A copywriter is a person who uses their skills and knowledge to write the words that resonate with a target audience to bring about the desired outcome. That usually means getting the reader to buy something or respond to another call to action such as downloading a resource.
When you are an expert in a particular field or you have been in a career for many years, it is easy to think that what you do is obvious. However, as someone who networks frequently, I know few people understand the term copywriting. When meeting new people, I often have to start with the basics.
A copywriter, not a copyrighter
Whilst issues of copyright crop up occasionally; on the whole, my role is about writing rather than intellectual property. I have had to explain this distinction several times. When asked what I do, I try to focus on the act of writing, but it took aback me when someone asked if that included writing wills! To which the answer is a resounding no.
We often associate copywriting with advertising. I started as a copywriter in an advertising agency. The Account Manager would give me a brief from a client, and my job would be to produce the words to fulfil that brief. It could be words for an advertisement, a poster, a brochure, or even packaging.
With an agency, they usually pair a copywriter with a designer. The copywriter comes up with the words and the designer creates the complementary visuals or artwork. We usually refer to the people who work in these roles as ‘creatives.’
Being creative is part of the job description
It is my role, as a copywriter, to make you look good. My clients come to me with a problem and it is my job to come up with the most creative and effective solution. One of the first skills I need to employ is interrogation. I take nothing at face value.
A client may come to me saying that they want me to write a blog but I need to dig a little deeper to find out exactly what the client is seeking to achieve. Once I understand the goal, I can then determine if a blog is the best way of achieving that goal. If it is, then we enter a more detailed conversation.
A copywriter needs to ask the important questions
Having worked in corporate communications for many years, I am adept at asking searching questions. The art of asking the right questions is key to being a successful copywriter. You need to ferret out the essence of the piece you are being hired to write. Who is the audience? What do we know about them? What are the salient facts that we need to communicate and/or the feeling we need to leave them with?
Part writer, part chameleon
The true skill of the copywriter is being able to write in the client’s style. If the client has not established their brand voice, then it is my job to help them identify it. One client may favour a light-hearted, jokey approach where the next demands more formal writing with an emphasis on facts and figures. A proficient copywriter can adapt the way they write, to the style of the client, whilst being able to meet the needs of the end reader.
Copy versus content
Some copywriters like to differentiate themselves from content creators. These are usually people who focus their time writing sales pages or direct marketing campaigns. I am not that precious. I believe a competent copywriter can turn their hand to writing any form of copy. Yes, they may specialise in a certain niche but I don’t feel the need to distinguish the two.
And then there is the matter of SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) has added another layer of complexity to the art of copywriting. In today’s digital world, anything we write online needs to be optimised so that search engines can easily find it. This means that a copywriter needs to write with SEO in mind, as well as the client and the reader.
Before writing an article, the copywriter has to research the keywords for which the piece wants to rank. They then have to utilise their knowledge of on and off-page optimisation to include those keywords within the piece in the most natural way.
Why clients use a copywriter
There are many reasons a company works with a copywriter.
- Lack of skills in-house
- Lack of time to write the material that is needed
- To get a fresh perspective on an issue
- To get help with messaging and the best way of presenting information
- To tap into new ideas
- To present a more professional and consistent image of the company online and across all its marketing assets
A copywriter is a valuable member of the team. Being able to produce engaging copy is the number one requirement of digital marketing. It is a specialist skill and something that deserves the proper investment. Get it right and your social media posts will have plenty of engagement; your website will generate sales and readers will eagerly await your blogs. Get it wrong and you risk hearing tumbleweed.
Read more about my done-for-you copywriting service.