I was sitting at lunch with my 95 year old grandpa and he goes, “so, you’re still writing.” I said, “yep, I have a copywriting agency.” He goes, “now, what is copyrighting? Do you have to oversee how long it lasts or that people don’t copy the work?” He started asking about intellectual property rights and laws and… holy freaking crap “copywriting” is the worst name for anything ever.
You literally have to spell it out for people to get the distinction. And it’s too long to really spell out. By the time you get to the distinct bit, people have lost track of where you are in the word and, well, do you have a napkin I can write it on?
So I thought it might be helpful to provide a description of what in the world this is.
Etymology is important (knowing where words came from). Copywriting has its origins in the news room. News writing was the first kind of text to be called “copy.” Reporters would send copy in before editing and printing. Then, in the early 20th century (are you bored yet?), copy started to be used for advertising and marketing messaging.
In the 1930s, Robert Collier was a big deal as he pioneered direct mailers. This kind of direct appeal (directly to your mailbox) was a targeted form of copy that typified ad approaches in that era. Fast forward (you’re welcome) and copywriting is basically writing marketing messages.
The funny thing is, I really don’t like to say I’m in marketing. But I guess I am. All of us are. The copywriters. And here are some of the things we do.
A copywriter, like yours truly, is hired by a company to write everything. Not kidding. Copywriters craft messages for:
If it’s text in your company that a customer readers, the person who wrote it may have been a copywriter.
Increasingly, copywriting is something that may be hired out. Because it is a specialized skill, it may not be something that a marketing executive knows how to do well. I’ve been surprised by this, but it’s true.
Marketing as a whole isn’t just about messaging. Especially in the age of digital marketing, there is a lot of strategy and structure involved. Spreadsheets and budget management and data analysis. This may mean that the best marketers in the world aren’t the wordsmiths.
So, producers of great copy (copy producers if you will. I mean copywriters. This blog is about copywriters. Good grief.) are hired in the form of independent contractors.
You may hire a copywriter through an agency (like Hire a Writer) or as an individual freelancer (on Upwork or Fiverr or something). Depending on your goals and how ambitious your company is, you can spend a lot of money getting a highly skilled and experienced copywriter.
Ideally, a copywriter can function as a member of your marketing team. Even if they are an independent contractor, the best copywriters should be able to work with a group of marketers to achieve common goals. They’re interrelated in powerful ways.
The messages a copywriter creates are going to define your brand. They articulate your value propositions and populate your website and fill your social media feed. As such, it’s important that they’re on board and fully understand who you are and what your goals are.
It’s also key that they have access to data. A good copywriter will know enough about the marketing side of things that they understand how and why copy performs. They should also know what to do when it doesn’t and be able to spearhead A/B testing or change messaging tactics.
If you find a copywriter that vibes with your digital marketing team, they’re worth holding onto. Often, copywriters work on a project basis but can usually be hired on retainer as well. The longer they work with your team, the more synthesized and intuitive the content can become. All of this is beneficial for online brand building.
To sum it up, copywriting is marketing or ad messaging. Copywriters write it. They do this best when they have inside access to your branding and can function as part of the marketing team. Copywriting is probably copyrighted but it isn’t the same thing. And, lastly, maybe we need a better professional term. Although the ship has probably sailed. Wordsmithery? Messagers? You think I’d be better at this. I literally write for a living. “Write for a living-ers” ™!
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