give your business a guide to fall back on if and when it’s needed. Of course, the documents be continuously refined and shaped by your experiences of each new market too.
It can be particularly helpful, for instance, to develop a style guides to ensure content creation is consistent for your brand as well as your target market. Market-specific details for both written and visual elements can really help your business create and sustain its voice in a multi-market context.
3. Simplifying and then modifying
As mentioned, the core essence of your brand changes very little as it goes global. But there comes a time when it’s important to assess whether your identity needs to be reshaped or redesigned to reflect your company’s evolution.
From a visual standpoint, this may involve a complete overhaul of the look and feel of your business. Internally, it could be more to do with streamlining your communications to make it easier to disseminate and modify as and when required.
When you do reach this point, a thorough audit will enable you to work out what information is superfluous to your operations and what needs to be translated. The latter will benefit from the original source material being simple in construction, easy to read and neutral in content. In other words, to paraphrase the 20th century English writer George Orwell’s advice on good writing, “avoid metaphors and similes; opt for short words over long words; cut excessive words; be active and refrain from using scientific words or jargon”.
Beyond this point, the translation of documents and materials written under strict guidelines will be markedly easier than existing and potentially complex alternatives. But, this requires expertise. So look to work with qualified and experienced language service providers and incorporate their services into your wider global communications strategy. Cultural and language barriers are simply not going to go away.
Communications for a global audience
The journey from a one-market organisation to an international, multi-market enterprise is fraught with challenges. It’s highly complicated, extremely risky and, at times, seemingly impossible. Yet, it’s a venture that many businesses will go through to take advantage of new growth opportunities.
But with the right people and the right ideas, it’s possible to expand your operations and establish strong foundations for your business to thrive around the world – regardless of what challenges may lie ahead.
At THG Fluently, we’ve been providing translation services to businesses for more than 17 years. We’ve learned what it takes to give brands the linguistic and localisation support they need to break into new international markets and do it well. Through THG Ingenuity, we can also offer creative consultation and international strategy development. So if you’d like to learn more about how we can support your business with our expert services, feel free to get in touch.