Good Communication Practices in Uncertain Times

It is said that COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. Here in Australia, we have adapted to the new normal quite well, but like the virus, misinformation is highly contagious and can have disastrous consequences. This pandemic has exposed many systemic cracks in how we communicate, and there is much work ahead of us to close these gaps.

Miscommunication comes in many forms, including poor translations. In a multicultural society, consistent and reliable translation services should be among the primary components of a coordinated crisis response, so why hasn’t it been the case in Australia? But more to the point, what can be done about it?

Many reasons, including lower educational and literacy levels, can account for that additional vulnerability. Still, lack of appropriately translated information also features highly on the list of barriers to effective communication. We know that adequate, well-translated resources help people make informed decisions regarding their health and wellbeing. The big question is how organisations whose job it is to work with multicultural communities make this a priority and facilitate better outcomes for their clients, patients, or other stakeholders. Let’s dive into it.

  • New approach to communication

I don’t know about you, but the way I acquire information has changed drastically in the last few years. I consume a lot more audio-visual content, and since we seem to be living in the Age of Overwhelm, I can only cope with short, more targeted messages. When I need to decide on something, I mostly want to know who, where, how, and how much. Multicultural communities are similar.  The only difference is that if they don’t find information in their language, they may reach out to sources that aren’t reliable or provide information that may be misaligned with your organisation’s messages. For example, concepts of screening or preventions may vary across different cultures, languages, and systems and may clash with those promoted in Australia.

It is therefore vital that we take the time to understand the communities we are trying to address. Reaching out and consulting with them before we embark on developing a resource will lead to a greater understanding. As a result, resources and information provided are likely going to be more meaningful, respectful, and effective, leading to better outcomes for the community. Of course, this approach is not really new. But it does make sense, right?

Top Tip 1

Before you translate a single word, learn more about the communities you want to address.


  • New platforms and mediums

I’m stating the obvious here, but not all communities are the same. Each requires a unique approach. Factors such as age, gender, and interests need to be taken into consideration when developing resources. The channels in which information is disseminated play a pivotal role in how effective our message is. In the Arabic community, for example, the younger demographic may prefer visual posters, whereas for the older demographic, the radio may resonate more.

For some communities, such as the Mandarin speakers, using platforms such as WeChat or Weibo makes sense, whereas, for others, such as Tagalog speakers, Facebook may be the way to go. And of course, let’s not underestimate personal connections with the community through their leaders.

Understanding what mediums and platforms to disseminate information through will come from consulting with individual communities. If you can get this part right, you’ve done the bulk of the work required to communicate effectively with CALD audiences.

Top Tip 2

Rely on Polaron to help you select languages, methods of communication and plan your campaigns.


  • Keeping it fresh

The information cycle is so fast nowadays that people expect reliable information to arrive by miracle, instantaneously. And that’s a challenge we face every day at Polaron. But this does not mean we compromise on quality. With appropriate attention to deadlines and equally dedicated efforts to assuring quality, a timely and well-executed communication campaign is possible. Simply increasing communication internally can make a world of difference, as will planning, allocating appropriate resources will help ensure your translations are on time and up to date by the time you need them.

Top Tip 3

There is not a one size fits all approach to multicultural communication. The only way to engage with your target audience is to … engage with your target audience.


Nicholas Marcinkowski
Manager, Relationships and Growth at Polaron Language Services


Phone: 03 9847 7848