'Gisting' Multilingual Content Needs to be Calibrated for International Content Strategies

Jun 24, 2019

Article ImageAre you wondering what "gisting" is after reading it for the first time in the headline above? Well, it is neither a mistake nor a neologism. While people who are involved in global content management, globalization, and localization might be most familiar with this term, it should be understood by everyone who defines, plans, leads, and executes content strategies internationally. It has to be on your mind if you are a marketer, a designer, and a writer as well whether you are exposed to global products or local content.

Simply put, gisting means capturing the main points and the key ideas of a piece of content regardless of format, channel, and source. This content may be verbal, written, or both. Gisting can come to play for content in one language and one market. However, it is often used for multilingual and multi-country content and when translation or localization processes should be optimized in terms of speed and cost. Interestingly gisting is one of the concepts, practices, and tasks that are and should remain truly at the intersection between product, content, and technology leadership. As a matter of fact, many people gist content without being aware of it when they type words or sentences in some free translation tools just to get a rough idea of their meaning without expecting top quality in return.

Like other content related activities, gisting is a tactical step in international content supply chains that increases time and cost-effectiveness provided it is used where, when and how it matters most. Gisting has gained visibility and value as volumes of content keep skyrocketing and intelligent automation is in demand which are two major challenges global business leaders have to face today and tomorrow. Therefore, you need to calibrate gisting according to its limitations, dependencies, and synergies with other strategic content operations serving your business goals and customer experiences across local markets. Here are a few considerations that can help you hit your relevant gisting target(s) with due diligence.

The gist of content reflects its essence. If you consider it a comprehensive summary you might be disappointed because of its scope or its accuracy. Therefore it does not produce a formal abstract or synthesis of all contained points and conveyed messages. Gisting gives you an overview of what is published or said and how it is expressed. It focuses on the translation of words and the aggregation of the corresponding words in the language(s) you want to target. The level of accuracy and relevance has improved, powered by the outstanding machine learning progress in general and the development of neural machine translation in particular. Yet gisting is still depending on cultural and contextual factors that are often not obvious to detect in text or visuals. For example, if customer comments such as "Never seen that before" or "I hope my feedback will be considered seriously" are gisted you have to bear in mind that corresponding translations may miss the point that these customers have made. Should these comments be interpreted positively (from someone who is really satisfied or positively surprised) or negatively (from someone who is quite unhappy about a product or content experience)? In a number of cases, tones and emotions—including irony, cynicism and humor—are hard to reflect with gisting only.

Gisting content should be considered according to types of content. If you request content to be gisted you are likely to consider different objectives with different types of content. For source content that is fairly- or highly-structured—such as scripted training materials, standardized questionnaires or frequently updated user manuals—you can expect quickly actionable and valuable results from your gisting efforts. You should be more careful with gisting output, though, when it comes to various types of user-generated content like social media posts or answers to open-ended questions as well as to highly narrative and creative content such as commercials or newsletters. To be on the safe side, you have to consider it as raw material to refine and adjust according to your goals. If you simply need to get a high-level picture of what the gisted source content included for internal purposes you may want to decide to spend  relatively little time and money on tweaking it. If you intend to use the gisting output for external purposes you should engage human linguists to make it accurate, detailed, and relevant. This is when gisting descriptive, narrative and creative content is definitely subject to linguistic and cultural sensitivity. If you deal with local social listening and global branding strategies you know it already.

Gisting content can also help scope and plan human involvement in an intelligent content automation approach. The first opportunity to do so is to use gisting value as part of a holistic content performance analysis in a proactive and inclusive way. The effectiveness of target content depends on the quality of source content to a large extent. Therefore, poor gisting results may be a sign that gisted content is not as consistent, accurate and clear as expected.

If this content is internal you may then want to use gisting metrics together with other analytics to discuss how to increase content effectiveness with content creators. If this content comes from a third party you can do the same with your suppliers or partners. The only exception to that approach is related to user-generated content that is created personally and individually by nature with little or no central control.

The second opportunity is tied to human editing of gisted content that may be reviewed, corrected, and enriched by linguists and translators. As mentioned previously, such an editing phase applies specifically to content that is narrative, descriptive, and creative. Your challenge is to determine the scope and of scale of editing efforts. Some preliminary spot checks may help you get the gisting-editing balance right but your business requirements and experience expectations are the crucial drivers here. You should also ensure that your content or translation management solution is ready to support and incorporate editing phases in the overall value chain it has to cover. If it is based on a neural machine translation engine, you are best positioned to rely on cutting-edge gisting while using post-editing resources when it makes the most sense and creates the most value.

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