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Content Writing vs. Copywriting

When businesses start outsourcing their content marketing, they often look for a copywriter, even though content writing vs. copywriting are different skill sets.

If you’re looking for someone to write clever and enticing ad copy, you should go for a copywriter. But if you want to establish your company as an authority in your industry and drive leads and purchases from your website, then you need a content writer.

What’s the big difference? And why is it important?

Take it from personal experience. I’ve worked with copywriters when, in reality, what I needed was a content writer. If you hire a copywriter to write your business content, you’ll likely end up with “fluff” that well-written, but really isn’t helpful to your customers or relevant to your industry.

You may also find that a copywriter requires more hands-on guidance from you than what you’d originally intended, leading to frustration on your part.

If you’re debating hiring a content writer vs. copywriter, here are a few key distinctions to consider.

1. Content writing is about substance; copywriting is about style

At the most basic level, content writing and copywriting are two different skill sets. A helpful, albeit simplistic, way to distinguish the two is that content writing is all about substance, while copywriting is about style:

  • A content writer will be focused with answering audience questions, educating your audience on your business and products, and engaging and helping them along the buyer’s journey.
  • A copywriter will be focused on catching your audience’s attention, communicating in your brand’s personality, and enticing them to take that next step.

Content writers focus on developing engaging content for your website, social media, and print.  They’ll look beyond the “words” to what lies behind them.

They’ll interview subject matter experts in your company. They’ll research what your competitors are saying to make sure your differentiators are drawn to the foreground. They’ll know the key questions your customers ask and integrate the answers to those questions naturally into the content they create.

A copywriter, on the other hand, will likely focus on brand personality and promotion. Sometimes when copywriters create content, it reads more like an advertorial than a helpful blog post.

2. Content writing requires both creative and marketing skill sets

Like designers and videographers, writers are often lumped into the “creative” category. This isn’t a problem, of course, because writing is a creative skill sets and anyone whose main job is writing is going to have that creative mind.

But content writers are unique creatures in that they’re not only creatives, but also marketers. Much like brand managers who function both as a design creatives and brand strategists, content writers function both as writers but also marketing strategists, constantly thinking about the value and the overall strategy behind what they’re writing.

Just like your marketing team, content writers are going to be engaging in the following activities:

  • Learning the key questions your audience and customers are asking
  • Discussing the subject matter with your founders or executives and other experts in the company
  • Continually growing in their understanding of the business
  • Understanding the competitor dynamics to not only point out competitor flaws, but also bringing up key differentiators where appropriate
  • Growing in understanding of the industry to keep aware of trends to address in the content

A content writer may be more expensive than a copywriter. But that’s because a content writer will give you so much more value for what you’re looking for than a copywriter will.

You’ll get not just a creative, but a marketer as well.

3. Content writing excludes typical advertising or promotion

One major and rather obvious difference between a content writer and a copywriter is that a content writer is not going to be interested in advertising or promotion. They’ll be focused instead on that content that is educational and engaging, not something that’s designed to entice a purchase.

Don’t take this to mean that content writers don’t write about products. Or that all they create is top-of-funnel, awareness-stage content. In fact, content writers who are conscious of ROI are going to go after those bottom-of-funnel questions to engage buyers who are closer to making a purchase.

But that means that you won’t be seeing a “Buy Now” sticker or 20% OFF coupon from a content writer. Nor would you want to. That’s not where they shine.

If your primary objective is advertising and promotion, then by all means, bring on a copywriter. But if you want to move beyond that and build a brand that has authority and weight in your industry, bring on a content writer who can do the necessary work to get you there.

4. Content writing requires copywriting skills

While content writing and copywriting are different skill sets, they’re not mutually exclusive. Meaning: content writers definitely utilize copywriting skills.

When a content writer is writing on your behalf, they definitely are going to be writing in your voice, capturing the essence of your brand. They’re going to make sure blog headlines and opening paragraphs are catchy. They’re going to try to entice your audience to take whatever next step is necessary to get them to move along the buyer’s journey.

So in short, all content writers are going to have to copywrite. But not all copywriters have the skill set to create great content for your brand.

Understanding the distinction between content writing vs. copywriting is key to making sure you bring the right person on board to take your brand to the next level.

Is a content writer the correct next step for your startup or small business? Take a look at what FEARLESS offers to help you in creating, promoting, and strategizing around content. 

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