So what is copywriting?
I found this definition of copywriting on Wikipedia and modified it. I think it summarises copywriting well.
Copywriting is the process of writing the words that promote a person, business, opinion, or idea. It can be used as written text, as a radio or television ad, or in a variety of other media.
The main purpose of writing marketing copy or promotional text is to persuade the listener or reader to act — to buy a product or subscribe to a certain viewpoint. Alternatively, copy can be used to dissuade a reader from a particular belief or action.
This is a fairly broad definition of copywriting. It goes beyond the obvious forms of copywriting you might think of. In the last post, I wrote about high-profile direct response copywriters who claim to hold the secrets of copywriting (if you pay them substantial sums for their seminars). But direct response copywriting (such as sales letters) is only one facet of copywriting.
According to the above definition of copywriting, speech writing can be a form of copywriting. Many speeches are aimed at persuading audiences to take a particular action, or not do something that is thought to be undesirable.
Copywriting and sales
Copywriting is closely associated with sales. A definitive book on copywriting – The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly – opens with a quote from an advertising executive who said, ‘A copywriter is a salesperson behind a typewriter’. The book was first published in the mid 1980s and is still completely relevant. But today we would say, ‘A copywriter is a salesperson in front of a computer’.
Yes, copywriting is about sales. But you may not be selling a product or service – you may be selling an image, idea, brand, or something else that is intangible. If you look at the website of a large company such as IBM, they aren’t selling their products on their home page. They offer a big picture about their company and what they do. They’re selling the idea that they are a reliable and innovative company. When you drill down to the Solutions and Products pages, the copy is more sales oriented, but it isn’t the type of copy you’d use to sell a consumer product through a direct response campaign.
So there are many types of copywriting, and the style of copy needs to be tailored to the types of products or services you sell, your goal and your audience.