I have mentioned before that the “copywriter vs content writer” debate is dumb. And it has sparked some interesting conversation. So, I would like to reiterate my point: copywriting is content writing. And vice-versa.
The reason I say this is because, outside of a little twitch in the purpose of each, the naked eye couldn’t tell the difference between one or another. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I genuinely believe someone created the term “content writing” to market themselves without the “sales stamp” that copywriting has.
If you look at the structure, strategy, and design, the elements of a writing piece, you couldn’t tell the difference between copy and content. It comes down to whether the author makes you an offer at the end of the piece or asks you to engage with your thoughts.
Even the notion that “you don’t sell with content” is wrong. Because while you might not be selling a product or service, you are selling an idea – which is why you want the engagement.
If you are talking, you are selling – that also applies to writers.
And while I cannot say that every great content writer is a great copywriter, I can assure you that an excellent copywriter is an excellent content writer.
Before you get the three reasons why copywriting is content writing – or vice-versa – allow me to reiterate that this is an opinion. And just like me, you can – and should – have your own opinion. I would like to offer you a look at two videos that offer a different POV than mine.
Both videos come from copywriting expert Alex Cattoni. In the first one, titled 3 Differences Between Content Writing and Copywriting, Alex goes into – as you may guess – the differences between copywriting and content. Including purpose, direction, and goals.
The second video, titled “Copywriting vs. Content Writing – What’s The Difference?” offers a longer explanation of what sets content writing apart from copywriting. And even though I disagree with some of her points of view, I believe Alex is an amazing source of copywriting information, and you should check her YouTube channel out.
Now, drawing from my experience as a direct response copywriter, here are three reasons why copywriting is content writing. Or vice-versa… however you prefer.
The first reason content writing and copywriting are the same is at the top: the headline.
For a writing piece to succeed, it must have an attention-grabbing headline. Something that lures the reader/viewer in with the promise of learning more about a specific person, event, or idea. That principle applies to all forms of business writing.
If you send out a press release to the media with an unappealing headline, reporters won’t broadcast it. Sending out articles and email newsletters with uninteresting headlines guarantees that people will not read them. And that same principle goes for sales letters, TV ads, and newsletter self-mailers. If it doesn’t get attention, people toss it out.
There has never been a successful piece of marketing or advertising writing that had a fluffy, sucky headline. Excellent copywriters and content writers know this and spend the most time developing the headline that will turn the most heads.
Another reason copywriting is content writing is the use of storytelling.
Empathy is a serviceable tool when it comes to “bringing the reader in.” And few angles work better to garner sympathy than telling a relatable story.
One of my favorite direct response pieces – the two-billion-dollar letter from WSJ – uses storytelling perfectly to hook you in. The letter tells the story of two young men and the effect that knowledge can have on two careers, even if they take similar paths. You can find this same tactic used in many articles and other content pieces. Case studies are all about storytelling – letting prospects know about the trials and tribulations of a client before meeting the entity presenting the study.
Some content writers like to hammer down the point that content writing is more conversational than sales copy – and that is not true. Sales copy that reads like sales copy don’t sell; copywriting must be conversational, relatable, and candid to achieve its goal. Otherwise, it’s hard selling… and that doesn’t work anymore.
Some people bring up (a lot) that copywriting focuses solely on the selling of an offer. But much like content writing, sales copy must also sell an idea to succeed.
No one will buy an item just because – at least not while having full use of their senses anyway. People buy things because they fulfill a desire. And for a copywriter to sell a product or service, they must first sell the idea that life will be better if they execute XYZ to ABC., and guess who does that a lot too? Content writers.
Take The Emerging Trends Trader email from the Oxford Club. for instance. If you take away the sales offer, it reads like a conversational email – offering you particularly valuable information on why Mathew Carr is a trustworthy source for future investments. It offers you valuable information on the topic of trading, just like an article, blog post, or white paper would. The only difference is that a sales offer follows the information.
Copywriters not only sell products and services. They also sell ideas, just like content writers.
I hope I made my views clear about where I stand on the copywriting vs content writing debate. I believe there shouldn’t much of a debate, as they are the same.
I believe that the conversation should move from “copywriting vs content writing” to “effective business writing vs fluffy business writing”. So, we can start weeding out those writers who care more about building Hollywood-type portfolios than helping marketers grow their businesses.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that “copywriting is content writing”? Leave a comment explaining your side of things. And if you think this article could be useful to someone you know, feel free to share it with them!