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Claire Ingram photoThe 'garbage in/garbage out' (GIGO) syndrome, where the quality of the output is in direct correlation to the quality of the input, applies to many life scenarios but is particularly relevant to the localization process.

The quality of the brief from our clients directly affects our ability to achieve their objectives of speed, value for money and effective communication in local markets but, unfortunately, not all clients fully appreciate this connection.

Absolute must have information
Helpful but not essential information
1. Source text - final approved version if possible
2. File format or proposed file format
3. Target languages by country
4. Mode of address preferences
5. Language style
6. Services required eg Marcoms Translation
7. Delivery date
8. Delivery format
9. Client approval process
10. Purchase order or written confirmation
1. Background to campaign or project and/or creative brief
2. Word count
3. Target market and audiences
4. Marketing communications objectives and desired response from target audience
5. Contact details for local approval contacts and their scope for making changes
6. Reference materials that we can use to gauge tone of voice, imagery, style etc
7. Previous or similar recent projects

The ideal client brief is outlined below together with the four main areas of difficulty that we regularly come up against in the absence of a clear and detailed brief.

Avoiding mismatched expectations

A client, for whom we were localizing their website into several languages, had assumed that we would track down the original source files from their various agencies and could not understand why we kept asking for them. We had assumed that they would take responsibility for providing them, our client had assumed that we would - and a lot of time was lost.

The best solution for avoiding these misunderstandings is to put everything in writing at the outset so that the client cannot slip in additional responsibilities or files that were not mentioned in the Purchase Order.

Lack of understanding of the implications of making late changes

Another major issue is the lack of client understanding of the time and cost implications of making amendments once the project has started. Many do not understand that to change just one word in English can involve rebriefing each of the translators, rechecking the copy in each language, changing the layout if the new words take up more or less space, and proofreading again.

The solution to this problem lies with better client education about the localization process so that they understand the implications.

Poor communication between client and creative agency

Localization companies often find themselves stuck between the client and their design agencies. The client is driven by commercial objectives while the agency wants the end product to look good in the corporate portfolio. Neither party has a complete understanding of the linguistic, cultural, technical, file engineering, process and project management challenges involved in localization.

Consequently, the localization specialist is often faced with copy, imagery, embedded graphics, fonts and encoding that will not work beyond the borders of the domestic market and has to act as a go-between between the two. To preempt this situation, we try to encourage our clients to involve us at an early stage as a 'prevention is better than cure' strategy can save a huge amount of time and money later down the line.

Who has control?

The fourth area of difficulty can be the inherent tension between the regional marketing centre and the local contacts. If the approval process hasn't been clearly defined by the client at the outset of the project, a great deal of time and money can be lost at this stage. The client must ensure that they have local country buy-in before starting the project and that roles, responsibilities, timelines and processes are agreed between client and the local offices before getting the localization specialist involved.

Our recommended approach towards all client briefing issues is firmly founded on 'prevention is better than cure'. Time and money can only ever be saved by getting projects right from the outset. As an industry, it is in our interest to ensure that our clients have an understanding of the linguistic, cultural, technical and process issues involved in localization so that we can work with them to achieve their commercial objectives.

Claire Ingram, Head of Production at ATC member, Wordbank


This article was originally published in Communicate - the Association of Translation Companies' newsletter -

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