Any business looking to expand beyond their home market will at some point require the services of a translation agency. This isn’t simply to create a localized version of the website; all product or service material, user manuals and more will need to be translated too. However, perhaps the most important content of all is that which relates to your brand and PR presence in the market.
This is where language really matters, and the quality of a translation service can make or break whether your brand identity and messages truly translate into another language. A poor localization can completely alter your brand message and tone, or be insensitive to the quirks and needs of a local market.
In short, localizing your content is more than simply translating the words; the meaning has to also be retained, and achieving this requires a specialist process. Let’s take a look at the different types of translation services on offer, and why many of them are not suitable for PR and marketing content in particular.
The global translation industry is massive, yet fragmented. The vast majority of service providers are self-employed translators running their own small businesses, and agencies who leverage them to sell larger groups of translations to clients. Subcontracting is the rule rather than the exception, and most freelance translators work for numerous companies. This means that who ends up working on your translations may vary wildly from agency to agency, and also be inconsistent from job to job.
Aside from the problem of industry fragmentation, the accuracy of the end translation very much depends on the method of translation used, and here there are several options, which vary in price and quality. It’s important that you know which service you’re getting, in order to assess whether it will work for you.
While few could argue that machine learning technologies have advanced in leaps and bounds over the last decade, we’re still some way away (hopefully, quite some way!) from machine intelligence matching human intelligence and intuition.
That said, machine translation (MT) does have its place. The ability to train systems using both human feedback and massive amounts of data to inform the algorithms means that the results of MT can be surprisingly good for some jobs. However, it is a poor choice for PR.
This is because MT has no little to no understanding of context and cannot convey the nuances contained in the author’s writing. While it can be used to automate the translation of product listings, for example, for PR material there is a very real chance it will turn your content into comical nonsense that will do little to present your business in a good light.
The next step on from pure machine translation is something called MTPE, or machine translation post editing. This is where the machine output is given to a human with knowledge of the original and translated languages to edit and clean up.
MTPE does have its uses and is commonly employed for tasks such as interim/annual reports, and other formulaic types of content. However, MTPE translations will still be vulnerable to mistakes and misunderstandings borne from the fact that the human editor is unlikely to be a subject matter expert, or even familiar with your brand.
As such, MTPE is not a good solution for PR and brand content. A machine-translated press release that has been tidied up by a human that doesn’t understand your brand or market, or the nuances of the news you’re trying to deliver, will fail to make the desired impression on a journalist.
Another option is to toss out the machine entirely and have your content translated from scratch by an individual, or pair of translation experts. This avoids the vagaries of MT entirely, but obviously costs more, because the quick and easy initial step performed by a computer has been removed.
Human translations, if done by a competent individual, should be better than machine-generated content, even if that content has been post-edited by a human. However, human beings are still prone to mistakes and subject to their own individual quirks in terms of writing styles. As such, it’s often advisable to have a two-stage process with an added editing step performed by a second person.
Translation and editing is the recommended service when dealing with customer-facing text, and will typically generate an end result that is suitable for publication. This service does add a little to the final price, but since it gives you a much better end result, it’s often worth it.
However, even this method of content localization isn’t perfectly suited to PR and brand content, for the simple reason that the people doing the work are not subject-matter experts, or familiar with your brand.
If you want your content to read well and include all the nuances of your brand and message, as if it were written in-house, then transcreation is the way to go. Here, your text is not simply translated, but reconstructed in the chosen language by someone who understands your brand, business and target market.
This includes adjusting the material to the sensitivities of the target culture, cutting out elements that are less relevant, and choosing more appropriate wording where needed. A transcreated document might read very differently from the source material, but this is a change for the better, because it means it has been truly localized to the target market.
As you can see from the above analysis, content localization is a fractured industry where many of the services available will actually do more harm to your brand than good.
That’s why at digitalPR, we use subject matter experts with in-depth product and market knowledge to localize our content into the different Nordic languages. This way, you can rest assured that the people actually doing the translation care about your brand, understand your product and message, and can align that with the needs of the target country.
Good PR and brand content is crucial to success, and our advice is not to skimp on this area of your business, because in the long run it will work against your progress in new territories.
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