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When in Rome: Regionalizing Content Across Global Markets

Barbara Bandy 6 January 2021

Regionalizing Content Improves Audience Engagement and Global Marketing Efficiency

Margins are tight and budgets are shrinking. Clients and prospects are looking wherever they can to get the most bang out of every buck spent on marketing content. And in an environment where marketers are trying to serve clients globally, the demand for a continuous supply of fresh content is critical.

We know it’s inefficient and expensive to create entirely new content for each region you serve. And while it may seem economical to reuse the same content in each market, it may not be the best way to get your message across to each respective audience. If you can’t engage your reader with material they relate to, what’s the point?

So what is the answer to this dialect dilemma? Regionalization. Regionalizing your content – or adapting content produced in one region and using it in another – is cost-friendly and efficient. What marketer wouldn’t like that?!

But contrary to what some may think, regionalizing content involves much more than adding or removing all the ‘u’ s, and changing ‘s’ s and ‘z’ s when sharing material between the US and UK, for example.

It requires an understanding of the cultural differences between one country and another – and the ability to adapt and revise content to resonate with your clients and prospects in their respective regions. When managing teams from all over the world, it’s essential to be aware of the different communication styles, which means…

Know Your Audience

“England and America are two countries separated

 by the same language!” — George Bernard Shaw

Cultural specificity is essential. As we’ve noted, content needs to be presented in a way that resonates with the reader. Consequently, we need to consider elements like readability, concision, clarity, and directness.

Let’s drill a little deeper, using the UK and the US markets as an example.

According to language and cultural training group IOR, the Brits’ communication style is more polite and reserved, emphasizing protocol and showing a preference for understatement against overstatement. At the same time, however, they appreciate a sense of wit.

In contrast, an American, determined to get right to the point, may come off as aggressive or even downright rude to a Brit, according to cultural awareness training firm World Business Culture.

Sports metaphors are a great example of the need for content regionalization. In the UK, you might use cricket or rugby. But will a US reader relate to that? So maybe consider basketball, baseball or football in your repurposed US copy. (Note that we didn’t wade into football (UK), or soccer, versus football (US), which is an entirely separate discussion.)

And how about regionalization as it relates to, let’s say, a UK asset manager? When pitching that new pension scheme white paper, be sure to alter the language for American audiences. Pension plan works better, as scheme almost always takes a more sinister connotation in the US; so a US reader, seeing that word, may not fully understand the intended meaning.

Here are a few more observations gained over the years. Central European readers – Germans, in particular – tend to prefer precision, directness and absolutes, while eschewing ambiguity. Their copy is chock full of logically presented data and detail – the more, the better.

Chinese communications, both written and verbal, are deliberately indirect and politely phrased – more formal in style. Or as Ming-Jer Chen, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia puts it: “…the Chinese tend to rely on indirect comments and the larger context for communicating a message.” Straightforward reasoning may, therefore, strike the Chinese as overly harsh, even arrogant. You may need to read between the lines to understand exactly what they are saying.

Speak Their Tongue to Win Their Hearts and Minds

The bottom line: words have power – choose them wisely. Be aware of cultural differences when you regionalize your content from one country to another. One of the best, most cost-effective ways to leverage limited editorial budgets is to use native speakers and writers. These individuals understand the nuances of their own country and communication style, and can repurpose original content produced elsewhere into fresh content that will resonate with the target audience. And after all, isn’t resonating with the audience what it’s all about?