Copy vs Content – and why your marketing mix needs both
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
It’s easy to describe myself as a copywriter who takes part in content marketing campaigns. However, there’s a dislocation in that apparently simple sentence; If I’m a copywriter, why don’t I take part in copy marketing campaigns? Alternatively, if I insist on doing content marketing work, why aren’t I a content writer?
The answer is that, today, copywriters are often expected to generate content as well as copy, while content marketing campaigns usually include items that rate as copy. So my above self-description is really shorthand for ‘I’m a copywriter and content writer who works on content marketing campaigns which also contain some copy’.
The reason why both genres exist is partly historical, but also because they complement one another. A blog post by Elisabeth Campbell expressed the distinction very succinctly as “Copy sells, content tells”.
In my world as a writer for technology organisations, ‘Copy’ refers to items like press releases and advertorial that announce new products and promote them to my clients’ target audience, while ‘Content’ means technical articles, white papers and other items that will provide information of genuine value to the engineers and designers within these target audiences.
Historically, content such as technical manuals or possibly articles would be generated by engineering departments, while marketing departments or external agencies would develop promotional copy. However, with the rise of the Internet, social media, and the realisation by the marketing industry of the power of content marketing, marketing departments now invest in generating content to engage with their customers, build credibility, and establish themselves as the ‘go to’ supplier within their industry.
This content can be coupled with promotional copy to develop a strategy like the traditional marketing ‘sales funnel’ – a process that starts with making prospects aware of your offering, and then filters out those that actually want to buy. Dale Carnegie attributed this process with the steps ‘Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire and Close’. Another well-established (since the 19th century!) model is AIDA; Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.
Ultimately, each company must develop the funnel strategy that works best for them. However, a well-designed content marketing campaign can be a powerful tool for success in this process.