I was in a meeting the other day, and someone from IT asked me a question that caught me off-guard. “Does having content that is consistent from one country site to another really matter?” he asked. “After all, there’s little chance that a user in the Netherlands is going to visit out sites in Turkey or the UK. Our markets are every different. So why does consistency matter?”
I had to think fast on my feet, because content consistency is just one of those things that I’d been taking as a given for as long as I’ve been working in web content. It was like someone asking me why I construct my sentences the way I do: I just don’t think about it anymore.
I gave him the ‘killer’ reason for consistency: the ability to share and re-use content without having multiple authors reinvent the wheel, which has both external and internal benefits. Externally, it ensures brand integrity; internally, it’s more cost- efficient.
‘Ah yes, but of course,’ he said, as if he should have known better. In fact, he had simply confused ‘consistency’ with ‘the same’. If your market position, sales, and product lines differ from country to country – and they probably do – it not only makes sense to adapt your content for the local market, it’s in fact a far better option.
But you don’t need to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. Look for the common trunk of your story, and make that consistent throughout. Then add components that allow your local managers to adapt your messaging to their markets. That way, you get the best of both worlds: a consistent common trunk, enhanced by pertinent and adapted local messaging.
The challenge then becomes: what is the common trunk? What needs to be consistent throughout, and what can be adapted? How do you build your content model to facilitate re-use of that common trunk? Clarifying and communicating these rules can go a long way in reducing duplication, enhancing global consistency, and making the overall governance of local web sites a whole lot easier.