This post is part of the Ten Golden Rules of Global Content Strategy series.

It’s been a while since I wrote about the Golden Rules of Global Content Strategy. So, let’s get back to it.

We are up to rule #7, “Reach Out and Ping Someone.” Let’s face it, everyone these days is a content producer. In addition to the usual suspects – marcomm writers, technical writers, course developers – we have software engineers writing user guides, technical support engineers writing frequently asked questions, and even (shall we dare?) VPs of Marketing writing blog posts. I know, crazy!

And those are just some of the folks who are in your country. Let’s think for a minute about all of those people working far, far away at your regional or branch offices. Those people likely include salesreps, country-specific marcomm, perhaps other engineering groups and technical support reps.

Guess what? All of those remote people are creating content, too!

“Oh no,” you say. “They are not allowed to do that. After all, everything must be sanctioned by HQ. Our legal department insists on carefully vetting all content that is customer-facing.”

The good and bad news is that fooling yourself into thinking that HQ reviews all of your customer-facing content is simply not correct. Trust me. I’ve seen sales groups in Asia-Pac create their own slide decks. European marketing people create their own datasheets and case studies. Even separate technical forums, in other languages, for local markets.

The truth of the matter is that everyone, all over the world, is creating content. Right now. As you are reading this.

The Good News

Let’s talk about the good news first. Think about it. Who has a better handle on understanding the needs of a local market than the people who live there? Who can speak the language – both literally and figuratively – best? As I’ve written about in the past, sales and marketing content, in particular, are emotional. Campaigns are designed to elicit some type of emotional response. And not all emotions are translatable.

What makes something exciting in Canada might be completely different in Africa. What is funny in the U.S. is not always so funny in, say, Abu Dhabi or South Korea. Images that might be completely acceptable in France are sometimes completely inappropriate in Saudi Arabia.

It makes perfect sense for your in-country teams to create “emotional” content that is uniquely fitting for their own markets. In addition, you can almost guarantee that the use of the in-country language, with all of its nuances, will be appropriate. A Hebrew play on words is likely to be completely different than a Simplified Chinese play on words. And think of the money you save not translating all of the different content from all of the different regions. That could be a lot of shoes.

The Bad News

But, there is bad news (you knew it was coming, yes?). The bad news is that people all over the world are out there creating rogue content and sending it to your customers! Yikes! And you – the central point for all global content – have no idea. You don’t know who is writing what, for whom, when, and for what purpose. You don’t know if the messaging is “on target”. You don’t know if the trademarks have been used appropriately (insert legal team tantrum here). You might know that “those people” are creating content “over there.” But get beyond the loose idea and the picture gets fuzzy.

In all seriousness, it is a problem when people across the world go off and create their own content with no input, guidance, or knowledge of headquarters. It becomes a content management problem and, ultimately, a global content strategy problem. How can you plan your global content strategy if you don’t know about the content itself? You cannot.

What is the solution?

The solution isn’t to mandate that all content must come from HQ. That simply isn’t going to work. You are not going to be able to get customized content for each region, specifically targeted to a local culture, properly localized, translated, or transcreated in time to meet your regions’ needs. You can strategize and plan all you like. But it ain’t gonna work. This is, in part, due to time-to-market issues and also due to the fact that no one knows a region as well as the people who live there.

The solution is to reach out to all of your locations and plan. As you plan your global strategy, take into account the various regions. Include them in your campaigns. Ask them if they plan on creating their own content. Do not tell them, “no.” Because, like my 14 year old, they will go ahead and do it anyway. They just won’t tell you.

So get to know your teams around the world. Invite them to share their plans with you. Ask how you can support them as you plan the global strategy for a product release, a website upgrade, or sales campaign. You get the idea. Give them the freedom and the leeway to use their knowledge of local customs to create targeted, hard-hitting material.

The main thing is the plan. Make sure they know you have a plan. And make sure they can give you input on their part of the plan. Otherwise, you will end up with content going rogue, and we know the problems that can cause.

Val Swisher
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