Why you should Internationalize Your Pharmaceutical Communication Before Translation

The process of internationalizing a document happens before any translation takes place. In an English document, there may be some terms or expressions that do not exist in another country. Especially in the pharmaceutical and health care world, it is imperative to identify terminology that would not be suitable for a particular market, and agree on a term that would be acceptable for use in the local area.

Often, words like “physician’s assistant”, “nurse practitioner”, “midwife”, “pharmacist” or may not have an exact translation because there is no equivalent in education system or licensing rules. Additionally, terms for health care facilities vary. The words “clinic” and “family planning clinic” “health care facility” may change based on location. Globally, there are different procedures and regulations for obtaining medicine. In the United States, you can purchase over-the-counter medicine at the supermarket or in a convenience store. In France, for example, all medicinal products, be it over-the-counter or prescription, must be purchased at the pharmacy.

In the March 2012 issue of Quirk’s magazine, George Pettinico discusses brand positioning in the pharmaceutical industry. He says that many brands are “launched with suboptimal positioning,” failing to connect with either the health care professional or the patient. Pettinico further proves that not only is it important for the pharmaceutical company to perform research to capitalize on target market demographics, but also maintaining congruency in language is essential when attempting to brand a product.

How can one connect with a customer when the tone and style of the intended message is swayed? Pettinico even discusses the importance of delving into the psyche of the consumer and recommends ethnographic research. Connection to the psyche of the respondent must start with internationalized surveys, educational materials, or branding before one even begins to translate material into the target market language. Any lapse in judgment regarding the word choice can disable the entrance into the thought process of the respondent, making a marketing attempt useless.

When branding your pharmaceutical product in foreign markets, do not forget to internationalize the document before you begin, and to use only a translator or language service provider who understands the goals of your project.