For years I used to introduce myself as Karen Dix, freelance copywriter. Lately, though, I tend to introduce myself as Karen Dix, web content writer.
The truth is, I am both. And I’ve never met a company that at some point or another, didn’t need both copywriting and content writing.
Many people outside of the industry wonder, however, what exactly is the difference between a copywriter and a content writer?
Although there are several differences, the biggest is the overall OBJECTIVE of the writing. If you ask yourself if you need copy or content, you’re asking yourself if you need the words to primarily sell or inform.
COPYWRITING is as old as advertising. Because that’s what it is: the art of producing intelligent, sometimes clever but always persuasive or motivating text for the purpose of selling something or calling the reader to an action. Good copywriting addresses features and benefits of the product it is trying to sell.
Copywriting is subjective. It boldly expresses opinions, makes an argument and takes a side. The subject of the copy is unequivocally, “the best” and the definitive answer to the problem for the reader.
Copywriters write the words to sell products both online and offline products through:
We’ve all seen examples of ad copy. It takes many formats:
1) Headlines. These brief lines pull the reader into an ad to tell you more and hopefully, sell you something. The ideal headline is targeted at an audience, as brief as possible, attractive to read and makes the reader want to know more. Headlines work in concert with graphics to create an overall impression that captivates the reader. Here’s an example of some advertising headlines that might just keep you reading…
THE BEST JUST GOT BETTER.
INTRODUCING A NEW WAY TO WASH YOUR DISHES.
EAT THIS TO LOSE WEIGHT!
2) Taglines. These are used to describe a company’s services, or identify their brand. Can you guess what company goes with what tagline?
I’M LOVIN’ IT
IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER.
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.
3) Body Copy One of a copywriter’s specialties is selling a product in as few words as possible. Printed selling pieces such as brochures, advertisements, sell sheets, direct mail, marketing collateral, websites and even exhibits have space constraints and need concise text. Therefore, copywriters choose their words very carefully.
Good copy attempts to speak personally to the reader. It can appeal to their senses and invoke a longing for the product or service.
Here’s a sample of body copy I recently wrote for a Christian summer camp in Lake Geneva:
Conference Point is located in William’s Bay, WI on Lake Geneva, a summer playground for young and old alike. Comfy cabins feature porches with views of the lake and cool breezes off the water. Together, couples and families enjoy a retreat from the hustle and bustle of work, home and children’s activities and spend time enjoying each other and God’s great creation.
Or just take time for yourself. Settle back in one of the many Adirondack chairs around the grounds and enjoy an afternoon read. Let the sounds of the waves and the rustling trees soothe your mind and soul.
Feeling hungry? Our dining hall has delicious, hearty meals all ready for you, each guaranteed to please every palate in your party.
Conference Point is the perfect, restful getaway!
My body copy was written to inform, but you could tell by my word choice that I was trying very hard to sell the place. My objective was for the reader to see the features (comfy cabins, views of the lake, a respite, dining, etc.) while I alluded to the benefits (time for yourself, soothing natural wonders, time with the family, no meal planning necessary). While I explained, I sold. There was nothing objective about it because the purpose of the copy was to motivate you to make a reservation. The audience for this piece will also be “captive.” If they bother to read the brochure, they are already somewhat open to going there.
CONTENT WRITING has seen an explosion with the millennium. The purpose of content writing is to educate, bring value and as a result, build relationships. If you have a website that imparts valuable content, you can make friends with all kinds of prospective customers who appreciate the information you give them. The purpose is to keep your company name at the forefront of their mind when they need your products and services.
Content is objective. It does not advertise, but offers valuable information that comes from a reliable source. Producing good content can be part of a strategic marketing plan and set the author as an authoritative source in their field.
Content, for the most part, is written for the digital medium and comes in a variety of formats such as:
Content is created to be shared. My copywriting example above, which was produced for a written piece, could be shared if the client posts a pdf on their website or social media. However, the original intention of the text or “copy” was to sell the conference within the printed brochure. Chances are it will only be shared (or accessed) by those directly interested in the product, which is in this case, a venue. Copy then, has more of a “captive” audience than content.
Does that mean the copy does not have to be written as expertly as does content? Absolutely not. It must be written just as well, for a different audience and a different purpose. Some folks would argue that the copywriter is under fire for RESULTS since their job is to directly call the reader to action. The content writer, however, produces a piece that indirectly calls the reader to action. They produce their valuable, informative piece of content and release it into cyberspace in hopes that it will be exponentially shared. It could have a call to action, but the real goal here is sharing.
Every day, people share millions of blogposts, social media posts, etc. over the internet with an audience that appreciates the value of the information each contains.
So while both kinds of writing—copy and content—benefit a business, the big question a client has to ask is if they need words to sell or inform. If you’re in business, chances are you could use one or both in your advertising and/or marketing efforts. If you’re looking for a solid, all around writer who is experienced in both copy and content, look no further. Contact me today.