The Story Economy Blog

Do You Need a Copywriter or Content Strategist?

Content is the king message on blue backgroundWith Content Strategy as an emerging field, writers, designers, web editors and developers, and programmers are becoming more specialized regarding content. It’s good and exciting . . . but potentially confusing for companies that know they need help (Our content stinks! Help!).

So, you know you need content, or you have content but need much better content: where do you start?

For written content, most people first think about a copywriter.

Great news: an excellent copywriter may also be an excellent content strategist (and vice versa). Copywriters who are really good have the ability to think strategically and understand the big picture of why the content exists in the first place.

Yet copywriting and content strategy are NOT the same thing.

Let’s work with some definitions to help understand this a little better.

A copywriter is magnificent at taking concepts and turning them into compelling stories for print, web, video, speeches, or various other mediums. Copywriters are word people ‚Äì but the good ones also understand how words and visuals work together. They also are experts in understanding voice and tone, and distilling down big ideas into amazingly well-crafted pieces of content that align with an organization’s business objectives.

A content strategist is a rock star in big-picture thinking. So, they are great at taking a strategic, often scientific, look at an organization’s content ‚Äì both the content that already exists and the content yet to be created. Content strategists rely on methodology to help companies figure out what content they need (based on the business objectives they have), how the content needs to be organized and delivered, and how to measure the results (so they can determine if the content strategy is meeting the objectives).

Many content strategists come from a copywriting background – so they can both think big picture AND tell a great story with a specific piece of content. Likewise, many copywriters naturally migrate into doing content strategy because they are strategic thinkers to begin with, and they are already asking the questions that content strategists ask.

I am first a copywriter and storyteller. “Content strategy” didn’t exist as a field when I started 16 years ago (the web barely existed). But some of what I’ve always done we now just call content strategy ‚Äì like understanding what a good web page looks like and how to lead users through a web site. Also, content strategists are often the ones who create voice standards and editorial calendars. These things have naturally become part of my process. Content strategists can talk to you about SEO and key words: these are things I do, too.

But the thing that content strategists often bring to the table is a firm understanding of how to work with data. Not only do they have ways of mining your organization’s existing data, they also understand the best ways to collect and mine future data. So, a content strategist can talk to you about things like usability tests and what to actually do with Google Analytics. They know where to look for data, and then what to do with the data once they find it.

I can do some of that, especially if it involves a concrete writing deliverable: for example, I can help you find the pages with high bounce rates and work with you to figure out why the bounce rate is so high, and if there is something we can change about the page. But data isn’t really my wheelhouse—and I’d venture to say that most people who make their living by channeling voice and transforming concepts into beautiful words aren’t the data experts. We just want to partner with them so we can do what we do best: turn rough ideas into amazing content.

Here’s what it boils down to:

If you need someone to help you tell great stories, you need a copywriter.

If you need someone to help you figure out what the stories are to begin with and then tell them, you need a copywriter who also understands content strategy.

But if you need someone to do all of the above, plus create an overarching strategy for how to measure and tweak based on the results, then you need both a copywriter and a content strategist.

Have a project and you’re not sure what you need? Contact me and we’ll talk about it!

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