Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows how much I love Val Swisher of Content Rules. Why? Well, first of all, she’s a lovely person and great friend all around. But that’s beside the point. As a technical communicator, she is one of the foremost experts on content strategy, specializing in global content strategy. I’ve seen Val give presentations at various conferences, and the thing I like about her presentations is that while her topics might be high-level topics, someone like me who is still learning can understand what she is talking about. I never walk away from a Val Swisher presentation without feeling like I absorbed something that I can use in my own work–or at least have a better understanding of how it fits into the content strategy field. I have often credited Val for providing me with the ideas that have helped me get my current job and make an impact there.
So on that note, I was pleased to see that she had written a book on her specialty called, Global Content Strategy: A Primer, which is available through The Content Wrangler’s Content Strategy Series published by XML Press. This book is easily read in an afternoon, and is loaded with a lot of information.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Val’s presentations, then this book is a great way to have many of the concepts she talks about in her presentations found in one place. She provides not only the basics of what global content strategy is, but breaks down bigger ideas into simple terms, and includes color images to provide examples, which is a good move. Val explains that globalization is not just about translating content, but also being sensitive and knowledgeable about localization as well. For example, what works in Portugese in Portugal doesn’t necessarily work for Portugese in Brazil. Translations can’t always be made word for word because of idioms and expressions that aren’t universal. Val provides many examples of this applies not only textually, but in imagery as well.
The book also talks about how the translation process can get complex and bungled without establishing a translation memory database and consistency of terminology. Val provides some pointers to help global strategists wade through these issues to keep it all straight, including what not to do as well as what best practices are.
My only criticism of the book, ironically enough, is that it doesn’t seem to be written for a global audience, but rather for an American–or perhaps North American–audience. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what if I was in another country and looking to create a global strategy? Perhaps it’s because as the Internet has grown, it has seemingly been American English-centric, and by writing for an American audience, Val has written for the group that needs to become more aware of the global audience it needs to reach!
I’ve been a team member on a global web project for the last six months or so, and I remember much of what I learned from Val had taught me to the members of my immediate team that would show that even though we were working on a North American section of a website, we had to find that balance between the global and local content. Sometimes my words were heard, and sometimes it fell on deaf ears. Upon reading this book and revisiting the concepts that I’ve heard her present in the past, I do wish this book had been given to someone at the top of the global team to understand that translation alone is not enough, and that localization makes a big difference. They could’ve used this book as a great reference to better streamline the process and the web project. Many global companies could benefit from reading this book to help put their content in perspective.
If you are looking to acclimate to the concept of global content strategy and what that entails, then this is a great resource for you to read. There are a lot of details squeezed into this slim volume that will be easy to understand, and yet you’ll feel a little overwhelmed at first at how many details one needs to consider when creating a global strategy. Fortunately, this reference book breaks it down so that it isn’t as overwhelming as it could be, and helps content strategists think in a more single-sourced, consistent way to provide the best ROI for a project.
I highly recommend this book.
You can find purchasing information about the book at XML Press:
Global Content Strategy: A Primer
Have you read this book? What do you think? Include your comments below.