The following statement is nothing new: Today’s savviest brands win by showcasing their value and their voice through incredible videos, engaging stories, and real-time experiences. But what IS new—and frankly, very exciting—is the approach agencies (HZ included) are taking when it comes to producing that work for their clients.
Smart brands and their creative partners are working together to adopt scalable and impactful content strategies, targeting more dedicated and specific audiences with lifestyle-focused messaging. And increasingly, what they’re producing today looks more like features journalism than traditional copywriting.
So what does this shift mean for agency scribes like me? The answer: Tremendous opportunity.
Copy, content—isn’t it just semantics?
Writing for a brand is writing for a brand. But how we talk about content and copy impacts how we approach, create, and eventually push out our work. (By the way, this conversation is internal AND external: Copy and content teams should educate clients and colleagues alike about the differences—both big and small—between these strategic marketing tools.)
It isn’t that one is better than the other. Instead, in order to stay current, agency writers need to understand how and when to leverage both.
Think of copy and copywriting as the “push.” Traditional marketing uses copywriting to ask an audience to take some action. Buy a product. Sign up for our email. Share this. Use the designated hashtag.
And if copy is the push, content is the “pull.” It takes a softer approach by creating a context rather than a forceful appeal for a transaction. It aims to earn future business by building brand trust and fostering a community around an idea or lifestyle.
If copy extols the virtues of Rope Brand X and tells you where to get it, a corollary piece of content might be a blog post written by a rock climber who recently reached the peak of Mount Everest.
And, oh, he happened to use Rope Brand X to get the job done.
Copy needs content and content needs copy. One isn’t better than the other, but knowing how to navigate between the two will be crucial for traditional agency creatives as the industry leans more into the journalistic mentality of content marketing.
“But change is scary...”
It doesn’t have to be. Yes, producing strong content requires time, research, and a deeper understanding of your subject matter. But this shift presents an incredible opportunity for writers, thinkers, and doers to create in ways that are more impactful and rewarding than ever before.
Where the occasional ad might be memorable for simply being an excellent advertisement, great content is always valuable for reasons independent of the product you’re selling.
Content is more relatable and human than traditional marketing. It can feel authentic and honest in ways that advertising has never been before, because it focuses on building relationships over time rather than pulling off a quick sale.
It gives people a reason to come to you (and to seek you out again). To trust you and, eventually, to support your brand as an advocate and ambassador. People have always relied on service journalism from trusted sources. The brands that can apply this tactic and become a trusted source for consumers are positioning themselves for a future defined by their successes.