How to approach transcreation projects: the six steps to a perfect brief

Translation plus content creation equals transcreation. It brings together the best of both worlds. But whether a creative translation will metamorphose into a beautiful transcreation depends on who’s writing it – and on proper planning. We’ve put together six questions you should ask yourself to put your briefing on the right track from the get-go.

Transcreations are the product of talent, time and experience. They also depend, in large part, on the instructions provided for the production team. A well-written brief is half the battle. Today, we’ll show you everything that belongs in briefings for transcreations and which questions you need to ask yourself.

Before you get started: what do you want to get out of the transcreation?

Transcreations let you precisely tailor your copy for different markets. Copy won’t be translated word-for-word – instead, there’s more room for creativity and linguistic freedom. The result should be a new text that takes the target audience’s culture and expectations into account to achieve the emotional impact you desire. Transcreations are primarily in demand for creative copy in marketing and branding: think slogans, product names and headings. Understanding the process and the goal of transcreating copy helps you assess the results better and decide how well a transcreation fulfills your personal intentions.

Thinking through a few key points will help set the boundaries for your transcreation. Imagine the brief as a map that will guide your transcreation team to its destination. Which information is needed to step into your new readers’ shoes and direct the text accordingly? A good rule of thumb: the more comprehensive the briefing, the better the result. By answering at least the following questions, you’re already well on your way.

1. Where will the copy or the marketing campaign appear?

From headings on a web page to image captions for social media, every text is intended for a specific format and context. Alongside guidelines on tone of voice, you need to bear in mind character limits or other technical requirements that differ depending on where it will be published.

Just as important as the context are any accompanying visuals, such as images, graphics or video clips. The text usually refers to these directly, and should work together with them in the final product. You might therefore need to adapt the visuals themselves in a second step, because imagery lands differently in other target markets – where different colors or patterns are in demand, for instance.

2. Who is your target audience?

First, think about the target audience’s geographic location. Although they share a language, readers in Mexico and Spain couldn’t be more different culturally. Other socio-demographic information such as age, employment or educational level also plays a role – though it’s not the whole picture! Where it gets really interesting is when you consider the audience’s psychographics; in other words, what makes them tick? Are they digital natives or do they prefer analog media? What are their needs and preferences? All these factors have an influence on customer behavior, and therefore on how a text must be adapted.

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3. What do you aim to achieve with your content?

Put down on paper what your text’s aims are. Do you want to sell something? Do you want to launch a new product? Generally increase your brand’s visibility? Increase your site traffic or the number of newsletter subscribers? Or is the text purely informative? You need to adjust your key message to the specific market depending on the goals you define. Selling something doesn’t work the same way everywhere (see the next point).

4. Which sales strategy is right for this aim?

Every market has its own special preferences that affect sales and outreach, from social media to TV channels to search engines. Knowing these preferences can be decisive for your marketing campaigns. While Google is the most widely used search engine in the US by far, Yahoo!, Baidu and Naver have the edge in East Asia. And while you might see billboards or TV spots advertising burgers here, mukbangs – XXL food-eating videos – on Weibo are used to the same effect in China.

Identifying which channels work in your target market and which ones really matter therefore requires some research. You can take this on in advance by yourself or with a partner in the target market – or through your language service provider.

5. What should a linguist bear in mind for your brand voice?

How do you talk with your target audience? Is there room for some humor and a lighthearted note, or are you aiming for a more succinct style? And which set terms or phrases do you use? Everything that you have defined for your original communications must be included in the briefing, so that the brand voice is consistent in other languages and the brand’s values are fully apparent.

6. What is the budget, and what is the deadline?

Set the deadline and the budget that you anticipate for the transcreation, but at the same time, communicate how much room for maneuver exists for each one. The actual costs for the transcreation will be calculated by volume and time, and at the end of the day, you’re paying for how much work the team put in. If you come up with a good brief at the beginning, the cost will be lower at the end. That’s how these six little steps can pay off big time.

In the beginning was the briefing… and in the end, a captivating transcreation. We’ve already assisted numerous brands with both – and we’ll help yours, too.

Cover image via Twenty20

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