Copywriting vs. Content: What's The Difference? Why Does it Matter?

I sometimes get emails from people who know that they need copy or content, but aren't exactly sure why. Whether they say it or not, they understand that copywriting and content form important parts of their business and business development, but again, they're not always entirely sure how or why.

Copy is your short pitch, content is your conversation.

People often prioritise one over the other, too (copywriting over content, or vice-versa), perhaps believing that they can do one or the other themselves (and maybe they can), but neither is merely a 'nice-to-have', they're essential. 

Copywriting vs. Content: What's the difference?

When clients ask for 'copywriting', more often than not, they're referring to some combination of on-site or on-product marketing/advertising copy and blog content. I can hash out the details with them and usually we get to what they really want pretty quickly, but there is a difference between copy and content. 

Copy is the term usually applied to short, informative, often witty or creative text found on websites, packaging and advertisements. It can be written, or it can be spoken.
Content is usually longer, more descriptive, less 'advertising-y.' It's blog posts, email marketing, social media posts. 
Copywriting usually refers to shorter stuff like this.

Copywriting usually refers to shorter stuff like this.

Copy is your short pitch, content is your conversation. The two combined are a representation of your brand. How you speak (tone of voice), the words you use (how technical or conversational your vocabulary), and how you respond to customers, are all part of your brand's identity. 

Content usually refers to longer, article-looking stuff like this.

Content usually refers to longer, article-looking stuff like this.

What does it matter?

As a business owner, you're pitching 24/7 through your website, blog and social media presence. While you're sleeping, whatever you've chosen to put online about yourself and your business, is doing the talking for you. 

Having solid copy and content speak for you when you're not around, is like having the most articulate and skilled partner and sales rep, work on your behalf 24/7.

It's about trust, right? The likelihood that you're the only one doing what you do, is pretty small, which means people can always go somewhere else. The job of copy and content, isn't just to convince people to buy, but to convince them that you're the best choice, that you're worth their time, that you understand and can meet (and hopefully exceed) their needs. 

What makes a copywriter more qualified to talk about my business than me?

Nothing, and they're not. There are all sorts of analogies I could draw, but consider a psychiatrist. Deep down, you know what the issue is, it's in your head, and you can talk about it in fragments but it's not articulated in a way that brings you any satisfaction. People don't fully understand you, and perhaps parts of yourself doesn't fully understand you, either. A psychiatrist understands enough about your unique issue to address it directly, but they also possess the skills to draw that issue out over a framework that makes it articulate.

A copywriter does the same. Deep down, you know what your core message is, you know what's great about your business, after all, you started it. A copywriter, by speaking with you and reading about you, understands enough to begin drawing out what's most relevant to your audience, and laying it out in a way that's not only effective, but attractive and articulate.

A copywriter is a translator for the ideas and feelings about your business, that you hold way deep down inside.

What else do copywriters know?

The copywriter as a psychiatrist is a cute analogy, but there's backbone, as well. Most copywriters (myself included) will have began their careers as other things. They'll be journalists, designers, web developers, PR and marketing experts. A copywriter understands how to put words together for effect, but they also understand the broader landscape of marketing and design. They understand how customers interact with products and brands, they understand basic marketing principles, and they understand how copy and design work together. 

As a business owner, your initial focus is on building an awesome product. Allowing a copywriter/content creator to help, can only strengthen your offering. Hiring a copywriter helps with SEO, for sure, but what it really does, is shows a commitment to casting your brand (your product) in the best possible light. 

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Up Next: How A Copywriter Works For Your Business