If you don’t have time to read this post, here’s the gist: Content Tells & Copy Sells. Read on for a more detailed explanation!
I’ve noticed that Content and Copy are often used interchangeably by clients and many people in the business world. It’s no surprise; few people know the difference.
And that’s such a shame! Since there’s a large difference in both the purpose of each one, and the skillset needed to write them, it’s really useful to know how and why they’re different.
This is key if you’re planning to write your own business messaging, but it’s arguably even more important if you’re looking to hire a writer to help with your communications. Writer ≠ the ability to sell your product or service. ‘Writer’ is a general term; it does not mean that everyone who writes can communicate your business to your customer.
So, here’s a basic breakdown of what Content is and what Copy is – hopefully helping clarify which one you need for your project and to achieve your biz goals.
- Content is the written word (and other forms of communication – we’ll get to that) used to inform, inspire or entertain the reader.
- It is taking a subject, potentially a complicated one, and explaining it in a way that the reader will be able to understand it.
- This subject is – in some way – related to your business, but is not necessarily about your business.
- It could be explaining research and facts, sometimes it is ideas and thoughts, sometimes it’s trends, sometimes it’s case studies, sometimes it’s a story.
- Its purpose is relationship building, intended to build an audience.
- Content used to be in the form of books, magazines, and white papers.
- Now it’s more likely to mean something digital; blog posts, downloadable guides, an email series, a video explainer, a webinar, an infographic, social media posts, a listicle and so on.
- Content should be crafted in an engaging way, one that has personality and a strong ‘voice’. (For the record, so should Copy.)
- It is about forming a relationship with the reader or listener (vs. directly selling to them).
- It is not about bragging or focusing on your business.
- Good content builds this relationship with the reader and leaves them with an emotive response. For example, a positive feeling about a company, a sense of trust in their expertise, a sense of familiarity and likability.
Here’s the biggie: Content is all about your reader not you.
- Copy, on the other hand, is using the written word in order to sell something directly.
- It is interruptive. It is not usually writing (reading) that is sought out for pleasure!
- A good copywriter, therefore, should be able to communicate what the benefits of a product or service are in a succinct and persuasive way.
- It is short, smart & snappy. “To the point”. It is your product descriptions, book synopses, blog post titles, email subject lines, Facebook ads, bus stop ads, magazine covers.
- It is encouraging you to take an action.
- It is not (usually) your about page or social media posts. Your Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook posts should be 80%+ content, not copy.
- Good copy pushes the readers emotional buttons, honing in on their needs and desires. It speaks to them in a way that makes them feel listened to and understood, leaving them with the feeling “I need this [product / service] in my life. Now!”
- Copy is usually obvious; it is benefit-driven and feels more salesy. There will also be several calls-to-action* included.*A ‘Call to Action’ is simply an action that the reader is encouraged to take, such as ‘Buy Now’, ‘Sign Up’, ‘Register for 10% off’, ‘Find out more’ etc.
- Whilst Content is all about your reader, Copy is all about YOU. It’s your permission to boast.
Content and copy are not mutually exclusive. Many marketing campaigns will – and should – include both. But understanding the difference and knowing how to use each one strategically is helpful in achieving your goals.
Any questions? Fire away!