(The article was first published in Nov-Dec 2012 edition of Aurora.)
It smacks of terrible news. But don’t nail your coffin just yet.
On the surface, the terrain once exclusively belonging to copywriters is steadily being challenged by a new breed of content marketers. These guys call themselves Content Engineers. They are writers – just like you and me. But their hard edged, scientifically honed nomenclature sounds like doom for those who earn their living in the creative arts and letters. Or those who thought writing an ad a day keeps the sack away.
You see, when it comes to writing for the digital age, content marketing really is all the rage. Because it works. It refers to all marketing formats that content engineers create – that is everything from articles, magazines, white papers, e-newsletters to microsites, webinars and podcasts, to name a few – which are then optimised and distributed on the social web based on the intelligence of several, acronym riddled data tools. That’s the ‘engineering’ part.
Then there is the ‘engagement’ part.
Content marketers believe that by delivering their once-proprietary informational assets to clearly defined prospects, they can successfully drive profits.
In other words, lots of free, amazing content is offered before a ‘product’ is made available that you must pay for, because it promises even more value than all that free stuff you have subscribed to and in-boxed.
It is a selling technique that works. Because, while content marketers were giving away free goodies, they were also building trust and rapport, generating additional leads and embedding thought leadership among their specific community (or ‘tribe’ as they like to call it) of likeminded individuals. People buy from those they trust. In so doing, many of these writer/publisher/marketer ‘solopreneurs’ have become the Oprah Winfreys of cybersphere.
Content without copywriting is a waste of good content. And copywriting without content is a waste of good copy. Writing for a digital savvy audience means artfully navigating between both disciplines. After all, when you harness the strengths of both, content becomes saleable with the techniques of copywriting and copy becomes valuable thanks to the narrative techniques of content marketing.
So what is the secret behind their success? It’s in the content, of course. Good, solid, easy to absorb, useful, meaningful and relevant writing that can range from simple how-to tips to an instalment of weekly courses to complete lifestyle and professional makeovers. But to think that content marketing doesn’t rely on the techniques of copywriting would be incorrect.
It does. But not in the traditional and obvious ways you and I are accustomed to.
Here’s a comparison:
Content is text written to inform, argue or entertain about topics of lasting value.
Copy is text written to sell, market or promote the benefits of a product or service.
Content is a source of reference that lasts across books, journals, magazines and papers.
Copy is articulated positioning that lasts in the minds of its audience.
Content takes itself seriously, even when indulging in levity and frivolity.
Copy takes its brands seriously and presents them according to the required personality.
Content is eponymous. The voice, style and personality of its author creates audiences.
Copy is anonymous. The voice of the writer must speak in the character of the brand.
Content uses I, you and we freely in order to build bridges, tribes and communities.
Copy uses ‘you’ as the singular pronoun to highlight the brand’s benefits to the customer.
Content urges a call-to-discussion in order to solicit opinions, information or commentary.
Copy uses a call-to-action to compel prospects to buy, to click, to switch, or to ‘do’ something.
Content connects and leaves audiences with a sense of belonging, affirmation, validation.
Copy opens prospects to a need that can be fulfilled by the brand it is selling.
Content is about conversion. It converts prospects into clientele (repeat customers) over time.
Copy is about persuasion. It compels prospects to become customers by inducing action.
Content tells. Copy sells. Content informs. Copy motivates. Content affects.
Having said so, content without copywriting is a waste of good content. And copywriting without content is a waste of good copy. Writing for a digital savvy audience means artfully navigating between both disciplines. After all, when you harness the strengths of both, content becomes saleable with the techniques of copywriting and copy becomes valuable thanks to the narrative techniques of content marketing.
So, this article is an exercise in content marketing. But if I were to ask you to call me ‘now’ to learn more about the benefits of this discipline for your brighter future, that’s copywriting.
Congratulations on your afterlife.
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE & CD, The D’Hamidi Partnership.