005 – Multilingual Health Resources with Lynette Fludd of the Hormone Health Network

What does it take to make your health resources multilingual? Lynette Fludd of the Hormone Health Network comes on the show to talk about evaluating the need for providing health resources in multiple languages, whether you should use automated or professional translation services, and the importance of getting translation right when communicating health information.

Full Transcript

Spencer: Welcome to Health Nonprofit Digital Marketing, a podcast for nonprofit marketing and communications leaders who are using the internet to reach and engage people with health issues. I’m your host Spencer Brooks of Brooks Digital and today I’m joined by Lynette Fludd. Lynette is the manager of the Hormone Health Network, a leading source of hormone-related health information.

So Lynette, first of all, thanks for being on the show. Could you start by giving listeners a brief overview of who you are and what you do?

Lynette: Hi Spencer. Thank you for inviting me. I’m happy to be here today. I’m a certified health education professional and I’ve been working for the Endocrine Society for a little over six years, with over 19 years of experience in the field and 11 years of experience in the nonprofit space. I’ve done everything from marketing to program planning—you name it, I’ve done it. So I’m glad to be here.

I oversee the public education arm of the Society and work with a group of very talented endocrinologists who help translate the science of endocrine to the public.

Getting started with multi-lingual resources

Spencer: Awesome. I’m really excited to have you on the show today. I know you clearly have a lot of experience here and a lot of wisdom to share on the topic that I wanted to focus on today, which is multi-lingual resources. When I first visited your website, I noticed that you have quite a few different multi-lingual resources—more than I think the average organization does. I guess I’m making an assumption there. But I wanted to dig into that a little bit.

I know some listeners might be here thinking, “okay, I’m interested maybe in developing some multi-lingual resources. What’s it going to take? Is it going to be a ton of work?” So could you start by walking me through how you began, or maybe how your organization began to develop those multi-lingual resources online and how it started?

Lynette: Sure. So we started back in 1997 with a group of members from the Society who carved out this public education arm, and as a part of that, they were reflective of members around the globe and in various communities wanting to help support the health outcomes in those communities.

So they said, “you know what, let’s look at the information, let’s create the resources.” And as we were creating the resources in English, a few of our members were interested in having them translated into their language for their area so that they could use them as point-of-care tools in the practice. And so it kind of started as this brain idea from our members, and then it evolved as we looked at the data and we saw the traffic that was coming to our site.

We realized that there were a lot of people in other communities looking at our content and looking at our information and really finding value in it. And so we kind of went back to the drawing board and said, “let’s start translating this.” And so we started with Spanish because even in the US there’s sort of this bilingual need in the US. And so we started there and then we built partnerships with various institutions and our members that work in those institutions around the globe to carve out other content areas that would serve these communities.

And you know, it is a labor of love in a sense because it does take time and you really have to look at your user behavior. Where is your audience is coming from? Look at your tactics to support that. We took some of our content that was more popular in the diabetes space and the obesity space and said, “okay, this is what’s also happening in these other areas in regions around the globe. It would be best to translate these specific topics for these specific areas and make sure that we modify these resources and incorporate the respective customs and the respective practices.”

It was really a hand-in-hand thing where not only the staff and the marketing team had to create these, but then the members added their contributions to make sure that it was a vetted trusted thing. You know, it’s always difficult when you’re trying to translate medical information versus just translating general information. And I think it only works because we have these members who are in those markets and speak the language. So not only can they supply the information, but they can also be additional reviewers.

Leveraging global members to support translations

Spencer: Yeah. And I wanted to ask you—because it occurred to me that listeners probably wouldn’t be familiar with your model—could you describe who even your members are? So that maybe other organizations can identify and say, “oh, I have a similar model there or maybe not.” So what are those members and how do they function in the context of your organization?

Lynette: Sure. So the members are endocrinologists who are serving as researchers, clinical scientists and clinical practitioners from around the globe.

And so we are their professional home. They work to serve on our committees or task forces or planning groups and they really help support the DNA of the organization.

Spencer: Yeah that makes sense. And so it does sound like that because these endocrinologists were in these different regions around the world that they were able to say “these resources that you have in English right here would be most applicable” or “we would really want to see these translated for wherever we are in the world.” So they actually sort of came to you, it sounds like, and helped you pick and choose and highlight what would be most valuable.

Lynette: You’re exactly right. That’s exactly how it happened. And even still now these members, they sit on various committees—i.e. membership, i.e. meetings—and then, of course, the public education. So they are the ones that help with that marketplace assessment to let us know what’s happening in the Latin America region or what’s happening in the European region that’s more applicable and that needs a higher importance to be translated.

I think one of the things that people should consider, or make sure they keep in mind if they’re considering translating resources, is hire a professional. Because like I said, it can be a labor of love. It isn’t just because I speak a language that now I can translate medical information. It’s definitely something where you want a professional entity that does language translation to be able to support that. And then you have your members and your experts. They’re supporting the review process so that the medical information is truly translated in a way that can help people.

Modifying resources for a specific audience

Spencer: You mentioned modifying information for a particular audience or a language or region, whatever you want to call it—this might be a little on the spot for you. I don’t know if there’s a specific example that you can think of off the top of your head that might be like, “okay, we had to modify this resource for this particular audience.” Would you mind sharing if you have an example or two of how you did that?

Lynette: In 2014, the Society hosted one of our largest annual meetings and it was in combination with the European Endocrine Society. And so it was kind of a joint meeting, and from there, we heard from those two audiences that those point-of-care resources were in need. And so from there, we were able to have an opportunity to work with some of those professionals in that region to be able to identify those health needs and create content not only in English, but then also in other languages that could support them.

And that’s really where it stemmed from. We look at those gaps, we look at those needs and those educational gaps. And I said earlier, looking at your data and looking at where your audience is coming from, and really taking a deep dive into that, because over a third of our site traffic is going towards our Spanish content. And it’s because it’s a very comprehensive list of information. And so once we noticed that, now we tend to double down on that and we try to make sure that when we’re updating English, we try to update the Spanish as well. And we have that committee of members that can help support that process.

Keeping translations updated

Spencer: It begs the question for me, maybe it’s about the process. I know that for some of the organizations that I’ve worked with, it’s a lot to even keep English resources updated, let alone having multiple translations. So how do you manage a situation where you’re going through and updating resources in one or more languages? Do you find that to be more difficult or time-consuming, or have you found ways to make that a little bit smoother? How have you handled that?

Lynette: Yeah, that’s a good question. So the process is a little bit time-consuming because our goal is to make sure that our content stays within a three-year window. And while the health information may not necessarily change—the definition of diabetes is still the definition of diabetes for type 1 and type 2—it’s about those other pieces, about the therapy options, and things like that usually end up changing. And so we have a group of members who helped to review that and are part of those cyclical review processes.

But it’s also working with that professional company. Like I said, we outsource the company for that. It starts with the groundwork to give us the baseline information that we’re looking for, and then our members step in and do the rest of the heavy lifting. And so we made that process a little easier and we definitely use staff. It is a time-consuming process, but well worth it on the other end of it, because we were able to we know from looking at our data that people are reading that content.

It’s what’s driving, you know, a third of our traffic. And so it’s worth the labor to put into it, especially knowing the outcomes and knowing that you’re helping people in other markets and helping these clinicians who are using it as a point of care tool.

What about Google Translate?

Spencer: I had another question for you as well because I saw that you had a Google Translate option on your site. And I think that’s probably the first place many organizations go when they say, “oh we want our site to be multi-lingual. We’ll just stick this Google Translate widget up in the corner of our site and that’ll be that.”

And you know, I’m sure it’s better than nothing. But what are your thoughts or opinions on using something like Google Translate versus actually paying for a professional translation?

Lynette: Yeah. So we teeter-tottered with that idea as well and we have both. So we started with the manual—we call it manual translation—where you take the traditional English content and you translate it word-for-word manually. And then in 2017, we decided to add Google Translate because we felt like there were many people from many other regions that were still coming and wanting to still get the gist or get the understanding of the medical information that we were trying to share.

And so that’s kind of the “here’s something for all,” but knowing that we can’t serve every market in every language that’s out there, we still had to have some sort of manual piece as well. So we kind of do a hybrid. We do find that there is a little bit of a difference because like I said, when you’re translating medical content, it’s different.

People love the Google Translate tool and it really just opens the door for those conversations that we want people to have with their providers. It allows people to get enough information about a particular condition or disease and then to say “okay, I’ve read enough in my language now, I can go and have that conversation with my health care professional,” and so if that’s happening on a regular basis then I think we’ve done our jobs.

Do multi-lingual resources boost search traffic?

Spencer: That’s a good insight. I was curious as well, you mentioned a third of your traffic is your Spanish language resources. I’m making the assumption that most of that comes from Google. Are you finding that because you have these resources available in Spanish that you’re getting a lot of search traffic or is it coming from someplace else?

Lynette: Yeah. Most of it’s coming from Google. Some of it’s also coming from referrals. So we have referrals that come in from NIH and Medline and places of that caliber. And so because we have those partnerships with those organizations, and they know that we have the resources in these other languages, then—their referral system is wonderful and it really helps us and bolsters us in the SEO space or what have you. And so using that has been a no-brainer.

Spencer: Yeah, I would imagine. I know this is also just a guess and maybe you have an answer, maybe you don’t. But I imagine—it’s certainly been my experience, anyway—that when you have medical information, for example, diabetes. I’ve worked with diabetes organizations before.

And when you’re talking about search engine rankings and things like that, you’re starting to compete with behemoths like the American Diabetes Association or Healthline or these really big websites where it’s like, “how am I supposed to rank #1 when somebody’s typing ‘diabetes’ into Google?” You’re just not going to do that. So have you found it to be easier to rank for what would be maybe a competitive search phrase in English instead being a little easier in Spanish?

Lynette: For the content that we have that is nuanced—because it’s the Endocrine Society, we cover everything in the endocrine system. And there are these behemoths that you mentioned. It almost seems like it’s competitive, but just like how most people when they read the news or watch the news, they don’t read the news or watch one outlet and say, “yep, I’ve got my news and I’m not going to read or watch anything else,” so it’s one of those things where we are there to be able to offer that either primary or secondary or even tertiary piece of information that can support people with endocrine conditions. And I think that is just as helpful as anything else.

And so we kind of lead with the fact that not only are we covering the full endocrine system, which is not always the case in some these other markets, with those rare topics that we have and some of our transgender topics and some of our thyroid topics that aren’t necessarily in other places, but then it’s also just knowing that we don’t have to be the first to still be good and to still be great.

I think our multi-lingual resources do help leverage us a little bit higher in that space because we do offer that, whereas others don’t, but as long as people are able to find the information, we try to make it as easy as possible for them to do that.

Multi-lingual “gotchas”

Spencer: That makes a ton of sense. And another question that I had for you is just any words of advice or “gotchas” that you would be willing to share with other folks who might be interested, might be considering dabbling a little bit in this multi-lingual pond, but might be afraid of what they’re going to find? So is there anything that you can share as maybe a heads up for people who are peeking around that corner?

Lynette: Yeah, sure. So first thing I would say: look at your data. What are the behaviors of your audience telling you? I think that can get you at least starting to have the conversation with the right folks. And then hire a professional. Look for the right company that can work with you and is well versed in developing health multi-lingual content. And then getting those medical professionals that are willing to help support you as well, if you’re able to. You never know what they’re willing to lend their volunteer skills to help you with. So I think it’s just about putting out that ask to make sure that they can support you.

Spencer: When you mentioned the behaviors that you should be looking for in your data—do you have anything like a specific example of something that you would say “oh this is a good indicator that maybe multi-lingual would be a good option?”

Lynette: Yeah. So we have a page on our site called non-diabetic hypoglycemia. It gets a lot of traffic and it brings in a lot of users and audiences from all over the globe. And so once we saw that we were wondering, “what is it about this page that makes it so unique?”

One, there isn’t a lot of information out there about non-diabetic hypoglycemia. Most of the time if you’re reading about hypoglycemia it’s always linked to diabetes. Secondly, the content itself is unique. And then looking at the markets where the people were coming from. So we noticed that the highest was, of course, Mexico, and then we had India and some other markets, but the US came in like fourth or fifth.

And so we were looking at that we were like, “wow, we need to maybe take a deeper dive into this and say—okay, what else can we do to help support these markets that are looking at this information on this particular topic?” So we really worked very closely with our web team so we can really take the time to look at those strategy opportunities within our content. So it isn’t just about creating good content and then putting it out and then trying to attract people to look at it. It’s like, what is the content that you did put out there—what is it telling you and what is it showing you? And so I think that that’s really important to pay attention to.

Spencer: Words of wisdom there. And the other question may be the last multi-lingual. Apparently, I have a lot of multi-lingual questions. You mentioned getting medical professionals to help. I think it’s a good point that you’re probably not going to find if you Google, “how do I set up a multi-lingual website?” If you have health information, to your point, there are some things that you need to consider and certainly, there’s a different caliber of information quality that you’re probably being held to. So do your professionals, do your members, do they actually speak multiple languages? And do they help? Do they help with the translation?

Lynette: Absolutely. We have a directory on our site as well. It’s called the Finding Endocrinologist directory. And even within the directory, we ask our members to indicate if they speak other languages for those point-of-care sessions. And so we are really trying to help people meet people where they are, whether it be wanting to find a doctor who speaks your language, wanting to find the information, or the content that is in your language.

And I think that really shows that we are taking that extra step to make sure you’re getting trusted information. That’s one of the things we really pride ourselves on. And so, yes, our members are very well-versed in a lot of languages. And they’re eager to volunteer and help. So I think using those two unique things has really helped us in the marketplace.

Marketing challenges

Spencer: Yeah, well, thank you for sharing all that information. I did want to transition and just ask a couple of questions. What’s one thing right now in marketing that you’re working on that consumes a lot of brain space, and what takeaways can you share with listeners that might be struggling with that same challenge?

Lynette: Awesome. Sure. So the most common thing isn’t different from any other marketing professional. It’s how do you truly add value to our users and our customers from all the different demographics that we support? I think that’s a huge one for me.

Because the market is so saturated, we’re now starting to think about how we can pivot our strategy to reach these audiences in a more unique and compelling way. We know that there’s so much information out there and we want to make sure that we are able to penetrate the WebMD’s and the “Dr. Google” and things like that. So yeah, that’s what has been keeping me up at night.

Spencer: Yeah that makes sense, and I know it’s kind of interesting because it’s a topic that has come up more than once, actually. Especially with health information, you start to get these behemoth sites like WebMD or Healthline and having smaller, more specific organizations find ways to stand out has been something that’s come up. So I appreciate you sharing that, as well, because I’m sure that there’s a lot of listeners that can probably commiserate with that.

Nonprofit marketing resources

Spencer: The last thing I wanted to ask you—I guess, second-to-last thing—is what two or three resources would you recommend to listeners who want to keep up on news and trends in nonprofit marketing?

Lynette: Sure. So just full disclosure, I don’t think with nonprofit marketing and for-profit marketing there’s a difference. And so I kind of lead with that. You know, the ultimate goal for marketing, in general, is to gain attention for your brand and then to tell your story. And so in doing so, there isn’t a specific nonprofit marketing space I go to. I’m really in the world of all of the marketing.

So I follow—Business Insider has this e-marketer blog that I follow. I also follow influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk or Seth Godin and their blogs. And so those are the ones that I kind of keep up with. Those top influences because they’re the ones that are really the guiding posts for some of the newer things that we may want to try. Or really trying to sift through what works and what doesn’t work, hearing other people’s stories and things like that. And so that that’s what really helps us.


Spencer: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for sharing that as well. And my last question (this really is my last question for you!) is how can listeners get in touch with you if they’d like to learn more about your work?

Lynette: Sure. So they can go to hormone.org and that’s where they can find all things endocrinology and find our endocrine directory if they’re looking for an endocrinologist. And then if they’re looking to reach out to myself or anybody else on our team, our contact information is there as well. So, hormone.org.

Spencer: Awesome. Well, that is going to wrap up our show today, but thank you again for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom Lynette.

Lynette: Thank you, Spencer.

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