The importance of being a responsible language vendor

It’s quite sad to think that, in today’s global society, we still need awareness days to remind the world of the need to stand up for people’s rights.  However, whilst that is the case, then ‘Human Rights Day’, observed on 10th December every year , is extremely important and a day that everyone should better understand and support.
The date commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which they followed up by passing a resolution, in 1950, inviting all States and interested organisations to observe that day of each year as Human Rights Day.
The UN says that “Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack.”  The organisation calls on people to take a stand for rights and stand for more humanity asking them to “Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.”
But it’s not just at international government levels that important cause-led campaigns are a priority.
Earlier this year, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – an event attended by around 11,000 delegates from close to 100 countries, representing all parts of the creative communications industry – a recurring theme in many of the award-winning campaigns was that of having a purpose in your company’s marketing communications.
For example, one of the multiple award winners at the Festival was a campaign called ‘Fearless Girl’, created for New York investment firm, State Street Global Advisors, which involved the commissioning of a statue of girl of around 12 years old, that was placed directly opposite Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture.

The campaign was launched to tie in with the first International Women’s Day after President Trump’s inauguration in the US with the aim of promoting Gender Diversity, whilst raising awareness of State Street’s ‘SHE’ fund, which invests in businesses with female executives, among financial communities.   According to Pablo Walker, President of McCann Worldgroup Europe, although the initial idea was to place the statue in Wall Street for just one week, it has proven so popular that they now hope to keep it there for at least one year.
So why should businesses be concerned with such issues?
Well firstly, companies with a higher purpose, beyond making a profit, tend to make more money!  Simon Caulkin reported in the Financial Times about a survey titled “The Business Case for Purpose”, by a team from Harvard Business Review Analytics and the EY Beacon institute, which declared that “those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage”.  He added that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found that between 1926 and 1990, when studying a group of “visionary” companies, i.e., those guided by a purpose beyond making money, they returned six times more to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven rivals.
This begs the question, why might that be the case?
According to Sherry Hakimi, founder and CEO of Sparktures, “a purpose mobilises people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will. For a company to thrive, it needs to infuse its purpose in all that it does. An organisation without purpose manages people and resources, while an organisation with purpose mobilises people and resources. Purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organisational culture. It’s an unseen-yet-ever-present element that drives an organisation. It can be a strategic starting point, a product differentiator, and an organic attractor of users and customers.”
Jo Alexander, an Associate at On Purpose said that “Organisations that put people, rather than profit, at the heart of their business are successful because they understand what motivates people: a shared sense of purpose and our desire to form meaningful relationships.”
On Purpose offers a year-long Leadership Programme in social enterprise, through a combination of work placements, formal training and coaching.  Associates build their skills and sector awareness to harness the power of business for good.  Alexander added “A work environment that allows employees to fulfil both of these needs can unleash their collective potential in a way that traditional organisations, that view their people as being simply motivated by money, status and power, cannot.”
Hakimi goes on to say that when a company demonstrates an authentic purpose, consumers feel a connection to the products and company. They will choose the authentically purposeful company’s products, even if it’s not the cheapest offering.
This may be the case for consumers, but does having a purpose impact the business buying process too?  The language industry serves as an interesting case study in this respect.
There are tens of thousands of Language Service Providers (LSPs) offering translation, localisation, transcreation and interpreting services to clients across the world, and so finding ways to differentiate themselves in such a competitive industry can prove difficult.
However, according to Tenesoya Pawlowsky Santana, CEO at CPSL, an LSP with offices across Europe and in the US, understanding the nature of a company’s clients and business fields is part of the process if an LSP is to offer quality language services to its clients.  In fact, in many cases, CPSL is closely aligned to the vision and corporate philosophy of its clients, and Pawlowsky Santana believes that clients are more likely to choose a provider that understands their company spirit in addition to providing first-class language services.  Indeed, this is a theory backed up by buyers of language services. For example, Patrick Nunes, Global Communications Manager at Rotary International said that, whilst there is no official question about an LSP’s CSR activity in Rotary’s RFPs, the topic is something he personally wants to hear about when talking to them, whether in a formal or informal setting.
Whilst Nunes will not sacrifice attributes such as cost and efficiency in any supplier’s pitch, understanding their CSR activity could make a difference to him, particularly if it’s in line with Rotary’s vision too.
This was a view shared by Franck Schneider, Digital Communications Manager at Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG), who is also responsible for sourcing translation.  Given that HUG cares for many migrants, whilst cost and quality are again important factors in understanding the offering of potential new LSP suppliers, Schneider said that not many of those he has met put CSR forward as an argument for choosing them, yet he would view it as an important one.
Many companies on the buyer side will espouse particular values or have their own CSR programme, according to Jonathan Bowring, former European Localisation Director at Canon Europe who now acts as a consultant to the language industry through his company Riversight.  According to Bowring, “Canon operates a philosophy of kyosei – ‘living and working together for the common good’.”  He explained that this encompasses society and the environment, both local and global, including the treatment of suppliers and even competitors and said that “buyers with strong value systems in place may seek to build supply chains which reflect those values, although this is often mitigated by the commercial realities of offshore pricing and the priorities of their procurement function.”
However, in Bowring’s experience, LSPs made relatively little noise about their CSR programmes, if they have them, other than a mention on their website of support for Translators Without Borders (TWB), a charity that helps non-profit organisations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services in times of great need, achieved through a global network of professional translators. But he said that “the values of a supplier have wider application than a CSR programme”. For example, Bowring wants to know how LSPs treat their own suppliers and translators.  Do they make a point of paying them fairly and on time, or are they exploited as the lowest in the food chain? He said that “the treatment of staff is another values indicator: an LSP once lost my prospective business by boasting to me in its sales pitch of the long hours regularly worked by its staff.”
Employee Fulfilment
According to Alexander, “Purposeful organisations are moving beyond CSR, which is often viewed as an initiative that is bolted onto ‘business as usual’; instead they have progressed to having a purpose that is central to and effects every part of their business.  This transition naturally happens when people in an organisation feel strongly about WHY it exists.”
So perhaps a more important reason for an LSP, or any business, to have a purpose is the impact it has on its own employees and, as Bowring puts it, “for the health of the organisation itself.”  He said that “Millennials tend to be interested in a holistic employer which lends meaning to their work. Having a corporate purpose beyond simply generating wealth may appeal to them and to others, for instance those addressing midlife questions of how to “give something back”. CSR can be highlighted in recruitment to attract the type of employee who shares the company ethos.”
Allison Ferch, Programs Director at Globalization and Localization Association agrees.  She said that “CSR or similar could be a selling point for an LSP when they are trying to attract or retain talent.  Certainly, many employees can and do appreciate a company culture that embraces social responsibility and demonstrates that in concrete ways.”
Pawlowsky Santana takes a similar view, adding that “it is proven that employees at responsible companies are happier than those at companies that pay any heed to this.”
That’s certainly the case for CPSL’s Vendor Manager, Cristina Pera, who said that the company’s community involvement with TWB makes her feel proud to work for CPSL and more connected to the company.
As well as supporting TWB, CPSL also works with First Hand Foundation, an entrepreneurial foundation dedicated to changing the lives of children and families around the world through innovative health and wellness programming. Pawlowsky Santana explained that, in both cases, the company is very fond of the work and programmes.  Moreover, in the case of First Hand, CPSL also happens to know the team behind the organisation, so it trusts and relates to what they do.
According to Shanna Adamic, Senior Events Manager for First Hand Foundation at Cerner Corporation, the US supplier of health care information technology solutions that set up the Foundation, they rely on the support of Cerner’s relationships, like the one they have with CPSL, to help fulfil their mission. “It’s not just about fundraising, it is about understanding that giving back is in our DNA and Cerner has provided a way to do so through First Hand Foundation. Companies like CPSL and their involvement with First Hand are essential to our growth!” she said.
In terms of TWB though, Pawlowsky Santana said that CPSL supports them because it appreciates that they have become the voice of those more vulnerable in our society.  “TWB is doing a terrific job with humanitarian international causes, and now also helps and supports the refugees, a task we really respect and one we are also very sensitive to” she said.  As a sponsor of TWB, CPSL provides annual funding for the organisation, but also seeks to collaborate further where possible, for example, in the field of interpreting.
The generous contributions made by TWB sponsors are vital to ensuring the sustainability of the organisation’s core operations and programs. However it’s the willingness of supporters to go the extra mile that its Founder, Lori Thicke welcomes.  “Often LSPs that have extra capacity will offer project management support, helping to translate hundreds of thousands of words.  We have had LSPs train our project managers, and also help fill the need for hard-to-source languages such as Rohingya, a current urgent need for the response to the refugee crisis in Bangladesh,” she said. Thicke added that of course the fun based fundraising activities that LSPs organise are important, but getting supporters interested and involved in this important work is great to see and it also helps to raise awareness of the importance of language agenda.
Pawlowsky Santana believes that that developing CSR policies and running businesses in a more sustainable way is beneficial for all sort of companies and that, naturally, it has a positive impact on corporate reputation. However, for her, it is about more than that.  She believes that “We all should contribute to building a more sustainable world. Even the smallest of office-based businesses can make substantial changes to benefit the environment.”
-ENDS-
This article was written on behalf of our client, CPSL

Time to update to Charades

My wife just said to me, “I’ve got half hour left of my book.”
I just don’t get it.  If you read my last post, you’ll know I am a fan of old fashion, touchy feely books.  When you’re reading a book, you have 54 pages left, or two chapters left.  But for Kindle users, like my wife, you have 30mins left, or 11%.
I argued that if you’re watching a film, you can say you have 30mins left, but a book has pages or chapters left to go, my justification being, when you play charades, if you are describing a book title, you place your hands together like you are about to pray, and unfold your palms, like opening a book.  You don’t hold one palm out, and take your index finger of the other hand and keep touching your other palm with it!
So it got me thinking, what other forms of media need new descriptions in that classic old game.  The topic of my next c-suite podcast that I am recording this week for the CIPR’s Social Media panel is on the influence of Social Talent, focussing on YouTubers.  If you were playing charades with my two kids, rather than ‘Morecambe & Wise’, or ‘Jaws’ (we have a very old set of clues!) a more relevant clue for them to describe would be ‘Danisnotonfire’.
So how would they do that?
It’s one word, five syllables.  OK.  But how do you describe a YouTube channel?  Drawing a big box in the air with your finger for the TV screen won’t work.
Well, thanks to the good old interweb, it looks like the team at Outsetmedia are already thinking about this kind of thing.  They have the following additions to what they list as ‘Standard Signals’:

  • Computer Game – Using both hands move your thumbs like you are using a game pad.
  • Website – Hold one hand out, palm down, horizontal to the ground, as if holding a computer mouse. Make a sweeping motion side to side, then stop and tap index finger as if “clicking”.

So there you have it, Christmas day is sorted, and it’s only August.
The CIPR Social Media Panel c-suite podcast is available to subscribe and download from iTunes.  Please do rate and review it too so that we can climb the ‘Management and Marketing’ podcast charts.

The importance of getting the language right in international PR campaigns

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Globalization and Localization Association’s (GALA) annual conference – the leading event for the language industry. Whilst this meant having to fly out on my birthday, it did mean I got to celebrate in the beautiful city of Seville and had the opportunity to be a true geek and get a photo at a Star Wars film location, whilst wearing my Star Wars t-shirt!
I should say that I did manage to squeeze in some proper culture by also visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville Cathedral
There were over 400 attendees at GALA representing Language Service Providers from all over the world, most of whom spoke numerous languages, but all perfectly versed in English.  And then there was me, whose linguistic talents comprise of a ‘B’ in my French O’Level (that’s like a GSCE for younger readers) and the ability to order a ‘large beer’ in German.  It was quite an embarrassing situation to be in, but probably typical of many Brits abroad.
Last July, the APPG for Modern Languages published its Manifesto for Languages calling for all political parties to make a general election manifesto commitment to improve the UK’s linguistic skills base. At the time, Baroness Coussins, Chair of that particular APPG, said that the UK economy was losing around £50 billion a year in lost contracts because of lack of language skills in the workforce.
Given the timing of this blog, I decided to do a quick search for the word ‘language’ in the Labour and Conservative party manifestos.  In terms of our kids’ education, the only reference the Tories made was stating that they will require secondary school pupils to take a GSCE in a language.  However, the word didn’t even appear in Labour’s document at all.
It’s no surprise therefore, to hear many examples that show a naivety around the importance of language in the English-speaking PR industries both here in the UK and in the US, given the global nature of communications and our ability to access information instantly from anywhere in the world.
Getting the language right when communicating internationally can make a huge difference to the success of your PR campaign.  After all, according to Common Sense Advisory, 85% of international consumers prefer native language webpages when researching prepurchase, which impacts your SEO strategy too.
There are a number of challenges faced by PRs when planning an international campaign.  Gary Muddyman, CEO of translation agency Conversis, puts linguistic and cultural challenges at the top of his list and says that ‘literal translation is often not enough,’ and that ‘we need to engage the international audience in a way the source copy does for your domestic market.’  Gary believes that the influence of local resources with local knowledge is vital.
This is probably best summed up by a recent experience that, Karolina Davison shared with me. Karolina is a London-based PR Consultant who has worked with me on a few projects over the last 6 months. She describes herself as having one foot in the UK and the other in Scandinavia – she’s Swedish, but has lived and worked in the US for many years as well.  Recently, a client with a significant global presence asked her to translate and distribute a press release to the Swedish media. Instructions from the US HQ were simple and non-negotiable: ‘Translate, but do not change the legally-approved content in any way.’  However, since the press release was a corporate announcement and not specific to the Nordics, Karolina said she soon realised that her odds of securing coverage would be limited if she wasn’t able to rewrite it.  Her view is that ‘translation can be a wasted exercise if not combined with localisation’. In Karolina’s experience from working in the US, it is completely acceptable to use poetic adjectives to describe a company’s mission and the habits of its clients. However, in Sweden, she said that you stay close to the facts and refrain from using ‘flowery’ words or ‘lofty’ exaggerations. When American consumers are ‘passionate’ about a product, Swedes are ‘appreciative’, even though the direct Swedish translation would be ‘passionerade.’  She therefore believes that it comes down to adhering to cultural subtleties and argues that ‘it is not uncommon for entire company descriptions, i.e. ‘boiler plates’, to need a complete make-over in order to make sense and be taken seriously in a foreign country.’
Heidi Lorenzen of translation software provider Cloudworks summed up localisation in a blog I read whilst researching for this post.  She wrote that it goes well beyond word-for-word translation and takes into account the nuances of regional audiences and customs to get the tone, phrases, and even images correct so that materials read naturally in each target audience’s own language, and do not convey unintended messages. Research and knowledge of your target market may reveal cultural differences and beliefs that can have a big impact on how marketing messages are perceived.’
This aligns with Gary Muddyman’s view that ‘competent translation is just the starting point’.  His second challenge for International PRs is that of the tightly-controlled brand, managed centrally, versus local influence and adaptation.
The issue of local nuances and cultures is perfectly summed up by a case study that Jon Meakin, International PR Director of Grayling shared with me.  Jon’s view is that ‘The challenges of understanding and adapting to cultural nuances are even greater than that of language.’ Last year Grayling ran a pan-European Christmas campaign for a global client with a US HQ, which he feels illustrates this perfectly. Jon said that ‘Churchill described Britain and Americas as ‘two nations divided by a common language’ and the first issue was our US client’s insistence on referring to the Christmas period as the Holiday season. That and an assumption that ‘Europe’ is a homogenous entity, rather than a federation of 50 or so separate countries. While there are undoubtedly similarities between European nations – and we were able to identify five or six Christmas shopper archetypes that apply almost universally – there are many differences, and when you start to explore the different ways in which Christmas is celebrated you quickly realise that a template approach just won’t work.’
To make his point, Jon uses the example that in Spain, gifts are not exchanged until Twelfth Night and that the same is true of Russia, although not all of Russia. He says that ‘it’s wonderfully complex’ and stresses that the key lesson is to ‘resist the temptation to ‘command and control’’.
Whilst he agrees to set a framework, Jon believes that if you follow his advice and ‘allow individual markets the freedom to move within the parameters you set’, you will ‘celebrate the differences and reap the rewards.’
This concept of the English and Americans sharing a ‘common language’ was highlighted in Curzon PR’s recent blog post following the opening of their New York office, highlighting small differences in spelling such as ‘colour’ and ‘color’, or that whole sectors of the [PR] industry go by different names in these two countries, with ‘food and drink PR’ known as ‘food and beverage PR’ in the USA.
I thought I’d stress the point further by coming up with two versions of the same (rather silly) sentence, both written in ‘English’:

‘The sidewalk outside the drugstore, on the opposite side of the cross walk from the gas station was covered in trash that had fallen out of the dumpster.  There was an old soccer ball, used diaper, a ripped pair of pants, and some half eaten cookies.’

or

‘The pavement outside the chemist, on the opposite side of the zebra crossing from the petrol station was covered in rubbish that had fallen out of the skip.  There was an old football, used nappy, a ripped pair of trousers and some half eaten biscuits.’

Karolina probably puts it better than me though by stating that ‘You don’t have to be bilingual to be faced with a localisation dilemma. Any English-speaking person who has worked with an American client knows that US-produced content often needs to be modified to suit the UK market. Sometimes it takes a lot more than just changing the z’s to s’s for the key messages to make sense. The more culturally distinct the country is from the territory where the copy originated, the more work it will require.’ In the case of her US client looking for coverage in Sweden, she ended up writing a pitch to make up for the cultural shortcomings of the press release she was provided and to spend more time than usual selling it in over the phone. She said that the end-result was ‘decent’ but not nearly as good as it could have been had she been allowed to rework the copy. The experience furthered her belief that ‘brands should be bold and invest the extra cost up front to make sure that their collateral is appropriately localised before sharing it globally,’ also making the point that ‘a misrepresented image of a company in the media can do more harm than good.’
A further challenge highlighted by Gary Muddyman is that ‘every stage in the communication process available to potential customers needs to be localised.’  For example, he stresses that ‘it’s no use if your website is in a local language, if the telephone contact details leads to a Call Centre where there are no language skills.’
Finally, the last challenge to overcome is when you are trying so hard to make your existing copy work in a different territory, you might be better off going back to the original brief, and simply starting the copywriting process again.  This is when to consider transcreation, which Conversis defines as taking the values, concepts and key messages of the brand, but recreating them in the different markets by perhaps using more culturally relevant examples to ensure that audiences the world over experience the same emotional reactions to your brand.
A version of this blog post was first published on PRMoment.com

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