Copy vs. Content: What’s the Difference? (And Do you Need Both?)
There’s an ongoing debate among us marketers (or at least us writer-types). Are copywriting and content writing the same thing? If not, what’s the difference?
They both employ the written word, do they not? And they both support brands. So why are they two terms? Why are there two job titles? Doesn’t one encompass the other?
So many questions, so many opinions.
Copywriting: the art of persuading.
While no one’s job description can be reduced to a singular focus, we’d argue that, at the highest level, copywriters exist to prompt action – be that placing an order, subscribing to a newsletter, or simply clicking a button to learn more.
Copywriters harness audience insights to craft tailored, empathy-infused messages that hook attention. They open a dialogue with a single person. They articulate the value of a brand’s product, service, or solution in a way that addresses a pain point and that can’t be ignored. And finally, they persuade a user to do something. That’s the goal, at least.
That doesn’t mean a desired action needs to be immediate. Sometimes – in the case of brand-awareness marketing, for example – a user might see a message that resonates, form a positive brand sentiment, store that message away, then recall a particular brand at a later date when they’re ready to consider a purchase type.
In other words, it’s not always about moving prospects through the funnel. Sometimes, it’s enough to just move them.
Copywriters come in all shapes and sizes – direct-response, UX, brand, and creative copywriters – just like doctors with their unique disciplines. But regardless of their specialties, all copywriters serve people, which makes it doubly important that they write like one.
To summarize, a copywriter’s job is to connect and inspire action. Sometimes that materializes as big-thinking advertising, loaded with pithy headlines, or a landing page geared for lead generation; other times, it shapes up as a PowerPoint presentation for an annual general meeting, motivating employees to meet new sales quotas. The deliverables can look different, but the outcome should be the same: moving the needle.
Content writing: the art of engaging.
I know what you’re thinking: how many more times are we going to hear this word “content,” and could it be any vaguer? The answer is many more. And no, probably not.
Content has taken the digital world by storm, with 70% of marketers actively investing in content marketing as of 2020. And for good reason: good content is yet another way to introduce people to your brand and to nurture existing relationships. It demonstrates proactivity and expertise. It helps users see your brand in a positive light. But it’s not always clear what it constitutes.
Content can be anything a brand publishes, from articles to social videos to podcasts and eBooks. It’s media users can read, watch, listen to, or engage with – like this! But for the purposes of this argument, we’ll look at the cornerstone of content: long-form writing.
The majority of content writers are responsible for crafting articles or blog posts. Why? To help brands stay top of mind and to grow their reach. In fact, odds are, and according to Forbes, a user won’t even discover your business if you’re not creating content.
The key difference between copywriting and content writing comes down to this: a piece of content doesn’t need to incite action. But it should definitely be insightful.
Whether it’s a makeup tutorial or an article covering the financial benefits of modular construction technologies, readers should feel like they’re taking away something useful. Don’t feel obligated to jump on the bandwagon strictly because you’ve heard that “content is king.” Without purpose and strategy, content for content’s sake can come across as noise, and consumers can see through that. It’s a balance. A transactional relationship. If a customer or prospect is giving you their time, you need to provide something worthy in return. In other words, if you’re not adding value, you’re not adding much.
Additionally, content writers tend to have more expertise in SEO. And while you certainly want to avoid keyword stuffing, it doesn’t hurt to engage someone who’s skilled in optimization. After all, if you’re investing in content, you want to make sure you’re getting eyes on it.
Where copy and content intersect.
So, here we are, where things get messy. (But not really.)
If content can be anything a brand publishes, then copywriting is content. But that doesn’t make content copy. Confused yet?
Let’s put it this way: if you consider long-form content writing, the goal isn’t necessarily to encourage action. As mentioned, it can simply be to inspire or inform. Where the two meet, however, is when a piece of content becomes a soft-sell for your product or service.
For example, if you were to write about how to deal with a rodent infestation (now that’s useful content!), and you signed off with a subtle call to action to hire your company, Acme Pest Control, you just infused a dash of copy into a piece of content. You’ve become both a humble helper and a salesperson, killing two birds (or rats) with one stone. Congrats!
As Copyblogger puts it, “content without copywriting is a good waste of content.” Which is all the more reason to consider both.
And let’s not forget that a good content writer can harness other copywriting principles, too, elements like compelling headlines or a sense of urgency. Succinct sentences. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of ways to weave the two together, but the primary difference boils down to purpose.
What’s the best option for your brand?
Well, the cat’s out of the bag. The answer is both.
A skilled copywriter can help you with more than just words, working behind the scenes to define or reimagine your brand – including its tone of voice – and then share your story across a variety of channels, ultimately convincing a user to act. A skilled content writer can run with your copywriter’s efforts to engage leads and nurture clients via long-form writing that adds value to the customer experience. Together, the pair is unstoppable.
In short, if you’re a digital marketer or a brand planning a campaign, you’ll want to harness copywriting and content writing to get the best results. But don’t forget to see where you can overlay them.
At Alphabet®, our writers have a knack for both skill sets, not to mention a fiery passion for language. If you need to elevate your brand’s writing, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.
See what we did there?