How to write content for multiple markets

people looking at data on paper
Global Financial Business Meeting and Planning

As corporations expand into different regions and audiences become more global, we’ve noticed an increasing need to write content to suit multiple national markets.

The COPS (Create Once, Publish Strategically) model may work well from an overall time and budget management perspective, but there are many specific challenges when writing content for different global markets.

With experience working with clients and audiences around the world, our team of editors highlight some of the top challenges they face when creating truly global content.

Approach to language

Most businesses have a preferred language choice when it comes to their global marketing activity.

English is the official language of 67 countries, and is considered the world’s official business language, so many choose to only create and distribute English language content.

However, companies who opt for all content creation to be written in a single language can risk alienating local audiences. Therefore, they may invest in translation services to target their content at regional consumers.

The downside is that it’s harder to maintain quality control over content in a language you don’t speak natively. For example, how can you tell if a brilliant piece of content loses its vibrancy and core messaging structure in the translation process? Or how can you spot if a word is spelled wrong, or mistranslated?

Here, selecting a trusted, high-quality transcreation partner is key, as well as establishing a network of local market subject matter experts within your business to review all content before publishing.

Aim for true diversity

Even if you communicate solely in English, content written for multiple regions should be suitable for all readers. Content that claims to be for ‘everyone’ can fall flat if it makes generalisations about experiences that are purely Western, or includes statistics from, say, European markets only.

This is also true when considering what topics to write about. For example, a piece about lack of sleep is universal, but retail experiences may be country or even city-specific.

For the latter, it is important to consider the potential for developing regional variations of the piece at the initial briefing stage. By writing the first draft with this is mind, it becomes a lot easier and more efficient to produce tailored variants for multiple markets.

Cultural differences

English is a rich language, but what resonates with a native speaker may miss the mark with those who attempt a literal translation, or even those from a different part of the world or different generation.

When writing headlines, writers may want to be snappy or eye-catching, perhaps using puns, idioms or alliteration. However, this can present significant problems for translation, and audience understanding can suffer because of it.

From online discoverability via search to Plain English compliance and general accessibility, it’s sensible to keep things simple in your use of language wherever possible.

Terminology can be also completely different within the same industry but in different countries. And cultural differences can impact on image choice and subject matter.

Content and design

How design and written content work together should always be front of mind when the latter is in development. But something businesses often overlook is whether imagery is truly representative of a diverse, global audience.

The use of colours can also be a minefield. For example, the colour red represents passion or danger to many Western audiences, mourning in South Africa, wealth and power in India and luck joy and happiness in China.

Additionally, if you’re working with a fixed design framework (print, for example), it’s worth remembering that words and phrases that are quite condensed in English can often be longer in other languages – up to 30% in some cases.

Timing is everything

Timing has a huge effect on the performance and measurement of content. When publishing content for different markets, consider different timezones – an optimal publication time might be in the middle of the night where you are.

Beyond purely timezones, local market research should be undertaken before settling on a publishing schedule to understand what is likely to drive the highest level of engagement.

This includes being aware of events or national holidays that could impact content performance. For example, publishing an article in the middle of Chinese New Year could hugely effect readership levels.

Social and search

Finally, there’s no point in creating well researched, brilliantly written content if it isn’t reaching your audiences where they’re reading or searching for content.

Investing in social ads on the biggest global networks – from Facebook to Pinterest – could suit your needs, but also consider advertising on local-language social sites to boost content performance, such as Taringa – one of the largest social networking platforms in Latin America, with 75 million active users.

Developing a search and SEO strategy is a good way to help uncover the best online platforms to reach your audience worldwide.

Sophie Jones
Content Strategist and Editor