How to Recover from a Bad Translation (and come out on top!)

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Before he knew it, phone calls were coming in droves. He stopped checking his email because his inbox was becoming unmanageable. How on earth was he going to explain this one to his boss?

John, a copywriter at a well known advertising agency, had just released (or rather unleashed) his latest ad for a major Japanese electronics manufacturer and to his dismay (and the dismay of many), the ad featured some rather awkward (read: inappropriate) copy. It turns out the translation company he hired used machine translation and neglected to proof read, as did John.

Now John, a relatively unknown copywriter, is out of a job (big deal!). The real damage done was to his client, the Japanese electronics manufacturer. As the executives of the manufacturing facility sat in the boardroom trying to figure out how to bounce back after this PR nightmare, they read this very article:

How to Recover from a Bad Translation:

Step 1:

Take a deep breath (everything will be o.k.)

Step 2: Assess the Damage

Assessing the damage is easily done thanks to social media. If you’re a high profile company and you’ve made a “booboo”, you can bet it’s already on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere. Do a keyword search for your blunder and see what comes up.

Step 3: Respond

Again, thanks for social media, you can respond quickly to those who have expressed concern over your, for lack of a better phrase, poor judgment. Apologize for the mistake! As viral as your blunder went, your apology will spread just as quickly.

Step 3: Turn a PR Nightmare into a PR Dream

I know it may feel like it but this isn’t the first time a company has released poorly translated adverts or, more generally, an embarrassing, under-thought out, advertisement. The most successful companies turn this bad press into a chance to do something fantastic.

Think of a way to get the community involved. Could you have a contest that has people Re-caption the advertisement? Probably! Could you poke a little fun at yourself on Youtube? I’ll bet you can!

Be creative.

Final Thoughts

In the age of social media, everything you do is a chance for you to engage with your customers. In years past, you didn’t have that option. You made a terrible marketing decision? YOU LIVED WITH IT UNTIL SOMEONE ELSE MADE A BIGGER MISTAKE. Now, you can get right in there! Apologize, mend fences, and have a little fun.

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3 thoughts on “How to Recover from a Bad Translation (and come out on top!)

  1. Great advice that proves that making a mistake doesn’t have to be the end of the world. I’d love to see some examples of translators who used humor and social media to turn things around as you suggest, similar to BodyForm’s hilarious YouTube “apology” that went viral.

    • I’d love to see an example of it as well. I was more referring generally to other companies that have successfully used social media to comeback from a foible.

      Social media has made it so much easier to deal with things like this on-the-fly instead of turning a blind eye to mistakes.

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