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Content vs. Copy – What’s The Difference?

 In Content Marketing, Strategy, Writing

As a content creation coach, I am often mistaken for a copywriter. I am NOT a copywriter. For starters, copywriters write copynot content. What’s the difference, you ask?

The difference is huge! And it could be the reason your content isn’t working. Here are five distinctions between content and copy that can help you determine if your business is creating effective content.

What’s the Purpose?

Copy is intended to inform people about something, like a business, a product, a service, an industry, or a person. It can also have the goal of causing the reader to take a particular action around that subject, like buying a product or signing up for a service.

The purpose of content is to build a relationship with the reader. That’s it. To interact in such a way that they get to know you, like you, and trust you.

The Content of your Content

The most important distinction between Copy and Content is what they contain. This is how they achieve their respective goals. Copy is informative, but not immediately valuable. It is based around facts, it is descriptive. It can talk to the reader and evoke a particular response, which is usually a purchase of a product or service. In order to take action, the reader must acquire something that they don’t currently have.

Content, on the other hand, is of immediate value to the reader. It is based in the knowledge, expertise, or opinion of the person writing it. Facts can be used to back up the advice, but there must be something new that the reader will learn that they can use immediately in their own life or business, without being expected to buy something. It is through the personal nature of the content (it is written by someone with particular knowledge) and the value given away that it is able to build relationships.

What? How?

Perhaps another way to think about it is by using Who, What, When, Where, How and Why. Copy focuses primarily on What, as well as When and Where if they are relevant. These are words that are informative. What does the program entail? When does the event take place? Where do I get that product?

Content focuses primarily on How and Why. How to improve your life or business in a particular way. Why something is important to the reader, or should be. Keep in mind that the immediate benefit to the reader may be a shift in mindset.

“Who” can fit under either copy or content, depending on its goal. Telling a personal story because it will benefit the reader in some way can be content. A biographical statement listing your accomplishments and credentials is copy.

Format matters

Content can come in a number of different forms. Content is generally either written or spoken, but can be in the form of a video, a webinar, a teleseminar, an audio program, articles, e-books, etc…  Copy is exclusively written, and is usually shorter in its format. Common forms of copy include website copy, advertising copy, e-mail copy, and sales copy for printed or digital media.

Who Can Write It

Copy can be delegated. With some basic information, the job of the copywriter is to make a particular thing (product, company, program, etc…) sound as interesting as possible. Content is much more difficult to outsource. It has to come from the person who is building the relationship. It is nearly impossible to write on someone else’s behalf without the knowledge and experience and personality that they have. I’ve seen people try to delegate their content creation, and it is rarely successful.

There is a place for both content and copy in our businesses. In fact they are both important. But too many business have only copy, and no true content.

And here’s the thing. People will read content consistently, but copy only occasionally. If you are sending good content, people will follow you for months and even years. You will build loyalty and strengthen relationships. If you are only sending copy, they will lose interest and stop reading your materials.

It’s not an exact science, but I have seen a recommendation that businesses should send 5 pieces of valuable content for every piece of sales copy. That’s 5 to 1!

So now that you know the difference, how can you start creating and using valuable content in your business?

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