What is a copywriter? And why do you need one?
It may sound straightforward to those of us in the business, but not everyone knows what a copywriter is or understands exactly what one does. Let me explain...
If I had a dollar for every time I'd been asked, "So what is it that you do?", I would be writing this blog post from a hammock on a yacht in the Caribbean. What this question often leads to is a touch of confusion after I quickly reply, "I'm a copywriter". Most people simply nod politely and quickly move onto my partner who is a Virtual CFO, which sounds MUCH more interesting! But every now and then, an inquisitive being will do the polite nod and then ask enquiringly; "I'm sorry, I don't actually know what that means - what do you do exactly?". Some people then admit they think copywriting must be something to do with 'copyright' or copyright licensing, while others think it's akin to graphic or web design. The latter is probably a closer guess than the former, but even though I am in the same creative field as those guys, our skill set is still very different and unique from one another.
So, what is a copywriter? And what does a copywriter do?
A quick Google search will tell you that a copywriter is "a person who writes the text of advertisements or publicity material". While that may give a very top-line definition of the job, it hardly taps into what makes a copywriter such a valuable asset when creating a brand story, building a website or promoting your brand. Put simply, a copywriter is a wordsmith. A magician of grammar, spelling and sentence structure. A paragraph-creating ninja who has the ability to take a piece of writing that's lacklustre or boringly ordinary, and turn it into something that's not only readable but engaging, interesting and perhaps even a little entertaining.
Within a large company, an in-house copywriter might sit on the marketing team or in the creative department, churning out any number of words each day (speaking from experience, it can be thousands or it can literally be two sentences!). Smaller companies or startups might engage with a freelance copywriter who works on a contract or project basis depending on what the brand requires. They might write anything from social media captions and a couple of blog posts each month to a full refresh of every piece of copy on a company website. The work might require just a quick brief fired through on email, or time spent sitting with the business owner or in-house marketing team, deep-diving into every aspect of the brand. A copywriter's work is generally varied - one day might be spent writing catchy one-liners for a series of advertisements and the next might be spent crafting a 1000 word blog article, but it all comes down to the same thing: a copywriter works with words, in all their varied forms, styles and structures.
How does someone become a copywriter?
Most copywriters have a background in communications or journalism. I fall into the latter camp, and when I first qualified as a journalist in 2010, I had no idea what a copywriter was. Fast forward three years and I found myself in London working as a Creative Content Writer for a large stationery company - writing blogs, solidifying the brand Tone of Voice, crafting attention-grabbing Twitter posts and creating catchy product descriptions (remember at the end of the Wolf of Wall Street movie where Jordan Belfort asks his audience to sell him a pen? Well, trust me, I can sell you a pen!). Over the years since then, I have written all sorts of copy for all sorts of brands - from men's grooming products and activewear for body builders, to a paint and graffiti removal specialist and a spiritual well-being subscription box. A copywriter should be able to turn their hand to just about any subject, theme or style of writing, be it for print, digital, or a script for a podcast or video. Copywriting is different to journalistic writing, but the core principals are the same: take a brief, research the subject, craft a catchy header and subheader, write a beginning, middle and end, proofread and edit until it's word perfect, then publish.
How might your business or brand benefit from the help of a copywriter?
By now you might be thinking; "A copywriter? Meh! I can write, what's the big deal? I'll write my own web copy, blogs and email newsletters!" And to that I say: more power to you! BUT, let's be realistic here for a second.... As a small business owner or startup entrepreneur, do you really have time to spare, which can be put to use researching and writing content for your website? If you're launching a website for the first time, do you have the capacity to be able to work alongside your web designer, curating text, headers and descriptions across your entire site? Are you willing to put aside at least a couple of hours (but realistically, a lot more) each week to write articles for your blog and weekly e-newsletters that will keep your customers - or potential customers - engaged and connected with your brand? Quality writing is not just about skill, it's about having the time to research, ask the questions, write and re-write, proofread, edit and publish. What may seem like a "quick" blog article to throw up on your site, might actually take an entire afternoon to piece together.
Time is valuable, we all know that. In your business, time might actually be money. Enlisting the help of a professional copywriter allows you to hand over the reins and in return receive word-perfect web copy, blog articles or e-newsletter content - probably in half the time it would take you to pull it together whilst running all of the other aspects of your business.
It's not just time that you'll gain back by using a copywriter - you'll also receive an objective view or opinion regarding your business or brand. When something is so close to your heart, it can be hard to write about it objectively and in a way that your customers or potential customers will relate to. A copywriter has the ability to look at your brand or business from an outside perspective, the way a customer might. This means they're able to write directly to your audience or target market in a way that is relatable and engaging, while still conveying your brand story or key messaging. So many brands make the mistake of talking only about themselves in their messaging, rather than focusing on their customer and what their customer needs or wants. A copywriter can strike a balance between being customer-centric and focused on the brand or service on offer, ensuring that the copy doesn't read too one-sided.
What about Tone of Voice?
A huge part of being a copywriter is knowing how to nail a brand Tone of Voice (ToV). It's always slightly odd talking about 'tone' when referring to the written word versus the spoken word, but when you start to look around you'll notice that almost every brand has its own unique language and words that it uses - and this makes up its Tone of Voice. A copywriter is responsible for creating, defining and maintaining a brand's ToV guidelines, and ensuring that this is consistently adhered to across all copy.
Take a look at some of your favourite brands - their tagline, brand story and all of the words on their website or Facebook page, were likely created by a talented copywriter. Look a little closer and you will see that they not only use words to sell a product or service, but to tell a story - a unique story about who they are, what they stand for and why their product or service is so fantastic. Look closer again and you'll notice that they use the same words or language across their website, social media platforms and all of their advertising. Perhaps they are direct and straight to the point like Apple, or maybe they are playful and tongue-in-cheek like Innocent Drinks. This language, the way they construct sentences and use certain words, is their brand Tone of Voice. Once it's been defined, a brand rarely switches up their Tone of Voice. Innocent Drinks isn't about to become super formal and direct, just like Apple isn't going to start using silly, laugh-out-loud messaging.
What is your brand ToV? Who are you speaking to? Who do you want to relate to? What do you want your customer to feel when they read your messaging? What questions do you want to be able to answer for your customers, within the first few lines of copy on your website? A copywriter can help you work through these questions and more, in order to develop a consistent ToV and use it across all aspects of copy for your brand.
Get help from a copywriter today!
If you want to know more about copywriting and how I can help you translate your brand messaging into a story your customers will connect and engage with, jump over to the Contact Us page or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org