What Is Copywriting?
It’s becoming comical, but many times when I tell people I’m a copywriter, they start conjuring images of angry consumers and artists battling it out for content ownership. They remember the Napster-Metallica fight in the 90s, and the more recent conflict in which movie studios put the illegal downloading and file sharing sites in their sights.
Then they try to think of a question to help clarify how someone gets paid for that. Am I a lawyer?
Sure, copyright protection is an important issue. Without it, there is a lot of great art (and not-so-great) that wouldn’t get made, because everyone would just steal it. And it isn’t just art that gets copyrighted. But that’s not what we’re talking about. That’s the realm of copyright and ownership law.
Copywriting is entirely different. The only similarity is, well, the homonym effect. They sound the same.
So allow me to introduce you to some of what a copywriter does.
That’s Right. We Write.
Not to be too coy, but a copywriter has a very singular purpose: We write copy.
If you ever visit an ad agency or a newspaper office, you’d hear the word ‘copy’ thrown around all the time. And I can always tell when I’m talking to someone with a background like this, because they instantly know what I do.
Copy is simply the written text that gets published. Examples of copy abound, and while a complete inventory would go on for copious pages you wouldn’t enjoy, here’s a short list:
- Web pages
- Email marketing
- Web advertisements
- TV and radio ads (the script is written, even though the consumer doesn’t receive it that way)
- This article
You get the point. Any published material qualifies as copy. And any published material that’s any good was written by a copywriter. Not that I’m biased.
Why Hire a Copywriter? Higher Quality, More Response
People use copywriters mostly to increase the response rate of whatever it is they’re trying to do. Let’s say you have a fundraiser your nonprofit that runs every year. Last year, it only raised $10,000, and you hope to raise five times that this year. What do you do?
First, you don’t do what you did last year. If you do what you did, you’ll get what you got.
Instead, you need a different approach. Most people choose to hire a copywriter. They want a new flier to mail out. Or a new page on their website to promote the event. Or a social media campaign to generate buzz in the weeks leading up to it. Or a series of emails to send out to their subscriber list. There are many different avenues.
But all of them serve the same purpose: Get more people to show up, participate, and donate through the fundraising event. Persuasive copy, or call-to-action copy, is geared to produce a specific response in the reader.
Response Rate – How Fast People Respond?
No. That’s rate, not rate. Response rate is the number of people who respond to your copy divided by the number of items sent out. So, if you send out an email to a list of 5000 people asking them to donate, and 200 of them do so, this is a 4% response rate.
Is that good? How do you know the copywriter you hired to write the email was worth it? Well, if last year’s event didn’t use email at all, or maybe it did but your Aunt Gertrude wrote it and only 10 people responded, then yes, it was worth every penny.
The same concept applies to an e-newsletter signup page, a direct mail letter, a pay-per-click ad, and all the other forms of call-to-action copywriting.
Marketing To Your Market
Every business, every nonprofit, every foundation, and even government uses copywriting, even if they didn’t know it was called that.
And every successful business knows how valuable good copy can be. It’s what separates you from the competition. It’s why people donate to your charity, show up at your event, buy your product, or sign up for your newsletter, instead of the one at a similar organization.
On the internet, it’s why people click on your ads. It’s why they click on your site instead of the others that show up in their Google or Bing search results. Those few words – in the list that comes up from whatever word or phrase they type in – those few words next to your nonprofit or business have to be good enough to make them choose yours over the others.
And that’s a tiny introduction to what a copywriter does. So now you know. Never again will you confuse right with write. Or right from wrong. Right?
If you want, you can copy my copy and share this article, and then you’ll be a copycat-copywriter. But I doubt there’s much of a market for that. Especially because I might pursue you for copyright infringement.