Canada is an amazing and diverse country. Cultural diversity is one of its most important characteristics and is what creates much of the pride we have in our country.
As great as it is, diversity can be perceived as quite a challenge for communicators that have a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Creating such communications material might not work out as it could in countries where language and culture are more homogenous. Even if we do have similarities with our neighbours in the rest of Canada, a campaign designed to work well in English provinces will not necessarily get the same results in La Belle Province. When working on national PR campaigns in Canada, there should always be a pivotal moment when companies and agencies assess how their messages will be perceived in different market like Quebec. In this case, translating and adapting content is a crucial part of ensuring any successful campaign in Quebec.
When to translate
When the question arises: should the communication material be in French? The answer is always – Yes of course! Especially, if the objective is to reach the majority of the Quebec market. Might I remind you that Canada has two official languages and that there are very strict language laws for French in Quebec. Besides the law, there are two main reasons for always providing a French translation or better yet, a cultural interpretation for Quebec:
1) Importance of the French-speaking population
Numbers speak. The 2016 Canadian Census gives us a clear picture of the Quebec population and the language distribution in Quebec. When looking at the table below it is quite evident as to what language is predominant. Half of the population only speaks French (49.9%) and almost all of the other half speak both French and English. In fact, out of the total 8M+ population of Quebec, only 6% or about 500,000 residents do not speak French at all.
Accordingly, it becomes evident that when wanting to communicate with a population, through different channels like media, one must take the language distribution into account.
2) Importance of French media in Quebec
Consequently, it is no surprise that there is a French-language predominance in the media. It becomes unequivocal that translating content to French will help open the communication channels and greatly increase the chances that the material will get picked up by the largest number of media outlets in Quebec.
Again, numbers speak loudly. To further illustrate this, let’s take a look at television and daily newspaper language distribution. Quebec has 26 French-language television stations affiliated with 3 networks: the CBC’s public network and its private networks, TVA and V. In addition, the Government of Quebec contributes funding to TV5, the international French-language channel that broadcasts on all continents. In comparison, there are 4 English-language general-interest television stations belonging to the CBC, CTV, Citytv and Global networks. When we look at the written press, Quebec has 14 dailies, 12 of which are in French.
Of course in a larger city like Montreal, some of our journalists are bilingual so there can be some latitude with English, but by choosing not to translate your material, you would be taking a very big risk of a public outcry. For historical and political reasons deeply ingrained, Quebecers are very sensitive about language.
Lest we remember the blunders of the MMA Railroad company during the Lac Mégantic crisis (a town situated 250 km East of Montreal). Not only did the president only address the media and Lac Mégantic townfolk in English like the Toronto Star and other French media outlets like Les Affaires reported, most of their communication material was never translated into French. Quebec media and the public were outraged at the lack of consideration for the population of Lac Mégantic which is majority francophone.
Based on these assessments, when trying to communicate in Quebec, your chances of success are much greater if you choose to do it in French. That being said, sometimes when implementing campaigns in Quebec, translation is not enough.
When to adapt
Once all of the communication materials are translated into French, there is a second step that most forget and it can be a deciding factor of a campaign’s success. Translating to French is one step in the right direction, but finding the concepts, angles, and words that will resonate with Quebecers is what will ensure it is well received in this unique province.
A great example of a national company which understands the importance of adapting its PR and Marketing campaigns is Catelli, as their roots are in Quebec. They don’t hesitate to curate their content to this market.
In 2018, Catelli celebrated Quebec’s national holiday in a creative way on social media.
Understanding the nuances in the Quebec market can sometimes be a daunting task for someone with an outsider’s perspective. There are many examples we can use to illustrate how Quebec differs from the rest of Canada. Like when looking at the 2018 Cantrust survey, which evaluates trust levels among Canadian consumers, there are distinctive results for the Quebec market.
But what makes Quebec so different?
To put it simply, as set out in the book Cracking the Quebec Code, the best way to understand Quebecers is to remember that most of them are influenced by French culture, live in an English society and have an American lifestyle.
Quebecers just see things differently than the rest of Canada. But when companies are attentive to that, they can gain great reputation and success.
All things considered, the best way to ensure a successful PR and Marketing campaign in Quebec is to work with a Quebec agency that can help, not just with translating, but also with adapting communications material. The key is to really understand that our uniqueness is what also makes us so charming. 🙂