When I began my career in advertising and marketing as a copywriter, my friends would say things like, so you stamp those little “circle Cs” in books?

Uh, not exactly.

I had to explain that I was not a copyright lawyer, but a copywriter and copy was the text they read in magazine ads, heard during a radio commercial, or even saw printed on the back of a cereal box. Their faces would light up in understanding and nine times out of ten the next question would be: so you could come up with Just Do It?

I could…but I didn’t.

Flash forward to today and I still find myself clarifying what I do for a living, except now I’m detailing the differences between a content writer and a copywriter.

Yes, both write for marketing and advertising. No, they aren’t the same thing. So how do you know if you need a copywriter, a content writer or both to achieve your goals?

What a copywriter does

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll see (or hear) a copywriter’s handiwork on things like print ads, radio and television spots, websites and product packaging. However, in today’s world, the scope extends to everything from social media posts to videos.

Another defining factor of a copywriter is the manner in which they write. Their job is to be concise, impactful, engaging and make someone have to have whatever it is they’re selling, while also addressing their pain points and offering a solution. No pressure.

For the longest time every time I’d walk away from a creative meeting armed with a lengthy list of objectives, my boss’ famous last words to me were always…and we need to do it in seven words or less. It became a running joke but turns out he wasn’t too far off track. With our shrinking attention span being pulled in more directions than ever before, a copywriter must master the art of brevity.

What a content writer does

Unlike copywriting, if you tell a content writer to be quick you may be met with one serious eye roll. After all, a good piece of content is meant to build awareness and inspire trust while answering all of your audience’s questions. Good luck doing that in fewer than seven words.

Content writers are in it for the long haul. They craft longer copy like articles, blog posts (like this!) and case studies, all designed to achieve everything I mentioned above. Think of it in terms of dating. While a copywriter’s job may seem more like a one-night stand, a content writer wants to get into a full-on relationship. They’re okay with taking it slow, getting to know you and ensuring everything they do solves all of your problems and keeps you committed.

Before the relationship can begin; however, they have to make sure you two actually meet. Content writers spend a lot of time researching their audience and topic at hand, so they know a lot more about you than you know about them. They make sure you cross paths by weaving essential keywords and phrases into their copy so search engines latch on and don’t let go. They get you to stick around by answering questions before you even have to ask, and like a copywriter, addressing your pain points. They just get longer to do it.

Can someone be both a content writer and copywriter?

In my opinion, yes— but it’s not always the case. Both obviously string words together for a living, but as you can tell the goals and styles are different… and not every writer can (or wants) to do both. When I first started my foray into content writing I really struggled with the length I was suddenly allowed. Letting my copy “breathe” was an entirely new thing, and it took some time before I was comfortable building a long-term relationship with my audience. I had to shift my mindset from sell, sell, sell (quickly) to write and wait, wait, wait. But at the end of the day, both want to do the same thing — earn the attention of your audience.

Whether you’re looking for a content writer, a copywriter or just some kick-ass content VIRGEN Digital Brand Marketing can help!