Welcome to one of the most confusing topics in the industry.
What is content marketing? What is copywriting? There’s a lot of overlap, especially when both disciplines are used interchangeably for tasks like social media management, SEO, and blogging. And frankly, everyone defines these terms just a little bit differently. But if we look at what the big names in marketing/advertising are saying, we can start to reach a few conclusions.
My goal is to break this crazy topic down. Let me know at the end if I’ve succeeded.
The Goal of Content Marketing
So content marketing is all about making and distributing content. Think blog articles, white papers, videos, and the like. Good content is SEO-optimized and then distributed through channels like social media and email. The goal of content marketing is to create something that offers value to readers and then get that in front of the right people.
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
The Goal of Copywriting
“But wait!” you say, “I know about copywriting, and it sounds an awful lot like what you just described.” And to that I say you’re right. But there are a few differences. The goal of copywriting is not to create great content, but to encourage users to take a specific action. In other words, content marketing results in a content product. Copywriting then takes that content product and makes it appealing to unassuming readers passing by. Think web copy, sales pages, direct mail campaigns, and advertisements.
Copywriting is designed to get the reader to take a specific action. Sometimes that’s making a purchase, but it can also be confirming an email opt-in, calling for more information, or going into a store to check out the merchandise.”
You Really Need Both
These disciplines work in tandem. Content marketing produces the meaty stuff, a product that can be distributed. But before the content is distributed, copywriting gives it pretty packaging with a catchy headline and a sales-oriented landing page. A good copywriter can write advertisements that turn heads and make blog articles travel across the internet at the speed of clever.
It’s important to note that disciplines aren’t mutually exclusive. A good content marketer can do a bit of copywriting, and vise versa.
Bonus Confusion: Content Strategy
Okay, so content marketing and copywriting are hopefully a little clearer. Now, let’s talk content strategy. This is a term used so often with content marketing that they seem almost interchangeable. But they’re not.
Let’s start with an official definition comparing content marketing and content strategy (again, from the Content Marketing Institute):
The content marketer draws the story and plans the channels that will be used to develop the customer relationship with the brand. The content strategist ensures that story, language, and management processes work consistently and efficiently across multiple teams, languages, and every publication the brand leverages.”
So content strategy is really the parent that’s laying the foundation to make sure the meaty stuff and pretty packaging is successful.
Now Let’s Put It All Together
Content strategy determines the voice and structure of the content from a company-wide perspective, ensuring that the blog, website copy, social media presences, and other platforms all work in tandem.
Content marketing makes great content and determines how it will be distributed on those channels.
Copywriting draws attention and packages up products for distribution, whether those products are the result of content marketing or simply whatever the website is selling.
The marketing/advertising(/journalism?/PR?) industry is constantly in flux, and these definitions are bound to evolve. Heck, who even heard about content strategy before a few years ago? But for now, as a solopreneur who deals heavily in the content world, this is the working definition of what I do. How’s that for an elevator pitch?