Get to know Terrance Barkan, CAE, founder and chief strategist of GLOBALSTRAT who has been building international trade and professional associations for more than 20 years. With offices in Switzerland and Washington, DC, Barkan specializes in helping associations to build global growth strategies and business plans. Here, Barkan helps AM&P members start to think outside the borders.
By Carla Kalogeridis
Sidebar: What are some of the specific challenges in publishing content for an international audience that an association may not think of on their own?
Barkan: In 2013, we did a survey of 340 associations in 22 countries and found out that the second-biggest challenge facing associations looking at expanding internationally is accurately estimating the potential demand for their events, content, products, and services. In other words, just because China has more than 1.3 billion people doesnít mean an association has 1.3 billion prospects in China.
In addition to determining accurately the demand for the associationís products internationally, an association must also assess how much competition already exists in that country. If the associationís prospects are already adequately served by a respected, peer-reviewed journal, there might not be a big demand for a second one.
Sidebar: What is a common mistake association communicators make when looking to offer content internationally?
Barkan: The question of translation is always a challenging one. If the association serves an industry like science, math, biotech, health care, or senior management, these groups generally work and operate in English. However, if the associationís audience is on a different level or serving an industry other than these, you might have a language problem.
The mistake association publishing teams make is translating their content far too early. They overestimate the need for a translated product, and they underestimate the cost.
We recommend licensing your content for translation. Instead of the association taking on the translation expense, you license your content to a partner in that country. That way, youíre collecting royalty checks instead of wondering if you can sell it. We are always focused on risk management for an associationís international endeavors.
Sidebar: How can an association determine if its content is of interest to an international audience?
Barkan: For a publication to appeal to an international audience, the association should first start sourcing experts in that market and quoting them in your associationís publications and content. The association should build up its credibility in the international market before doing anything else.
There is really good, cutting-edge content coming from Europe that associations arenít even using. American associations could be seeking European content to elevate the quality of their content for their U.S. audience, for example, while simultaneously building their own international audience.
Sidebar: What countries are particularly interested in content from the United States right now?
Barkan: Asia and Latin America are hungry for American content. Countries like China, Thailand, and Indonesia use English to speak to each other, so they are very interested. However, Latin America has a relatively low use of English, even among senior management.
Europe and Japan are different. All content to Japan must be in Japanese. Only a small percentage of business people speak English because they donít have to leave Japan to be successful. And in Europe, many business people are highly affluent and extremely proud ó and they have a right to be ó so they have an aversion to content that comes from the U.S. Basically, they donít want to look like they are leaning on American ideas.
Sidebar: Do you find it surprising that more associations donít offer content to international audiences?
We have seen a steady
trend over the years of more associations engaging internationally. I think
more will continue to tap into new markets when they understand how to grow
while managing their risk and exposure. In trade associations for example, half of the U.S.members are looking for their organizations to protect them from international competition. The other half wants the association to help them expand their global reach.
Sidebar: When youíre ready to go international, whatís a good product to lead with?
Barkan: Peer-reviewed journals are usually one of the highest-rated member benefits, so often, associations think they should start with that. But we usually advise not to lead with your publication because it can be high cost and is slow to build impact. Publications take longer to scale, and the profit margin is not huge.
Itís better to lead with events and certifications first because they offer a much higher margin and quicker return. The associationís board sees the money coming in, and they gain confidence in the idea of offering international products and services and grow more open to other ideas. However, from the international audienceís standpoint, gaining access to the associationís journal is usually high on their list.
Editorís note: Donít miss Signature magazineís feature article in the May/June 2014 issue on creating and marketing content for an international audience. If youíd like to participate in this story by sharing your associationís experiences, contact Carla Kalogeridis, editorial director, Signature magazine.
is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing. If youíd
like to be interviewed for Sidebar ó or know of someone else who always
has an interesting perspective or opinion on association communications
and publishing ó send us your suggestion.