“Copywriting” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days and many times people are a little confused about what it is they’re actually looking for when they’re looking for a copywriter. They may be looking for someone who works in advertising or they may actually be looking for a content writer for their website or marketing needs. The term ghostwriter has also become quite broad these days, especially with the emergence of the web.
All “copywriting” really refers to is the act of writing copy (text) for the express purpose of advertising and marketing a product. It’s “copy” because it’s not something that gets attributed to anyone. You don’t get a brochure and then see a little author bio at the bottom! Or “by Ryan Peter” at the top! It’s not journalism!
Copywriters work in different fields, however, and as a result do different things. A copywriter at an advertising agency is usually involved in coming up with clever slogans or taglines, or perhaps even the lyrics for a jingle. Copywriters in marketing, however, may be tasked to create content for the web (a company’s website) or for promotions (emails, radio or TV commercial scripts, sales letters, media pages and so on). The line here gets a bit blurred between public relations (PR) agencies who usually do the same sort of thing, although PR’s roots are in journalism. The basic idea with PR was that a PR agency would use a journalist to interview their client or come up with a story angle that would be fed to the press and therefore get the company into the newspapers or magazines. This is a press release. The press can use the copy outright or just use the info in the copy, it’s entirely at the liberty of the publication.
But these days PR is now heavily involved in social media and online marketing, meaning it writes copy for companies for their websites, campaigns and so on. It’s not just writing news pieces but doing the whole shebang. This is why copywriters have become something of a mixed bag. Your copywriter is now creating Facebook posts and Tweets and is also hired to manage those social media pages, which means they now interact with the company’s clientèle, something which would probably have never happened before. Copywriters are also now being used to write PR and blog posts for a client, to increase their search engine optimisation (SEO) on the Internet. (This means that people can find a company more easily on the Internet.)
Because a great deal of online marketing is also now about writing good content with blogs and so on, ghostwriting has become a bit blurred with copywriting. Many popular blogs are actually written and run by ghostwriters, even though the blog claims to be the work of a particular individual. Experts in their field find they don’t always have the time to write, so they’ll hire ghostwriters to do that for them. (It’s still the expert’s thoughts and insights, it’s just that someone else is spending the time doing the actual writing). Ghostwriters in this field need to have some journalism skills so they can understand what the expert is about and the expert’s topic, which may be quite technical.
And there we have it. My core business is ghostwriting, but I call myself a copywriter as well because that’s where I started and I still do a lot of that – writing content for clients’ websites and so on. Along the way, however, I’ve been heavily involved in journalism and PR. As you can see it’s all so mixed now that a writer needs to be able to do pretty much everything. The Internet has changed things in a big way! But, in many ways, we’ve actually just gone back to the way of the scribe, who in ancient times even used to do accounting for their clients!