Regional offices, subsidiaries, and distribution partners are often highly motivated to spot translation quality issues, and sometimes they’re only passionate when something goes wrong. If you’re lucky enough to have in-country stakeholders ready and willing to participate in language reviews, how can you channel their support to improve localization quality without introducing delays or sacrificing control over your localization strategy?
Having made many of these mistakes in my career, I invite you to learn from my past pains and avoid these pitfalls in your own program.
Let’s say your company has some passionate team members in the Lisbon office who eat, sleep and breathe everything about your product. No doubt, these are the best people to have the final say on any translations before they are pushed to the local market. But are they so passionate about the content that they are completely changing it?
Many times, I’ve seen in-country stakeholders return translated content that is almost completely re-written. When this happens, it’s tempting to think the original translation must have been very poor quality. However, a close inspection reveals the translation is fine, but the local stakeholder disliked the source content and took it upon herself to start fresh, and now you have a completely different marketing campaign than what you intended.
Nip preferential reviews in the bud. Set up a conversation with this reviewer, patiently listen to her rationale, and make sure she feels her concerns are understood. Maybe in an ideal world, a separate campaign for that market would be appropriate — but if that’s not feasible, let her know, and see if you can get her to approve the original translation.
Your in-market teams are busy with their day jobs, but you want their buy-in before pushing a translation into their market. If they’re extremely biased and they’re taking too long with reviews, you may need to adjust and manage expectations around what content types actually need review.
For example, you should always request input from in-country experts on names for new products and features, highly visible marketing campaigns, and key glossary terms. But in most cases, there’s no need for a complete review of all 100 pages of your latest user manual that even your customers will never read.
That said, if your product is a medical device and the user manual’s translation quality has life-or-death implications, you definitely want to deploy dedicated, professional linguistic reviewers and not your in-market sales staff.
If you’re struggling with massive volumes and schedule constraints, your localization partner should be able to help figure out how to prioritize content types for reviews and thereby get the most value out of your in-country resources’ time and expertise.
Maybe your head of marketing in Munich doesn’t have time to review your translations and delegates this task down the chain of command. Believe it or not, I’ve seen cases where translations were reviewed by the cleaning staff. Whoever receives the task will be flattered to be consulted and eager-to-impress, gladly marking up the translation with the belief that many revisions will prove the thoroughness of the review.
This produces a document full of change-requests that are meaningless at best and downright incorrect at worst, and you are facing another week of arbitration between the linguists to finalize the translation. But it also defeats the whole purpose of the review: high-level sign off from seasoned company veterans who own the brand messaging in their respective markets.
Prevent delegation by getting to know your in-house reviewers as individuals. You can’t just find an email address in a corporate directory and ask for a translation review: you have to talk to them. What’s their background, their credentials, and their role within the local market? How does translation quality affect their job performance? Forming a personal connection can help you convey the importance of their direct involvement — and getting familiar with their communication style will ensure you notice if they delegate to someone else.
You’re one localization manager with 50 regional offices to consult in every review cycle. Wouldn’t you love to set up an online survey to collect feedback from in-country teams? It’s a nice dream, and maybe it will work for half of your reviewers, but the other half will send you a flurry of emails, set up a conference call with screen-sharing, or inexplicably send you a PowerPoint with marked-up screenshots.
The reality is, you’re working with individuals who have different degrees of involvement and different styles of communication, and none of them report to you on the org chart, so you can’t expect full compliance. Make simple, clear requests and hope for the best, but be prepared to deal with outliers.
Centrally managing localization is crucial to scalability, but it can also make your remote teams feel disconnected from the strategy. If you’re the expert on the local market and you only get a chance to weigh in on a disastrous product name a few days before launch, you’re going to feel like throwing in the towel.
Instead, set milestones in your strategic planning that include checkpoints with the local stakeholders. You’ll not only bake a better strategy, but you’ll be able to anticipate issues that require specific in-market tweaks — and you can adapt schedules and workflows accordingly.
Better yet, you’ll improve your relationship with the local stakeholders — and solid relationships are the heart of successful in-house reviews.
Managing relationships is the ticket to avoiding all of these pitfalls. Remember, these reviewers are essentially doing you a favor by taking time from their day jobs to support your mission. Even if they have a strong stake in the translation quality, you can’t expect everyone to be excited to participate in reviews.
But if you are so lucky as to have passionate reviewers, take the time to listen to their input because you may learn something important about their markets. At the very least, listening with respect will earn their trust in your mission and help channel their passion toward proactive collaboration, not reactive escalation.