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Translation Behind the Scenes: Introducing the Brief

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a creative brief is “a document that gives details of what should be considered when something is being designed or advertised”. So far, so good. Now, you might ask yourself: Why are they dedicating a whole blog post to a simple document? If you catch yourself nodding right here, then stick with us ‘cause this one’s for you.

The brief is what we modestly refer to as the “holy grail” of transcreation. A real all-rounder, containing key information for project managers and language specialists alike, and acting as a checklist to ensure a translation meets all the criteria specified beforehand.

So, what exactly needs to go into a brief?

Briefs are documents that can easily be tailored to a specific company or project. Each brief needs to cover the following:

1. WHY - The background of the project: who is the end client? Where does this fit into their entire campaign? Is this a new product?

2. HOW - Your preferred ‘tone of voice’: think Microsoft ‘an error occurred’ vs Google ‘aw snap!’

3. WHO - The target audience for your text: meme-savvy teenagers or middle-aged mums.

4. WHERE - Communication and media channels: an ad in the newspaper will be completely different to a radio spot – you don’t speak and write in the same tone.

5. NO CAN DO - Potential restrictions: character limitations if you only have a tiny bit of space to play with in a button, box or Tweet.

Even information that is part of a company’s everyday life may not be obvious to a translator. Take for instance branded loyalty schemes. If you’re filling up at an Esso station in Norway, you’ll need your Trumf card with you, while in Italy you collect PAYBACK points. Minor changes like these help us target and personalise the copy for the local market.

A fuel-lover's wallet

And hey, make sure you send us useful reference documents such as visuals, style guides, approved glossaries, etc. The more the merrier to help us see the project through your eyes.

Did you know? 💡

A detailed overview of the requirements and functions of a source text is essential for all translators. We assure you that no translator will ever say: “Nope thanks, no need for a brief at all. I’d rather spend hours trying to figure out who your target group is and what exactly your text is about, no problem.”

When it comes to transcreation, however, briefs are particularly important as the process is located somewhere in between translation and copywriting. We need to see the full picture to understand where our puzzle piece will be placed. Aim high.

A rush job vs. a polished job

Is that why WIT Project Managers are asking all these questions?

Precisely. We know that your copy was carefully crafted to reflect the values of your brand, highlight its USPs and let your product or service shine.

That’s why we’ve dedicated one of the 6 steps in our unique quality process specifically to briefing our linguists. Not to mention, it plays a huge role in our ISO certification, which we wrote about for the ITI. We go to great lengths to ensure that our teams are equipped with as much useful knowledge as possible on every individual project. When it comes to our briefing process, we like to be real know-it-alls. Sorry. 🤓


By Kerstin Rupcic, WIT Project Manager


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