To borrow a phrase from Bill Gates, “Content is King”. Content marketing and copywriting are commonly used terms in a marketing context, but they often get confused for each other. While they are related activities, it’s helpful to draw a sharp line between them. So, what are the differences, and where do they overlap?
1. What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a term that encompasses a range of usually long-form content which aims to expand your business school or university’s brand. For example, you might publish blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, podcasts, email newsletters, ebooks, and white papers.
This serves the purpose of allowing you to communicate with potential student applicants and talented faculty at other institutions directly, and establish trust so that they are more likely to apply to study or work at your university rather than one of your competitors.
Marketing teams frame their activities around a central content strategy. This could be to improve website traffic, increase application numbers, or improve engagement metrics across all the brand’s related websites and social media pages. They will then create an editorial plan and promotion schedule to help measure and achieve these targets.
2. What is copywriting?
Copywriting is the creation of written material that connects you with your target readership. To a certain extent, it overlaps with content creation. Writing for your blogs, articles, and headers for webpages all come under the umbrella of copywriting too.
However, it tends to be differentiated in that copywriting tends to focus on short-form content. Content marketers handle the ebooks and white papers, aiming to gradually gain traction with target audiences, whereas copywriters usually generate short, snappy pieces (called “copy”) which usually contain a direct call to action, encouraging the reader to do something immediately after finishing the article.
3. What are the differences?
Neither path is arguably inherently more effective than the other. And they are not interchangeable terms. Instead, successful marketing strategies combine the both approaches and see them more like two wheels on a motorbike – spinning together, they’ll get you where you want to go.
Both require a level of skill at harnessing the storytelling potential of information. But copywriters tend to have fewer words to work with. For this reason, their work has to be much more concise and direct. They also tend to employ emotive language in order to persuade readers to take action, such as playing on your desire not to miss out on a great experience. It’s a little like the classic elevator pitch, but in written form.
On the other hand, content marketers have more words and a ‘softer’ objective. They aren’t trying to get someone to immediately enrol, they’re simply establishing a connection between the audience and the institution. They might create campus brochures or manage blog pages detailing experiences of student life, with the purpose of helping potential applicants get a good idea of what their own lives might look at the university.
Ideally, you want different people taking different roles. Both copywriters and content marketers should be highly competent at stringing their words together. Although the latter does not apply exclusively to writing, it makes up a large percentage of their activities. And, for copywriters, it’s their exclusive MO.
The devil is in the details. Copywriters should have agile, lean prose and an ability to write emotively and persuasively. They should be well-versed in including SEO key-terms and hyperlinking tastefully, making it clear and easy to follow the steps towards enrolment, but not overpowering their own writing with link after link.
Content marketers should be more comfortable with higher word counts, able to convey a large amount of information in an interesting and engaging way. They should also have a strong level of skill at identifying and extracting the most content from topics that will be applicable for a long time.
So-called ‘evergreen topics’ are their bread and butter, as their focus is on publishing material that will help the business school or university connect to key readerships for a long time. In particular, consider that if you’re trying to reach young adults in upper secondary schools, it could be several months or even years between them first encountering your website and actually sending off their application.
4. What tools does each job require?
Differing goals affects what tools you should place at each person’s disposal, depending on their roles. Content marketers rely on editorial calendars and tools that can help visualise a comprehensive long-term strategy. They might also benefit from access to tools that curate relative news articles, to help them expand their content pipeline while saving money.
Since copywriters produce short, punchy pieces of copy, access to advertising magazines is often considered a must. Providing insights into how other copywriters approach working with their own brands and institutions is key to giving them the flexibility to do a lot with relatively little.
5. Can you be a successful content marketer without copywriting?
You can be effective at your particular set of skills, but choosing to focus disproportionately on either approach is perhaps a sure way to place limitations on what you can accomplish.
Even if you could still produce compelling long-form content without the assistance of copywriters, your organisation would still feel the benefits of having them on the team, because they are the experts in creating enticing headlines and inserting SEO-optimised keywords. It’s difficult to guess the number of blogs floating around the internet, but a quick Google search suggests your university blog could be competing with up over 600 million others worldwide.
Copywriters also give your readers purpose and direction. While it is all very well and good to build long-term relationships with your key demographics, it’s important to consider that it is ultimately in service of a purpose. You want them to do something that will be beneficial for your university – to apply, either to work or study there. Copywriters are the ones who will gently nudge them down the path from liking your content to sending in an application.
From the other perspective, persuasiveness without any long-form content to back it up can come across as shallow or baseless in its assertions. There are a lot of great things going on at your institution, and a short piece of copy is not always the best way of showcasing that. This is where content marketers are essential, providing a more in-depth look at all the opportunities you are able to offer.
It's a partnership, in a way. The copywriter gets your brochure under someone’s nose. The content marketer holds their attention until they’re ready to apply. Then the copywriter leaps back on the scene to sweep them through the gates.
To find out how we can help you achieve your media goals, get in touch with BlueSky Education today.
Having developed his craft as a writer under the guidance of world-renowned novelists, poets and playwrights, Jamie has also spent a couple of years as a content writer for a primarily American readership, with over 150 articles published under his name.