The changing role of the copywriter

Posted on Posted in Copywriting

Copywriting has played a role in society for generations.  Unlike many other jobs which have evolved over time, the role of the copywriter has remained largely unchanged.  OK, instead of quills or typewriters, we have upgraded to using notebooks, laptops and PCs, but the fundamental role, and purpose, of copywriting is the same.

The English Oxford Dictionary’s definition of a copywriter is:

A person who writes the text of advertisements or publicity material.”

This essentially means writing the words in a compelling, concise and interesting way. Content needs to be relevant and targeted, fulfilling the needs of your audience, whether a decree to the Romans, a political campaign for Parliament or to highlight the merits of your hairdressing business.

In today’s world, it’s not just about which words to use, or how to use them, but alsowhere and when.  Modern-day copywriters don’t have the luxury of spending days mulling over an award-winning strapline which is then mailed to their client for consideration within a week. With the advent of the Internet, as copywriters, we’re expected to fill web pages, emails, brochures and social media sites with great content, meeting ever-tighter deadlines.

Many people feel that the daily bombardment of words in our busy lives from multiple channels means that we don’t have time to properly read copy anymore, we simply scan a lot of our media messages.  A more psycho-analytic school of thought will argue that words, and good copywriting, are still vital: words are everywhere we look, and subconsciously, we absorb thousands of them a day, be it on cereal packets, road signs, in newspapers, and now, predominantly on our smartphones.

Whilst technology has in many ways facilitated the ease of writing, allowing more and more people to ‘have a go’ at copywriting, it’s also amplified the mistakes made too.  Badly written copy still abounds.  Despite our friend the Spellchecker – which can only help you so far – your potentially poorly crafted thoughts will be fired out across the Internet to millions of people, in blissful ignorance of their negative impact.

Web copy is a good example of this. It is meant to convey the objectives of your business, communicating the features and benefits of your products and services simply and effectively.  Your website is your shop window, your place of business and a tool to win, or lose, clients. So much damage can be done to your company’s brand and reputation because of misspelt and grammatically incorrect copy.

Yet copywriters are often given a bad press. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) surveyed more than 450 copywriters in 2015 to share how they feel about their work, how clients’ requirements have changed, the rise of technology and most importantly, about how all that has impacted on the state of copywriting today.  The results were stark, with comments such as:

  • “Content has never been more important but copywriters have never been less appreciated.”
  • “Copywriting is suffering from the ignorance and illiteracy of marketing people.”
  • “Copywriting is bland, uninspired and sucked dry of creativity by clients who get too involved and search engines that don’t understand smart or subtle.”
  • “The industry has abandoned copywriting.”

It’s a crying shame that there is so much despondency in the industry.  The aim of this post is to highlight how valuable, yet often undervalued, copywriting is.  Professionally-written content is not just a ‘nice to have’, it’s a fundamental ingredient in the marketing mix.  It’s proven that big, successful businesses seriously invest in their content production, and see it as an integral part of their digital marketing strategy.

If you are dubious about the importance of a professional copywriter, think again. We know the importance of words, and the power they have. Copywriting has been around, in one capacity or another, for centuries, and it’s likely to be around for many more.

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