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Copywriting vis-a-vis content writing

Let’s first enquire into why the drafting of marketing messages to use in advertisements is called copywriting. It’s not about copying at all – on the other hand, a reasonable amount of originality is required to be able to create one. In printer’s parlance, the text to be placed in a publication is referred to as `copy’, and the person who provided it was called the copywriter. This term got carried into advertising as people who wrote the text to appear on packaging, on trade leaflets and so on, were called `copywriters’ by the printing trade.

Initially, the art of the copywriter was to write laudatory prose about the product or service. He or she had to be adept in the art of praising something with apt adjectives. Over a period of time, the emphasis shifted to verbs. It was about articulating an appealing and powerful promise of what the product or service could do for the purchaser – what action, what benefit, what increase in esteem etc. Then the game shifted to name-dropping, the use of impressive nouns! Which celebrity, which honorable institution, which high street or citadel of culture or fashion, and so on – it was all about forging links with big names and accreditations.

While copywriters know all about whipping up mighty curiosity in audiences about a given product and a brand story, there’s only so much they can tell you on TV and in magazine ads. However, a brand must be able to share more in-depth information and engage in a dialogue with readers and viewers. This task is carried out by content writers. Sometimes, these folks seem to be the poorer cousins of their friends in advertising!

Content writing involves a great deal of research, but this has been made a lot easier by the Internet. These days, hardly any content writer visits a physical library shelf for a look-up, they all have their favourite websites and search tools. The content writer needs to know a great deal about what’s available on the web – texts, journals, videos, user comments etc. – to be able to collate relevant information for use in his or her work. They must become adept in search skills, as the more fine-tuned a search, the more accurate the results.

While the copywriter is a master of rhetoric and storytelling, the content writer is a champion with the infographic, the supporting statistics, the link to a useful white paper, and the targeted response to a specific online questioner. Nonetheless, just as copywriters need to be savvy about brand strategies and media opportunities, the content writers too need to know a brand’s online footprint and the behaviour of its digital audiences on various device platforms.

If you associate the snappy punchline, the sharp and telling image, and the story-in-50 words with copywriters, then likewise you would think of information sourcing and handling, tasteful and relevant curating, and the skills of collating content into compact prose when it comes to content writers. Many young people whose journalistic abilities are versatile, and who are comfortable with multimedia are taking up various kinds of content writing tasks for companies, institutions, and public causes.

Thoughts must get expressed in words that are precise, revealing and felicitous. That is the fundamental process. Now where these words are to appear, who they are addressed to, and what pictures or footage will accompany them, and so on are related matters. So it can be said that copywriters and content writers are plying somewhat similar skills but in different zones of the communication spectrum.

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