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Content Writer vs. Copywriter: What's the Difference?

by Pam Berg, Katie Rottner  |  
September 5, 2017
  |  10,254 views

My name's Pam, and I'm a content writer at BSTRO digital marketing agency. I weave complex thoughts into grammatically breathtaking copy (according to my Instagram bio). Writers like me can make your brand story sing. We help win over the masses to your product or service, and we entice them to keep coming back for more.

But when it's time to outsource copywriting (or content writing) to bolster your marketing strategy, you need to be clear on one thing: Should you hire a copywriter or a content writer?

Unless you're a fellow wizard with words—or you employ writers—there's a chance you don't know your copywriters from your content writers and didn't realize there's a difference. That's OK! Katie and I are BSTRO's senior writers, and we'll explain all the differences (and similarities) so you can hire the writer that's right for your project.

What does a copywriter do?


Katie: Good question! I get asked that a lot, because most of my friends have no idea what I do for a living, and I'm pretty sure my cousin thinks I'm a copyright lawyer. (I'm not.) What I am is a writer, and the words I write appear on ads, websites, product packaging, social media posts, gifs, videos, and any kind of marketing material you can think of.

I think the one key differentiator in my role, in my specific type of writing, is that I'm not dreaming up the content myself. I'm taking what I'm told (from a client or brand) and I'm presenting it in a new way—with the goal of making it concise, persuasive, informative, and interesting.

What does a content writer do?


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Pam Berg is content marketing specialist at BSTRO, a digital marketing and branding agency with offices in San Francisco, Vancouver, and New York. Pam is a data junkie and grammar nerd. She channels her superpowers into content marketing and digital strategy.

LinkedIn: Pam Berg

Twitter: @judgmentcat

 

Katie Rottner is senior copywriter at BSTRO, a digital marketing and branding agency with offices in San Francisco, Vancouver, and New York. Katie is a human female—also a marketing copywriter these past 11 years.

LinkedIn: Katie Rottner

Twitter: @SuperClassyPub

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  • by Paloma Galli Tue Sep 5, 2017 via mobile

    This was a great article and it came just in time. Thanks.
    Best luck in your collanotation and if you're 4 cooperation... let me know:
    Paloma.galli@agentius.us or Paloma.galli@agentius.hr

  • by Katie Martell Tue Sep 5, 2017 via web

    Great piece! Katie - I found this piece especially well said:

    "Establish an emotional connection (I know your pain), ignite desire (escape from pain is within your reach), and provide the direct action that will fulfill that desire (this is what you can do to escape said pain)."

    Kudos!

  • by Chuck Kent Tue Sep 5, 2017 via web

    A helpful article for those struggling to get something written, to get some copy done and out the door. Quite functional But, even with the limited nod to a copywriter needing to emote, I think it sells that side of the marketing writer's trade rather short. Of course, it all depends on the objective a copywriter is to serve. What I would call a brand copywriter may indeed need to be concise, but that's not her No. 1 priority — it's to give voice to the brand. This is first a thinking role – strategy and concept – and secondly that of a writer (in which role brevity does equal beauty). If, however, you're strictly speaking of direct sales copy in its many forms (web copy, direct mail or that can of soup you mention), then I think you're distinctions are spot on.

  • by George Kosovic Tue Sep 5, 2017 via web

    Nice piece of work, Pam and Katie.

  • by Peter Altschuler Tue Sep 5, 2017 via web

    If any piece of content answers every question, it's useless. Different people have different expectations, interests, and concerns, and a single piece that addresses everyone's needs will lose most readers' interest.

    This is especially true in B2B where there can be more than half a dozen people involved in a purchase. The person who initiates the process has objectives that are nothing like those of the people in IT or Finance or Operations, all of whom influence the final decision.

    It's vital to focus on each person's specific interests, not expect them to hunt through a single document to find that part that's right for them. That's the backbone of any nurturing campaign -- to provide the right information to the right person at the right time.

    As for copy, if all it does is sell then, unless it's direct marketing copy, it's missing the majority of the market. Great copy isn't always brief but, long or short, it does something that all good marketers (should) strive for -- creating the desire to buy. I may not be in the market for a car or a pizza or new type of toothbrush, but effective copy can persuade me to consider one.

    Then, this being the online all-the-time digital age, if I want to learn more, I'll go to a website and look for information on, for example, the car's overall cost, the pizza's ingredients, or the toothbrush's advantages over competitive brands. At that stage, I don't care about the car's options or the speed of the pizza's delivery or the price of the toothbrush. I want specific information, and content should exist to provide that information. And only that information.

    Of course, a company must know its customers: who buys, how they buy, when they buy, and what they buy. That will determine what and how and what things are said in both advertising copy and content.

    If the decision is to provide a core dump that attempts to be all things to all people or write copy that tries to sell something to readers or viewers or listeners who don't want to buy, it's time for client management to undergo remedial training.

  • by Jen Haken Tue Sep 5, 2017 via web

    Thank you, Pam and Katie! I enjoyed reading this; it's well written and amusing. I agree with virtually everything you said, from the importance of brevity, down to the Oxford comma!

    Funny, though – I call myself a copywriter, but I also write web and social media content. Ultimately, for my clients, I need to be able to do it all. And, although I say so myself, I do believe that I do! :)

  • by Elena Noriega Tue Sep 5, 2017 via web

    Brilliant!

  • by Renae Gregoire Tue Sep 5, 2017 via web

    Great article, and love the infographic that goes with it.

    I had been thinking of writing a piece like this myself. But since yours is so well done, and an enjoyable read, I think I'll just share and link to it instead. It'll wind up over on my blog in a few days :)

    Thanks much,

    Renae Gregoire

    P.S. Since I usually handle both functions, perhaps I should call myself a content-marketing copywriter? :)

    P.P.S. Respect for the Oxford comma!

    P.P.P.S. The copywriter in me knows that people always read the P.S. :)

  • by Abhijit Tue Sep 5, 2017 via mobile

    Hi Katie and Pam,
    Liked the article .. Good job guys !!
    Cheers
    Abhijit

  • by Nayan Goyal Wed Sep 6, 2017 via mobile

    This was a really nice article. Extremely informative.

  • by Michele Engel Wed Sep 6, 2017 via web

    WOW, Pam and Katie, what a fantastic article! Your article is not only a perfect example of wonderful writing, but it brilliantly clarifies the difference between writing copy and writing content--and the similarities. And, as a writer and a former English teacher, I am eternally grateful for your affirmation of the Oxford comma.

  • by Tony Madejczyk Tue Sep 12, 2017 via web

    As a hard-core copy writer I like the way this explains why I do not want to be a content writer. No offense, but besides bots and spiders, who has time to read all that stuff? I'd rather be selling with facts and benefits and not beat a dead horse with dense paragraphs to wade through. Especially on mobile. But if content works for your business, don't let me get in the way. I've got plenty of bullet (points).

  • by Asia Mon Sep 18, 2017 via mobile

    Thank you for this article Pam and Katie! I think it offers great insight for anyone who is new to the marketing world and its methods. It seems that each kind of writing can work well for specific businesses, products, and motives. I also appreciate the wise comments for this article, thank you all for contributing to the discussion.

  • by Clair Wilson Wed Mar 7, 2018 via web

    Thank you for the interesting comparison o the two. Actually before I couldn't tell the difference between the two. But now when I am working as copywriter...I do see the difference (though sometimes do think there's a thin veil between the two and both share similar marketing techniques). Still I think much depends not so on marketing (though marketing does matter) but on creativity. In many businesses, creativity is in fact dying, but there are a few workplaces that it still exists. For example, Google lets their employees have 20% of their working time to focus on individual projects. Gmail was the product of one worker's so called "Passion Project". As far as I know, Google is doing pretty well in business and stock market value. Their success could largely be credited to their Passion Project ideas. Employees work better when they are not dictated with certain rules or guidelines that restrict their thinking. I believe that other businesses could also benefit from this idea and in turn, produce more products and profits.

  • by Aanchal Iyer Thu May 31, 2018 via web

    A well written article, it brilliantly clarifies the difference between copy writing and content writing. Very helpful for those who wish to be successful writers. “Tips for the successful content writers https://goo.gl/XWHGqT” is another article which is a complete guide to content writing.

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