What is the difference between copywriting and content writing?

By Sue Voyles / February 22, 2022 / , ,

What a great question, and one whose answer is important when it comes to your efforts to market your brand and share the story of your product, company or service.

What is the difference between copywriting and content writing?Copywriting and content writing are born from the same source – good writing that informs, explains, connects, engages and grabs people’s attention. But there are key differences that need to be explained to help navigate the world of social media, marketing and public relations.

What you are reading right now is considered content writing. Perhaps a few minutes ago you were re-watching one of the ads from the Super Bowl that you especially liked. Guess what? That ad is built around copywriting. Sure, there’s the visual story, but in most cases that storyline is based on a structure that is researched, formulated and conceived with the simplest yet most effective message, the “copy” in copywriting.

So, need we say more? Absolutely, since it makes sense to share more that will help you when faced with the need to either develop content or create copy.

Content marketing equals information

In most cases content writing is the heart and soul of content marketing. It’s based on sharing one’s expertise, information, knowledge, data and prowess when it comes to your given industry or business.

Blogs have been around longer than you think, though today they tend to dominate the content marketing world. At their core, a blog is not advertising, it’s not selling or marketing.

Blogs are a fundamental source of content writing. Sometimes, this content is fluff as opposed to giving the reader a real opportunity to learn and engage, and maybe even use it down the road. At Logos we work to create blogs that actually say something meaningful (unlike Twitter, which is a quick newsfeed and kind of like copywriting) as well as inform, educate and explain.

For example, recently we helped a client describe unique aspects of his real estate forte. It wasn’t about pitching just how wonderful a person he was, or how much money he could help you save. It centered on giving the reader an inside view of the client’s knowledge. The idea is to let your readers in on the secret knowledge of your world, whether it’s real estate, finance, property management, hospitality or security.

Content writing is about offering information. Period. It’s not meant to be catchy, even memorable, like a slogan (“just do it”). It’s designed above all to inform. Sure, sometimes it’s repeating what is already fairly well known, but at other times it breaks new ground, offers fresh insight and helps shape conversations in many ways.

Besides blogs, content writing also includes white papers, case studies, reports and guides. Profiles, articles in industry journals and reviews are often considered content writing as well, especially if they are done with some depth and take the time to tell the story of someone or something.

Short, shorter, shortest

That’s copywriting in its simplest form. Usually, the mantra of copywriters is to keep it simple, short and dramatic. If you are engaged in creating attention-getting promotions that sell, sell, and sell, you are most often copywriting.

While I didn’t share any rules for content writing – beyond inform, educate, share expertise and data – there are some obvious aspects to copywriting that will help us understand its use and form.

Since it’s about capturing attention, key ideas revolve around evoking emotions, telling a story (in simple terms) and knowing the audience. If your audience is watching the Super Bowl, your copywriting will be different from those checking out “Downton Abbey.” This means adapting to the audience, the medium and even the time and place.

Copywriting works well with advertising, whether on television or radio, or on a billboard by the side of freeways and highways.

Not all copywriting is short. Preparing a one-minute commercial is analogous to writing a short blog (about 140 words to be precise). The difference is that most blogs these days have come around to the content writing side of the ledger. For blogs to be effective they need to break out of the confines of a 350-word article into a thoughtful piece that explains and shares at length what the writer is trying to achieve.

Twitter is copywriting at its penultimate. The character counts keep things tight, the message simple. Most social media posts are copywriting, even when linking to a longer article or blog. Captions, headlines and subheads are copywriting, and explain or excite in just a few words.

One of my colleagues has always found the National Geographic fascinating, not for the photography, which is beautiful, or even the articles. He is enraptured by the captions that go with the photos, graphics, maps and charts. So often these captions encapsulate, engage and are as memorable, he says, as the article or photo spread itself.

In some ways this is the ultimate fusion, where copywriting meets content writing, especially since these captions provide depth, clarity and really are more like mini stories on to themselves.

So, why take the time to explain all this? Simple, by knowing the difference you are better prepared to craft your messages and more informed when deciding whether to hire a company like Logos Communications to help tell your story.

By the way, you will have noticed this article includes both styles – the headline and subheads equal copywriting, while the body of the blog clearly is meant to be content writing.

Content writing or copywriting, if you need one or the other we are ready to assist. Are you ready to dive into the world of words with us?