Better Localization Living Through Communication


In an earlier blog, we suggested that localization teams succeed when they align with the company’s greater business goals. The “pillars” that rest on the foundation of business alignment and support localization success are communication, resources, and technology. Communication is the most interesting and nuanced of the three pillars. 

“Communication” refers to the interactions between localization teams and their stakeholders/partners. The “communication plan” calls out how to systematically engage these stakeholders/partners to review and tweak localization tactics. The eternal goal of these reviews is to ensure that localization always and efficiently aligns with the company’s goals. We begin with the tangible benefits of communication. We then turn to practical advice regarding how to build and sustain the communication plan. We end with a few creative ideas regarding how you might rethink your own dogma and practices.

Communication Benefits: The Obvious and Less Obvious

The obvious benefits of communication are a.) it solidifies your colleagues’ thinking that  localization is a dynamic part of your company’s business, and b.) it methodically and consistently builds localization awareness. Even small changes you mutually make with your stakeholders – adding or subtracting a language, translating more content, etc. – can yield noticeable savings or increased revenues.

The less obvious benefit is that communication provides the opportunity to subtly educate stakeholders on issues you know are important but that they might not have previously thought about. We smilingly refer to this as the “communication bonus”. Communication can be the unthreatening nudge that helps stakeholders digest the inputs that should go into their own localization decisions.  With your help, stakeholders can better understand how localization affects their own team’s success…so they’ll start paying more attention to it. Stakeholders and partners suddenly become more interested in localization because they realize that there’s something in it for them.

The Communication Plan

Note: Communication needs to be dynamic. Players and timing are changeable; “hot” issues happen and need to be addressed.

A. The Players: We provide this non-exhaustive list of teams with whom you need to build a communication plan. We include potential topics for each team.

  1. All Content Stakeholders: Language Strategy, Technology (potential improvements to; known pain points), Regional Input (collect this info yourself or in partnership with the stakeholder), Data (show successes and gaps)
  2. In-Country Teams: Language Strategy, Feedback Mechanisms, New In-Country Requirements, Data. If applicable, LQA scores for their language can also be part of the conversation.
  3. Finance: Spend Updates, Spend Forecasts, New/Canceled Projects that Affect Spend
  4. Your Manager/Manager’s Team: Updates on Other Communication Meetings, Data, Language Strategy,  Anecdotes from In-Country Teams

B. Setting Up Communication: While it might seem pretty basic, we’re happy to provide the reminder that your initial approach is an important piece of this. “First impressions” and all of that.

Communication can take the form of in-person meetings or updates via your company’s preferred channel. Still big believers in in-person meetings, we understand that some companies are making a concerted effort to minimize them.

  1. “Why we’re communicating”: You’re communicating to evaluate how well localization supports global success. You’re providing updates and suggesting improvements or changes to localization processes and workflows. You’re communicating to see if all partners perceive that their individual localization needs are being met. Bigger picture: For stakeholders and your manager/manager’s team, you’re communicating to ensure that localization goals are aligned with the company’s greater goals.
  2. Attendees/Recipients: Encourage the primary stakeholder to include other members of their team. The stakeholder should also be welcome to delegate attendance/communication receipt to someone on their team

C. Timing: How often you set up communication is open to debate. Is it quarterly? Is it biannually? Is it quarterly plus “as needed”? The following are merely suggestions. You know what would work best in your own company:

  1. Stakeholders: Quarterly
  2. In-Country Teams: Monthly to quarterly. Depending on how many in-country teams you serve, the time between communication might be longer. We suggest setting up this communication on a rotating basis.
  3. Finance: Every six months. If you’re on an annual budgeting plan, don’t wait until budgeting time. Finance will be grateful to get the mid-year snapshot. From experience, this is a great technique to build a stronger alliance with Finance
  4. Your Manager: While you meet with your own manager on a regular basis, make it a point to formally present important updates quarterly.
  5. Your Manager’s Team/Manager: Push for these meetings/communication to happen at least once a year.

Food for Thought

Localization people love to communicate with others in the localization (aka loc) community — conferences, loc lunches, social beer bashes, special interest webinars, etc. At times, it seems as if loc people huddle in these comfort zones and become oblivious to how they can use these communication strengths and skills in their day job. Energize and hone your intra-company communications by applying the confidence, skills, and understanding of “what works” developed in these other forums.

Explore how you can add new communication formats. Short video updates are increasingly easy to produce. Catchy slides and infographics are more likely to get attention than spreadsheets and lists.

Consider fresh and less schedule-driven communication.  Open up a messaging channel with brief best practice tips for international customers.  Publish announcements when you add a language as part of your overall language strategy. Work with your field partners to publicize customer acquisitions that stemmed from localized product/content changes that better served a regional need. You might consider hosting events that showcase happy internal customers and their localization success stories. As opposed to you or a member of the loc team taking center stage at such an event, make sure to let the happy customer do all of the talking. It’s more meaningful when they do, and it might encourage other colleagues to start looking for similar successes.

When creating your stakeholder list, step out of your comfort zone and continue the creativity. Talk to prospective partners who have traditionally been outside your immediate scope. How are you working with your customer experience teams to create a stronger alignment between them and your company’s customers? Do you have a relationship and exchange information with your legal and financial partners to keep up-to-date with business challenges? If your company has a growth function, how are you connecting  with this team to understand  their goals? How are you opening up your partnering opportunities to access the many data channels in your marketing, sales, media and support functions? Are you in touch with your channel partners to see how they’re using localization and what their own needs might be to better sell/support your company’s offerings?

We’d love to work with you on your communication plan, alignment strategy, or any other aspect of your localization work. Now that we’re getting the word out, many localization leaders are taking advantage of our experience via short-term consulting engagements and training. Let us know how we can help you!