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Copywriting vs Content Writing: There Is a Difference. Really!

I lead a local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) group and a couple of weeks ago I met with some colleagues to plan our monthly meeting topics for 2015/2016. One topic that is hot on my mind (surprise, surprise) is content marketing. When I suggested the topic: crickets and blank stares. It is the same reaction at work when we try to explain how a content writer differs from a copywriter. So, I thought I would take it here to set the record straight.

Definitions

Copywriting is writing copy that sells your product or service.

Content Marketing is creating content to attract, acquire, and engage.

So, copy sells, content informs. Pretty simple right?

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Content marketing is blogs, white papers and longer form content. Copywriting is advertising, headlines, webpage content and direct mail.

Although they are different channels and have different purposes, they need to work together. If one is done wrong, the other suffers. Content marketing and copywriting should complement each other and reinforce the overall brand message. Garner attention with a great headline (copywriting) and keep them with valuable content that makes them think and want to act (content).

Did this help dispel the mystery? There is so much still to learn as content marketing continues to develop.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what is next.

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Your Brand is More Than a Logo. Say It Again…!

A few years ago I was asked to re-brand an organization… in two months. You read that right, TWO MONTHS. I asked the CEO what he considered a re-branding. His answer, “A new logo and color palette.” My response: crickets.

I asked him why he wanted a new logo and he said,”I want people to view the organization differently – To expect something other than the norm.” Okay. That is a re-brand.

I sat down and asked questions about what his ideal impression of the organization would be, how does he envision customers interacting with the product, staff, web, social media; you know, all the touch points. It was completely different. I explained that this would be MUCH more than a logo. The logo and color palette would come after we define our brand promise, personality, and customer experience. AND, that would take longer than 2-months. He reluctantly agreed to the process.

What is a Brand?

To get here, I had to explain the difference between a logo and a brand. Many (and I mean MANY) people don’t understand the difference; even agencies and seasoned professionals. The best definition I have heard of a brand is from Marty Neumeier’s book, The Brand Gap: “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”

It is critical to differentiate that this is the perception of the product, service, or organization. Not the actual. You may have really great attributes, benefits or outcomes, but if they are not known, appreciated, or used that can affect your brand. It is about being strategic about how you present yourself and what makes you better than the other guy: your competitive advantage.

What is a Logo?

A logo can have many names – brand mark, icon, trademark – but it is all the same way of saying the graphic representation of your company. It is a very important component to your brand, it is your visual identifier. The way that people differentiate you visually from your competitors. When you see golden arches, you think of McDonalds; when you see the red bullseye, you think of Target. What else do you think about when you see those logos?

For me, when I see the golden arches, I think of hot and salty french fries, rarely getting my special hamburger order right, and LOTS of kids in the play area. When I think of the red bullseye, I think of spending hours wandering wide aisles full of fun things, seeing customer service associated when I need them, and not when I don’t.

My perception of those logos contributes to the brand.

Is One More Important?

These two truly go hand in hand. You want your logo and brand to complement each other. Ultimately though, your success is driven by emotion. What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone interacts with your company? Is it positive, negative, ambivalent?

When someone sees your logo, rarely do you have someone say, “I love WXY product, but hate their logo.” It’s more of a, “I love WXY product.” There is no mention of a logo. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the reverse. I know when I see a logo of a brand I dislike, I have a reaction. Sometimes a strong one.

The point is, a strong logo helps your brand identify, but it needs to be supported by so much more. If you are looking at re-branding, it is important to examine WHY. Is it crisis management? Has sales started to take a dive? Are you adjusting to market changes? Is it to explain changes in the way you interact with your customers? Whatever it is, make sure you have outlined how you want your customer to feel about your company and/or product. Then go into the fun creative stuff.

I know I get all excited about designing new letterhead. Just me? Oh.

Was this was helpful. If it wasn’t, let me know. Have anything to add? Use the comments section or connect with me at @JenAalgaard or on LinkedIn.

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The Importance of a “Useful” Style Guide

Content really is “king.” As marketing and public relations continue to blur, having clear, concise, on-message content can make or break a campaign. So, how do we make sure we are all working on creating content that is aligned, boosts SEO, reinforces messages, and is consistent? Why an editorial style guide, of course.

Some organizations have a tailor-made Editorial Style Guide and some just use the AP Style Guide. Whatever it is, having a standard for how you communicate to your audiences reinforces your brand, create more impressions on messages, and, let’s face-it, takes the guess work in how to “word things.”

I have created many style guides for the organizations I have worked for and have found that they change depending on their business model; how they approached what channels they used and what stories they pitched. We had a definition of what made us, us.

You can go as far as creating a guide that outlines how and when to use a comma, to just creating a content library of boilerplates, key messages, and industry jargon.

I went to Twitter and asked:

Since I am new to having my own personal Twitter account (see why in this past blog post), I didn’t receive a ton of responses, but I was thrilled with this one in particular:

Why? Because it is honest and effective. Understanding your audience really can define what your style guide should look like. Are you trying to reach reporters? AP Style is your go-to. Are you trying to reach moms? A more conversational style with be the best bet.

Whatever your audience, before you jump into creating a guide, research them. Find out how they like to be talked to. Then start from there.

If you’re struggling with the next step, there are many how-tos out there. My favorite is by Kapost. They outline 4-Steps to Creating Your Own Editorial Style Guide.

  1. Meet with the people who edit content before it goes live. – What are they having to fix every day? What could make the copy more polished? The recommend you go as far as giving them a questionnaire with some copy to see what they edit to give you an idea of their preferences.
  2. From that, draft a style guide that addresses the main problems you discover. – “The key is to make it work for you.” They have a great template to get you started and to develop some ideas of what you might like to include.
  3. Get feedback from stakeholders. – Make sure the guide can be universally implemented- digital, print, advertising. Ask those developing that copy and editing it to take a look and make recommendations. Also, getting buy-in for implementation is a big key here.
  4. Regularly update the guide. – This is a living document. As trends, organizational objectives, and channels change and develop, so should the guide. It should be a useful tool that is regularly accessed. Having outdated guidelines won’t help the cause.

Don’t be afraid of creating a document like this. It can be comprehensive or targeted; long or short. The purpose is to get everyone on the same page and writing stellar content that grabs people’s attention.

Hope this was helpful. If it wasn’t, let me know. Have anything to add? Use the comments section or connect with me at @JenAalgaard or on LinkedIn.

[Special THANK YOU to Kapost for being my inspiration for this blog. You are one of my go-to references for all things content marketing.