Transcreation Quality—What Defines It?

How can companies measure the quality of their transcreations?

Considering transcreation has been around for nearly 20 years, there is still considerable ambiguity around its definition. So, if we can't agree on a definition, it's no surprise that defining the quality of transcreation is even more head-spinning. 

Measuring translation quality has evolved with tried and tested metrics to evaluate linguistic accuracy and fluency. More often than not, these measurement techniques are applied to transcreation when a different approach may be more beneficial. 

Since creativity is at the heart of transcreation, the standard quality metrics often won't cut it for measuring whether the messaging hits the mark with native speakers. Instead, we need to think differently and combine the measurement of two components—linguistic quality and content quality.  

In this article, we’ll discuss what quality transcreation looks like and how to build quality into your transcreation process. But first, we’ll remove some of that ambiguity and offer our own definition of transcreation. 

What is Transcreation? 

Transcreation is the process of adapting a message from one language into another and making it culturally relevant, resonant and appropriate. A successful transcreation will copy the intent, style and tone of the original piece, creating the same emotional reaction for a new audience.  

This focus on message means that transcreations can depart significantly from the original content, even to the point of creating something completely new. In fact, this is what differentiates transcreation from localization. While localization adapts content to a target market, transcreation can involve creating something completely different—as long as it has the same emotional impact in the target market. 

Transcreation is commonly seen in TV commercials, which also neatly illustrate the difference between transcreation and localization. A localized commercial would contain a version of the source text along with some adjustments to the design. However, a transcreated version might completely recast the commercial and make adjustments to the setting or story for a local audience. As long as the final product mirrors the messaging and implications of the original content, transcreators have a lot more creative license to make something new. 

Since transcreation can change your original content so drastically, it’s important to get it right. In fact, one of the biggest challenges in transcreation is making sure that all of that creativity results in quality content that will support your business in a new market. Here are our tips for making sure that your transcreated content is a success. 

Understand the Purpose of Transcreation

Transcreation is about recreating the emotional impact and meeting the content objective from one language to another. Transcreation is not just switching languages, it’s about the transfer of a concept. This means we need to approach it like a new piece of content created uniquely for the target market. 

When transcreating a piece of content, there is a process that should be followed—just as there was when that piece was created for the first time. Content creation always has an objective, whether it’s for a thought leadership piece or part of a marketing campaign to promote a new product. Similarly, transcreation has a purpose in the local market, which could be anything from increasing brand awareness or generating new sales leads. As the purpose of the transcreated content is defined, the next step is to get the most suitable talent. 

Get the Right Transcreation Talent

Transcreation requires much more engagement than translation. Consider the amount of collaboration that has to go into creating source copy, researching the market, understanding the end consumers, the purpose of the messaging and the content's communication objectives. 

While transcreators don't necessarily start with a blank canvas, they still need to understand everything the content creator knows, including the target market, the audience and what the content aims to do. Then they need to take that information and apply what they know about the local culture, language, publishing medium and the content objective to make sure the desired message is communicated. 

Transcreators straddle two worlds, the linguistic world of translation and the creative world of copywriting. Both embody different skills, but these three are probably the most important to look for in a transcreator: 

1. Creative Writing Skills

Content is often published with specific criteria in mind. These could be improving online presence with search engine optimization, increasing sales with advertising or building a brand community on social media. Good copywriters have experience of writing for these goals, which means they often make great transcreators. They know how to recreate local copy with a purpose and can also follow layout or media constraints while putting their readers first. 

2. Cultural Understanding

Text has a purpose that should be understood by the local target audience. Transcreators need deep linguistic and cultural experience in both languages, so that they can identify and transfer the nuances of the source into the target—whether they're working on detailed financial reports or creative digital marketing campaigns. 

3. Research Skills

A skill common to both translators and copywriters, research skills should never be underestimated. Knowledge of the target audience, market, competitors and a thorough understanding of what needs to be achieved is at the heart of transcreation success. 

Measure Transcreation Quality

The transcreator may have a source, and they may have flexibility to move away from it, but without clear guidance on what direction to take, it's very easy for them to get lost going down the rabbit hole. 

Much like creating content from scratch, it's recommended to consider the reason why the content was created in the first place. Why does it need to be transcreated, who will read it and what action should the local reader take? Once those pieces are in place, you can start to put together some metrics that will help you to measure transcreation quality. They might include some of the following: 

Create a Transcreation Brief 

A transcreation brief that explains the brand’s values and how the product or brand should be perceived locally will help the transcreator understand what they need to do to meet communication objectives in local markets. For example, marketing materials for a product already established in one market may need a different approach to break into another. Without this guidance, the transcreator has no choice but to work with what they have—the source. If they only have the source, the chances are the end result will look more like a translation, or won't persuade the local reader to take the desired action—nobody wins. 

A transcreation brief is key for defining quality guidelines, but it requires open collaboration between the project manager and the transcreator to have an impact. For translation buyers the general process is to submit the source, maybe answer a few queries and receive the completed translation. In contrast, transcreation is a translation-creative hybrid that often requires collaborative feedback from the client before the text is ready for publishing.  

Pre-publication Checks 

Most transcreated copy can be quality checked before publishing using tools that measure readability. This can be as simple as using the proofing tools in Microsoft Office to check readability or for use of passive voice. If the transcreated copy is for online use, it's a good idea to review the content to make sure it follows Google's best practices for local SEO. 

Post-publication Monitoring 

Post-publishing measurement requires collaboration and depends on the marketing objectives of the content, whether that’s lead nurturing, driving customer engagement, brand awareness or increasing conversions and sales. In an ideal scenario, transcreations should be checked before publication, then validated and tweaked post-publishing against metrics based on the content objective for each market. 

Start Transcreating 

The overall success of transcreation all comes back to the communication strategy for the targeted languages and cultures, and what the content should achieve. Once defined, this lays a solid foundation for the transcreator to build out the local copy. They know what they need to achieve and they use their linguistic skills, cultural understanding and research to make it happen. 

When you’re ready to start transcreating, you’ll need an expert partner to help you nail the linguistic and cultural nuances of your content in your target market. At Lionbridge, we’ve spent 20 years using transcreation to help businesses of all sizes connect with their customers across the globe. Contact us today to discuss how our transcreation services can set you up for global success. 


A version of this post by Lionbridge Global Content Specialist Louise Pierse originally appeared on the Women in Localization blog and is republished here with permission. 

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