In essence, a copywriter writes copy that will persuade an audience to buy or engage with a service or product. What this looks like exactly can vary. Copywriters are involved in the production of everything from billboards, packaging and print adverts, to marketing emails and website copy. All sorts of techniques and tools are used to make copywriting more effective. Human psychology has been around in the copywriting world since the first political campaign appeared on the walls of Pompeii in 79 AD. For today’s copywriters and online advertisers, the sorcery that is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is an essential tool of the trade.
Good copywriting sells. Some people will see the word ‘sell’ and panic as their minds conjure images of double-glazing salesmen in kipper ties. Selling in the digital age need not involve flogging PVC windows door to door. My own sales experience includes fundraising for a wildlife charity and encouraging the public to take advantage of government-funded energy efficiency measures. This is in addition to more traditional sales roles in travel, insurance and technology. The point is that selling is not just persuading people to part with cash in exchange for a product or service. It’s also convincing people that your message is worth listening to.
Copywriter or content writer?
The widely accepted difference between a copywriter and a content writer is that the goal of copywriting is to market, persuade and sell. Whereas, the goal of content writing is to inform and increase engagement. I would challenge this, to a degree. Writing something intended for someone else to read, hopefully resulting in some kind of thought or behavioural change, is an attempt to market, persuade or sell. Possibly all three.
Written content pieces are usually long-form, informative and detailed. A good content writer will spend time researching their subject in detail. Content writers have traditionally produced things like blog posts and white papers. Conversely, good copywriting is concise, direct and to the point. If someone is happy to read something on their phone whilst standing up on a busy train, then that’s good copywriting. It attracts attention, is easy to read and can be digested quickly.
In today’s digital reality, the line between copywriting and content writing is becoming increasingly blurred. Online writing of any kind should include at least basic SEO, and most digital content is written with some sort of sales or engagement goal in mind.
Do I need to hire a copywriter or content writer?
Unless you can afford an in-house content team, then yes you probably do. There are, no doubt, a few skilled writers in your team already who are keen to help out. However, a few potential issues can arise when recruiting in-house copywriting volunteers:
- With busy workloads, extra-curricular projects will always be deprioritised. So you could be waiting a long time for that copy.
- What if the copy is no good? Delivering negative feedback on work that is not part of the employee’s job scope is a waste of everyone’s time, as well as needlessly damaging to morale.
- Even if the copy is beautiful, does it serve your business goals? Is the SEO good enough to drive traffic to your website? Are potential customers actually reading it? Is it helping reduce your cost per click?
I have been both the Marketing Director and the ‘enthusiastic employee with writing credentials’ and have experienced these pitfalls first-hand from both sides. Investing in well-written copy will pay long term dividends and save a lot of heartache along the way. Whether it’s short, eye-catching copy or long-form informative content, if you want your copy to perform, it’s time to hire a copywriter.