I recall my unintentional reaction some years ago when our newsroom manager in Shanghai told me they would be closed on a certain Friday for “Tomb Sweeping Day.” Jokingly, I recall responding to her with something to the effect that Fridays can be “dead” around here, too. The problem: It wasn’t funny to them. Qingming is a traditional Chinese festival for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and tend to the graves of their departed.
The moral of the story? Even if you’re speaking the same language, pay attention to how you communicate across different geographic boundaries and don’t assume that our cultural norms are the same in other countries. This is particularly applicable in global business communications.
Writing copy for international reach, rather than just sticking to a local angle can be tricky. There are simple things that often get overlooked in the process of turning a local or national release into a global distribution. Here’s a quick checklist of some things to keep in mind when deciding to communicate on a global level:
- Contact information
If your PR contact is based in the US, chances are she probably won’t be able to field calls/e-mails from foreign journalists. When possible, try to include contact staff for your news releases from various regions with multilingual capabilities.
Labor Day, “Independence Day” and even summer comes at various times in different markets. You may opt to keep a news release local for Labor Day, which falls on the first Monday in September in the US and Canada but varies in other parts of the world. Check out the Earth Calendar website , a great resource that will help you find out when Labor Day, or any other holiday, takes place in other parts of the world.
While many people around the world know what “FBI” stands for, that might not be the case for “DIY,” “FYI” or “TMI.” Keep acronyms to a minimum, spell them out or look them up on the Global Change Acronyms and Abbreviations website .
- Catchy abbreviations
We’ve all seen the eye-grabbing ads for 1-800-FLOWERS. Although the toll-free number is international, in some Latin American countries, phones don’t always have alpha-numeric keypads. So, a contact phone number with foreign words would have to be translated to the actual phone numbers.
- Unit of measurements
Unlike the US, the rest of the world uses the metric system. An international release should remain neutral so that translation will carry over. Also, while you’re at it, don’t forget to designate foreign currencies (USD, CDA, Euro, etc.), particularly when you need to distinguish between American dollars and Canadian dollars, for example.
How do you translate a joke? Punch lines simply don’t carry over well into foreign languages and most linguists would agree that being funny in another language can be the trickiest to achieve. So, keep the word play and kitschy phrases to a minimum for international releases. Or work directly with the translator or in-country team to come up with some equivalent phrasing to convey the same message.
Marketwire has seasoned translation professionals who can work with your team to build a glossary or provide consultation to craft your message in virtually any language and distribute it to a global audience.
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