Content and copywriting. Are these just a matter of semantics? No, not really. By definition, content is anything that you company creates with a marketing purpose. This can be videos, blog posts, white papers, email marketing, etc. They’re generally backed by a marketing strategy, or a desired action you’re hoping will take place, whether it’s a click, interaction, or lead capture to encourage further marketing communications. In contrast, copywriting is the writing that helps to accomplish these goals and inspire a desired action. They’re the calls-to-action, the enticing language used to accomplish the goals set forth in your content. Together, this is a potent combination. However, without the pairing of these two, it’s like writing a novel to sell toilet paper. There’s content there, but is the writing doing what it should be? Probably not, unless the novel is particularly moving… if you catch my drift.
So who does content and who does copywriting?
Glad you asked. In the world of marketing, sadly, a lot of times these professions have been split apart. Content marketers decide what needs to be created and what the outcome should be, while copywriters fill in the blanks with wondrous words that will spark the desired action. This may work for some, but it doesn’t work for me. Splitting these two jobs only does one thing: create a disconnect. In order to fully understand who you’re writing for and how to get them to take a desired action, you have to really understand the product you’re packaging. Otherwise, you could end up doing a phenomenal job of expertly packaging complete and total crap. The same is true of the reverse. Great content strategy without great copywriting will simply fail to get your readers’ attention.
Good content strategy needs to work alongside good copywriting, and in my humble opinion, if you don’t have the ability to think through the content strategy, you can’t be a good copywriter and if you can’t articulate what your content needs to say, you’re not going to go far in strategizing.
This concept is one that I’ve been noodling on for a while. Content marketing has always been an interesting concept to me. Coming from the world of good ol’ copywriting, this profession seemed to appear out of no where and seemed to do things very similarly to copywriting, but gave it a spiffy new title. In an effort to understand both sides of the coin, I read up extensively and attended meetups on the subject and even requested a definition from a self-proclaimed “content marketing expert”, only to get an unsatisfactory response. It seemed to be part design (“move this copy block over to the right so the reader knows there’s an action that can be taken.”), part writing (“this should say ‘our’ instead of ‘your’ to create a sense of family.”), and part marketing (“let’s add a call-to-action to action to this page so we can get them into a lead funnel.”)
So, with all these disparate professions coming together, did we really create a brand new position in most advertising agencies? Or are we just renaming what copywriters have always been doing? I vote the latter.
Throughout my career thus far, there’s never been a time where I didn’t consider every aspect of my written words when writing them. Where will they be placed? Who will be reading them? What action do we want them to take? What follow-up communications will they be expecting from us? How can we keep consistent messaging throughout the funnel? Yet, somehow, copywriting seems to have been dropped from the vocabulary of many a “content marketer”. These professions seem to have been split and these invaluable content marketers now have to rely on copywriters to create the foundation of their marketing strategy. Why? Because in a digital world, content is everything, so traditional marketing is being replaced by content marketing, and even in traditional marketing, copywriters were always needed.
So where does this put copywriters? In a really, really great spot. If they can add “strategy” to their list of credentials. Why? Because, sadly, quite often a content marketer can’t be a copywriter, but a copywriter can quite often be a content marketer. The difference? That oft sought after skill that everyone attempts to master, but few seldom do: the ability to write.
For me, it’s easier to think of content marketing as strategic copywriting. The idea that every word is crafted for a bigger purpose, and having a complete understanding of every aspect of said purpose. This is where good copywriters tend to shine as they have a very strategic, marketing-centered mind, even when writing something as small as a headline on a single website page. Being involved in the full marketing cycle, up to the creation of those tiny, customer-facing words, helps a copywriter go beyond just creating content and delves into the world of strategy, solidifying their place in the organization. Because strategic copywriting involves the creation of your content along with the strategy behind it, it’s a much more powerful tool than content marketing or copywriting alone can provide. By thinking of copywriting in this way, it becomes quite clear how valuable this can be.
So flex those marketing muscles, you copywriters. You have a talent that’s difficult to learn and what very well might be an innate skill, making you more valuable than you probably know.
What say you? Do you have individuals at your organization who are able to do both? Will these two jobs always be split? Is there a reason they’re split? Is it demanding too much of someone to have both the knowledge of writing as well as the knowledge of marketing? Let’s discuss!