What Copywriting Is, And How It Applies to Writers
I didn’t understand copywriting at first, to be honest. Confession session: I was exposed to copywriting in the early months of 2015.
I didn’t pay much attention to it because I didn’t find it important. I had no idea what it was. To be frank, anytime I heard the word copywriting, I thought the subject was about copyright work.
I truly believed copywriting meant you were legally protecting someone’s inventions or work from fraud, malpractice and illegal redistribution.
BOY was I in for a lesson!
I stumbled upon the American Writers And Artists Inc. and my mind was blown. I began to understand what copywriting was. What the fundamentals of copywriting were. Why it is so important in how we market, and overall, in how we write.
As my knowledge of the craft developed, so did my understanding of its necessity for creative writing. It is not restricted to advertising and marketing. Rather, it is foundational for all writing, period.
Many writers don’t understand what copywriting is, and if they “do”, they still don’t get why it contains the foundational principles which are vital for creative writing.
I would like to tackle this today so you can have a solid understand as to why copywriting is important to you, fiction author, poet, and overall writerpreneur.
What Is Copywriting NOT? Plus 5 Copywriting Myths!
If you’re a fellow copywriter, I’m sure you have heard these once, or twice, or so many times you don’t even hear them anymore:
“So what do you do anyway?”
“Yeah, I understand you write copy, but what does that even entail?”
“Are you actually working?”
“So, you can help me patent my work, right?”
“You have a license to help protect my inventions… right?!”
Isn’t this the truth? When most people hear the phrase, “I’m a copywriter”, they hear: “I’m a copyRIGHTer.”
Many do not have a clear understanding of who copywriters are, nor what they do. Nevermind, how important their work is. Copywriting is famously mistaken for copyright. But also, copywriting tends to be fused with content writing.
Sounds monotonous doesn’t it? It is. Content writing usually contains long forms of content and is more so focused on intricate details with sometimes, a journalistic perspective. Content writing is written to entertain the reader, engage them, and develop an attachment to the brand within them.
With content writing, valuable content is delivered with various purposes, such as: marketing, commercial affairs, business, etc. The content is mainly used to attract people to a brand, and educate them about the brand, product, or services.
Content writing can usually be found in blogs, press releases, articles, and more.
Here are the 5 major myths of copywriting that I just have to put out there before we dive into the fullness of the topic:
-Copywriting has nothing to do with copyrighting (we’ve discussed this).
Not every writer can be a copywriter, most especially, an online one.
-Copywriting cannot be learned overnight (neither can fiction, nor poetry for that matter).
-Shorter copy doesn’t beg the assumption it can be written faster.
-Copywriters, in fact, are not magicians (even though they’re close).
Copywriting, is a completely different ballgame. Let’s dive in and learn more about it.
What Is Copywriting?
Herein stands the black and white definition of copywriting:
In essence, if you’re reading something, and it draws action from you: you buy a product, subscribe to a newsletter, open a new web page, download a form of content, etc. chances are, you’re reading copy without even knowing it.
Copywriting is the art of getting consumers to take action. It is getting the reader engaged, engrossed, immersed, and left with an overwhelming feeling of, “I must do something.”
Be not fooled, copywriting is neither manipulation nor deception through the written word.
Copywriting is generous, giving, and selfless. The content educates and enriches the reader and consumer with newfound knowledge they did not know before. The only difference is, it educates the person to the point where they feel compelled to act upon what they have just learned.
“It is also the process of writing advertising promotional materials.” You may ask, “What in the world does writing for sales have to do with writing for entertainment and getting a message across?” We’ll get to this, don’t worry.
I cannot express enough, Copywriting ought not to be confused with “Copyright.”
Copyright means an individual or company has the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute someone’s work (such as books, music, artistic items).
The purpose of a copyright is to protect that material and prevent illegal use of it by unauthorized agents. The owner who designates the material is copyrighted with the symbol ©. (You can find this from the awesome copywriters at: AWAI.)
I have concluded, though these are correct definitions of copywriting, they’re not necessarily complete ones. Copywriting involves so much, entails so much, requires so much.
Therefore, placing a concrete definition to copywriting is doing the craft a disservice. However, Bruce Bendinger put it beautifully:
If you’re still not grasping the idea, I’ll go ahead and explain, what “copy” is as well.
Copy is the text, or words, used in an advertisement, brochure, pamphlet, on a website, and in any other promotional materials, such as: headlines, sales letters, videos, direct mailers, emails, autoresponders, blogs, and more.
Now that we have an understanding of what copywriting is, let’s move on to the next part of our foundation and tackle what copywriters do.
What Do Copywriters Do?
Copywriters in 2016 have their hands involved in a myriad of things. I could go ahead and dissect what they used to do and how it progressed through the years, but this would be counterproductive. I will tackle 2016 and what you can expect your average copywriter to have skills in going forward.
The job of the modern day copywriter is very complicated, complex, overwhelming, and yet a never ending, thrilling challenge. What they do is crucial.
The work of copywriters has expanded, requiring a wider skill-set base, and an in-depth knowledge of Internet-based content creation, and strategy.
Due to most modern businesses changing to a more content-focused approach, the demand for copywriters and their skills have skyrocketed.
Let’s take a quick numbers look:
Can we say, holy bananas! Those are some serious stats!!
And guess what? Copywriters are the ones dishing out this sweet content for the most part. The work they do is paramount.
The modern day copywriter is well versed in (but not limited to) 7 major skills:
Blogging and writing Web-based content
Internet sourcing, citations, and background research
SEO basics, and keyword research
The basics of HTML
The basics of design
This in short shows the ever-changing life of a copywriter. They’re no longer your average long form, direct response copywriter, anymore.
The modern copywriter is now: writing, researching, editing, proofreading, tracking, marketing, reporting data, managing projects, and managing campaigns.
Wowee. Talk about serious responsibilities!
Copywriters work on different things every day, ensuring they target the right audience through content and deliver the utmost quality and excellence to their client(s).
Did I also mention, copywriters create some of the most clever headlines, write viral blogs, and much more?
They also invest an immense amount of time in content marketing and write to inform versus convincing to purchase a product or a service.
Here’s a small list, of what you can find copywriters working on:
Social media posts
The modern day copywriter you come across is a very skilled, multi-talented individual that is (must be) well-versed in many arenas.
What Techniques And Fundamentals Do Copywriters Use?
Because it’s unacceptable (and disrespectful) for a copywriter to come out and say -- “Give me your money! Buy my product! It’ll work. I know it. So buy it!” -- copywriters use several writing techniques to lure in the reader on two fronts: an educational one, and a persuasive one so the reader can willingly empty their pockets.
Headlines, Headlines, And Some More Headlines
A weak headline means an unread advertisement. Period. Copywriters understand this. Therefore, most of their energy will be spent on the headline. Whether it be for an article, a blog post, an email campaign, direct response company, the headline of a landing page, and on.
Telling A Story
Storytelling has been the greatest, and most persuasive means of communication for centuries.
Receive it, share it, retell it, and in some ways, participate in what they’ve heard, in any means possible. The storytelling mechanism is used to really illustrate the brand and the product.
It also visually describes a solution for the reader and helps them see how they benefit from what they’re reading, and how they will further benefit if they invest their hard-earned tax dollars.
Not to mention, storytelling does one of the most important things for a copywriter, emotionally connect the reader to the brand they’re trying to get them to invest in.
This is a fundamental element all copywriters do their best to implement.
Speaking Directly To The Reader
It is a proven fact, people are quicker to attach themselves to a brand when the brand focuses on them, the individual. This is why copywriters spend so much time describing who their prospect is, and writing towards this specific individual.
The reader, in their minds, is described to a tee. Every lick of the prospects demographic is thought out and researched. Once copywriters have the perfect description of the person they are speaking to, they begin to write.
When you write to a person, rather than a populace, you not only convert the right market, but you have triggered the emotions that will have the reader invested for as long as the brand stands.
Harnessing The Power Of Repetition
Every time. Something sticks in your mind when you hear it again and again. Repetition can change the rhythm of copy. It’s also used to stress important parts of copy. You will find the same phrase in different terms sprinkled throughout the copy.
It gives the reader clarity on what the brand is trying to get across. It hits a sort of “sweet spot” with the reader, and develops a sense of comfort within them. A comfort which breeds trust, and trust which breeds investment in the brand.
Using Facts And Statistics
The best copywriters are the most tenacious researchers. Like miners, they dig, drill, dynamite, and chip until they have carloads of valuable ore. John Caples advised me once to gather seven times more interesting information than I could possibly use.
~ legendary copywriter Gary Bencivenga
Digging deep. These two words are the epitome of a copywriter. Their goal is not to stuff content with fluff, nor woo the reader with nonsense.
They genuinely want the reader to be educated. For this, research for valid facts and statistics must be done.
It’s not about just getting the reader to empty their pockets, it’s about the reader learning something they never would have otherwise and consciously deciding to buy the product, or invest in the brand somehow.
The best ideas are found in the depths of compulsive research. This requires looking for actual data the reader can lean on; and facts and stats that can be proven and have been verified.
Avoiding Long Paragraphs
Let’s be honest, Internet readers are scanners. A long paragraph is a “non-read” paragraph. People don’t like reading long forms of content at a time. It’s too much content to process at once.
Their paragraphs do not, usually, run longer than 3-4 succinct sentences. To capture the minds and deliver the content they wish, copywriters are careful about writing the copy in bite sized chunks as not to lose the reader, and overall, hurt the growth of the brand.
Magnifying The Benefits
Strong copy is copy fueled with benefits. These pieces of content have an extensive focus on what the brand, product or service will do for the reader.
What it will produce within the reader. All that the reader will gain from investing in the brand, product, or service.
When writing their copy, copywriters will go to great lengths to emphasize the benefits the reader will reap by investing their money and time in the brand and what it has to offer.
Benefits say, “You will become… You will gain… You will have…” and this is what speaks to a reader. What they will get from it.
Benefits are emphasized in copy because most readers read with this on their mind: What’s in it for me? Knowing full well this will probably be the first question in the reader's mind, copywriters do everything it takes to convince readers of the benefits they will receive from the brand and all it’s resources.
Appeal To Emotions
This is done through the immersion of the writer’s personality. Most copy is written not like a letter, but rather, like how the average person talks.
There are no clever, fancy bells and whistles. The writing is literally written like a person talking in the middle of a conversation. The job of copywriters is to channel the voice of the brand they’re representing, and get that across.
Personality and a unique voice differentiates from the competition. Personality and a unique voice separates a brand from the rest in their niche. Personality and a unique voice is a powerful technique used in copy to captivate the mind of the reader and get them invested in the brand, product, or service.
Using The Power Of Rhyme
Yes, this is correct. Rhyme is used in copy, marketing, sales, and it works my friend! Take this example, for instance:
The thinnest, lightest, fastest iPhone ever. (iPhone 5)
Remember this ad?
Or how about this one:
A display that’s not just smaller. It’s smarter. (iPad mini)
Granted, poetry is not a necessity for copy, it does enhance it and cause it to stick in the mind of the reader. Believe it or not, rhyme actually aids memory. Another fun fact?
Rhyme is many a times linked with truthfulness and accuracy. Therefore, when copy has poetry fused into it, it has a higher rate of converting the reader and getting them to invest in the brand.
How Does Copywriting Enhance Creative Writing?
Now that we have tackled the surface of copywriting, and got an overall understanding of what it actually is, you may be thinking, “Okay, but I write creatively. What does this have to do with me?”
I can totally understand where this would come from, considering as creative writers, we write for entertainment not for sale. But let me tell you dear friends, copywriting has everything to do with us creative writers! These principles both intertwine and enhance fiction and poetry.
As fiction writers and poets, do we not write to the emotions of our readers? Use rhyme and repetition to get our message across? Creatively tell a story to capture the minds of our readers?
Do we not spend hours of research so we can accurately, undeviatingly, explicitly, concisely, and imaginatively portray a narrative to them? Copywriting, I strongly believe, has the principles and techniques, to be the foundation of strong, compelling creative writing.
I share these with you because I know how they have enhanced my writing, both for business and other endeavors, and I know they will enhance yours.
Yes, copywriting is used for marketing, sales, and to generate more revenue for a brand and its services and resources. But the foundational principles apply to the rest of us writers all the same.
These are studied, tried and proven techniques to sharpen all writers. They are just used in the form of sales for organizations.
There is no reason they cannot be applied to your creative writing. Every note stated can be fused into creative writing to enhance the craft. The style. The delivery. The allure. And the overall finesse of your art. Proper techniques work.
They enhance your craft and help develop you into a much better writer, leading you to the path of the New York Times Best Sellers List. Stop wondering what else you need to do to further evolve your craft, and start applying these bad boys today