Copywriter v journalist – be sure of the difference

In the world of content marketing many of us who hail from a background in journalism, as reporters and editors, can sometimes get a little protective of our territory as writers.

In a traditional publisher’s newsroom that’s a given, right? But it all starts to get a little murky in content marketing and brand publishing.

Journalist notepadSpecifically, the term that causes this confusion is copywriting. The problem is that we all have different views and expectations of what that means – and who is the right person to do it.

For many dyed-in-the-wool journalists, copywriting harks back to the Don Draper era of ad men (and women) creating catchy slogans and eye-catching campaigns for brands. And journos often – wrongly – look down on those traditional copywriters for a background in PR, advertising or other marketing rather than a newsroom.

For marketers and brands who are creating content for their customers, copywriting can end up being a catch-all term bandied about to mean anything that uses the written word – from advertising copy and company web pages right through to whitepapers and blogs.

Copywriting and journalism are very different beasts – there’s a pretty thorough and balanced analysis of the pros and cons of each in this article.

When you hire a journalist to write content for your brand you should get someone who can turn around media-grade writing at speed, all done with the rigour that an editorial background brings – research, fact-checking, knowing what the reader wants, the ability to pick out the right hook and a knack for telling stories in an engaging and jargon-free way. And that’s great for all sorts of content – blogs, long-form features, interviews, thought leadership pieces (often ghost-written for a brand).

Copywriters are going to be more suited to material that’s likely to talk about the company’s products and services, feature strong calls to action and be ‘on message’ with the type of corporate branding that’s likely to be used time and time again.

Both have their place in any content marketing strategy but as a brand you need to know when to use a journalist and when to use a copywriter. Get it wrong at your peril.

*photo credit: Symic via photopin cc

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