How to succeed in international content marketing

Do you work in content marketing at an international organisation? Then you surely know by experience that setting up content marketing can be quite a challenge. Decentralised marketing organisations are often faced with the challenge of involving international stakeholders, keeping the process going, and exchanging knowledge and best practices. Centralised marketing organisations often believe that content marketing for all countries can be organised from one country. No matter how you are organised, it is tempting to use Dutch content strategy for other countries. This sounds like a good quick fix to get up and running quickly in all countries, but it isn’t.
Here are some tips on how to go about setting up international content marketing.

A common approach to international content marketing

At many companies with a decentralised marketing organisation, the request to tackle content marketing is often received from the head office. In some cases, one country is ordered to take action, in other cases all countries are to take on content marketing.
Of course, this differs for each company, but you could overstate it somewhat and say that the following is frequently the case:

  • the head office wants every country to start content marketing and issues an order
  • no objectives or frameworks are offered
  • the local offices are unfamiliar with content marketing, don’t know what to do or what the head office expects of them and why
  • some start by creating content
  • other offices wait to see what will happen
  • some countries get ahead of others in terms of knowledge and experience
  • some offices create high quality content, others create what they think is acceptable
  • offices that don’t understand the benefits of content marketing fail to make time for it and to get started or they quickly founder

This situation is shown in the following model:

The ideal situation in a decentralised organisation

In an ideal situation, the head office facilitates local offices to a large degree. But take note! There is a difference between facilitating and directing. At crucial moments, the head office should provide support by:

  • defining the desired work process, creating frameworks, and training the local colleagues
  • providing the knowledge required; organising a workshop is crucial
  • giving the local offices time to move forward at crucial moments
  • offering templates for reporting and monitoring – what is to be tracked and why

The local offices are particularly suited for a number of things:

  • carrying out a number of necessary analyses concerning target groups or personas
  • drawing up content plans or mapping
  • creating content
  • distributing content

If you were to take this approach, the model would be a bit different:

The ideal situation in a centralised organisation

Do you serve multiple markets from one head office? If so, resist the temptation to organise everything centrally.
Frequently, knowledge of the local market, local legislation, the local persona, etc. is insufficient at the head office. This makes drawing up a good strategy and action plan extremely difficult.
That is why we always recommend collaborating with local partners or key players who know what’s going on. This could be, for example, your country manager.

How the rest is set up depends on many factors. Without input from local sources or without working with local experts or copywriters, it is often difficult to create the right content. An alternative is to employ natives who work at the head office.
But the input of local players is also important when distributing your content. What local parties would want to publish your content? Who are the local experts or influencers? And what local customs are there in terms of collaboration?
Do you work in a centralised marketing organisation and do you want to get your content marketing up and running internationally? We would be happy to work with you to find the best approach.

Starting in the Netherlands and translating from there?

Many of our clients have a head office in the Netherlands and often start setting up content marketing from there. The idea is then to adopt it quickly in other countries, preferably by having the content translated.
Although this seems to be an attractive option, there are a number of drawbacks. For example, the content might not be in line with the local persona or with the situation in other countries. Take, for example, differences in legislation, different cultures or different customs.
So, first, make sure translation is a good idea.

Other options are:

  1. localising content
  2. reusing the strategy
  3. devising a strategy for each separate country

Localisation means not just translating content, but also making the necessary changes. If you reuse a strategy, the basic set-up is the same for other countries, but the implementation is done by the local office. If you really want to do it right, devise a new strategy for each separate country. This does require drawing up new personas or doing target group analysis. The latter is only feasible for organisations with large budgets.

If you want to get started on an international scale, keep the following tips in mind:

  • don’t make demands of the local offices, but provide them with sufficient support. Monitor local offices and make adjustments.
  • provide clear frameworks, preferably in the form of work processes that each country can follow.
  • frequently organise workshops and knowledge sessions to learn from each other. You don’t want every country to have to learn by experience.
  • don’t automatically choose the cheapest option (translation), but see what is right for your company. It is often possible to find a mix of the available options.

Tip: a centralised Content Management System

As a centralised marketing organisation, you can facilitate your countries/offices by investing in a centralised Content Management System, such as Oracle Content Marketing. This allows all offices to manage their content. A CMS supports the entire content marketing work process: from idea to publication and analysis. It can be used for multiple personas, languages, and types of content. For example, you can continuously monitor how the local offices follow up their content marketing and will no longer be dependent on information provided by the local offices.

Want to know more about (international) content marketing?

Don’t hesitate to contact us.