For many years, the responsibilities of the copywriter were well-understood - write great copy about the product or service you're trying to sell. But as the marketing paradigm has shifted to content, every copywriter working today has found him or herself slowly turning into a content marketing copywriter.
I'm one of them. After discovering my knack for writing copy, I spent several years writing traditional brochures, catalogs, press releases and web pages for various clients. Over the last few years, however, I've been called less and less for straight copywriting jobs, whereas the ads for a content marketing copywriter have exploded. As a result, I had to change course just to have a prayer of continuing my career as a writer.
It wasn't an awkward transition for me, but some copywriters may be less excited at their evolving roles. But they'll need to face a harsh reality. The demand for content marketing writers is high and only growing, so if you want to keep writing copy, you need to understand the key differences between copywriting and content marketing.
What Hasn't Changed
Before getting into the differences, however, keep in mind that the basics of copywriting haven't changed so much that the job is unrecognizable. Many of the things you learned in the old paradigm still apply. For instance, you still have to:
- Write in a voice that represents your target audience.
- Use clear and concise language.
- Achieve the goals laid out in your organization's marketing plan.
- Use proper spelling and grammar
The biggest differences between the traditional copywriter and the content marketing copywriter involve the focus and tone of their material. Here are three ways in which each writer would approach an assignment.
1. Telling vs. Advising
Traditional copywriting jobs always required a breakdown of the features and benefits of a product or service, as well as a compelling call to action that demanded a response from the target. In other words, the copy was written almost exclusively to tell the reader or viewer what to do next.
A content marketing copywriter, by contrast, isn't overtly trying to sell a product or service; he or she is making recommendations. In most cases, this involves writing a blog or producing an infographic that presents useful information and advice. For instance, a blog or article about shoes would feature a list of steps on how to choose the right shoes instead of a call to action to buy a specific pair.
2. Promotion vs. Knowledge
Traditional copywriting may address the needs and issues facing the target market in a long-form piece, but only as a prelude to the main point of the copy, which is to promote particular product or service. Although the copy may speak to what matters to the market, it's ultimately about the product, which may or may not be of interest.
A content marketing copywriter, however, writes about the things the target audience wants to know; it's a response to the market's interests, which rarely include the product or service in question. For example, a content writer a potential customer for jewelry may not be actively looking for a new necklace, but will still read a news story about the latest line of gold and silver chains.
3. Short-term Sales vs. Long-term Engagement
Traditional copywriters may tell a brand story over several marketing channels, but in the end all the messages are focused on one thing: the transaction. The call to action and the emphasis on the product or service are part of an effort to generate a one-time transaction, whether it's a direct sale or a request for more information.
Not so with a content marketing copywriter. He or she could produce several blogs or articles before even mentioning the product. The goal isn't to facilitate a one-time sale; it's to keep readers engaged long enough and deeply enough that they're motivated to share the content with their social media contacts, stay in touch with the business and, eventually, invest in the product or service.
The growing importance of content has dramatically changed the way marketers do their jobs, copywriters in particular. If you spent years writing traditional copy, learn how to adjust your tone to evolve into a content marketing copywriter.