Copy vs. Content

The terms copy and content are often used interchangeably, but did you know that they’re two very different beasts with unique approaches and objectives? 

So, what’s what, and which one do you need? 

The difference between copy and content is a bit like the difference between sales and marketing.  While they are independent disciplines, they are inextricably linked and as a business with a digital presence, you’re going to need both. To oversimplify:

Copy is used to drive action (i.e. sales).

Content is used to drive engagement (i.e. marketing).

Still confused?  Let’s delve a little into each category.

Copywriting

According to Hubspot, “Copywriting consists of the words, either written or spoken, marketers use to try to get people to take an action after reading or hearing them.”

Everything about copy is designed to convince the reader to part with their money (and, in recent times, information) in exchange for a product or service. Essentially, copy turns words into cash and is designed according to a specific formula.

After defining the audience you’re speaking to, carefully selected words are used to highlight the unique selling point (USP) and end off with a strong call-to-action. The objective is to convince your target reader why – and how – they should buy your product or service.

Longer formats include additional sales tactics, such as past client testimonials or case studies to provide proof about the quality of the product.  Copy is also often tweaked over time based on analytics to improve the intended outcome, whether that’s a click through to a website or physically purchasing an item.

Where you’ll find it:  Copy can be found everywhere, from print ads in magazines and billboards to labels on a physical product.  In the digital space, you’ll see copy in adverts or sponsored posts that pop up everywhere – usually when you’re cruising social media or searching for something on Google.

Content writing

Backlinko defines content writing as the “process of planning, writing and editing web content, typically for digital marketing purposes. It can include writing blog posts and articles, scripts for videos and podcasts, as well as content for specific platforms, such as tweetstorms on Twitter or text posts on Reddit.”

Content is used to entertain, educate, and engage, with the objective of building long-term brand loyalty among customers.  As businesses try to differentiate themselves from their competitors, establish themselves as authorities in their industry, and build authentic, loyal relationships with their audience, content has become a pretty big deal (so much so it now has its own subdivision of marketing, namely content marketing).

Although it takes many forms, it’s almost always easy to consume, share, or engage with (“like & share if you agree”, anyone?).  While no one is necessarily going to share an advert, many people share blogs, videos, and podcasts that solve a problem, clarify a confusing topic, or are useful, funny, or thought-provoking in some way.

Where you’ll find it:  In the world of business brands, the internet is made up solely of copy and content.  If something is not asking you to spend money, then it falls into the content category.  Blogs, social media posts, videos (and their descriptions), podcasts, articles, websites – the list is endless.

Forget the label

So, what about white papers?  Or the “about us” page on a website?  Or webinar presentations and slideshows? What happens if your blog has a call-to-action, or you ask your audience to click a link in a social post? 

Quite honestly, does the label matter?

As Shakespeare’s Juliet said to Romeo, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, and it’s all just semantics at the end of the day.   If you have a well thought-out digital marketing strategy, you’re going to need copy and content. While some writers can get precious about what things are called, most of the really good ones can supply writing that fits both categories. So, when in doubt, simply tell us what you want a specific piece to achieve and we’ll write it accordingly.

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