Copywriting vs. Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy: What’s the Difference?

At the heart of all successful storytelling lives content that is well-written and credible. But “content” is a tricky concept because there are several formats and types that constitute content.

“Copy” is the written product of copywriters who create it on behalf of a brand, usually to promote that brand’s promise and value propositions. “Content marketing” can encompass text, imagery, audio, video, social media, and more. It is created to provide information audiences are seeking and, ultimately, encourage them to take action and move through the sales funnel.

Brands cannot exist in the digital space today without credible and authoritative content.

Copy and content marketing both communicate a brand’s purpose, its core values, and its message to intended audiences. Strategy, on the other hand, is the common thread weaved through content and copy—it dictates usage and determines which solution is appropriate for which situation.

Award-winning British journalist John Stapleton says, “A strong story, based in reality, will bring your message and values to life in a way the [audience] can believe in.” That means brands cannot exist in the digital space today without credible and authoritative content for consumers to click, consume, and engage with.

If you’re confused by all the content-related buzzwords, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There is some overlap between the concepts, and the deliverables, but we’re here to provide some clarity into the differences between copywriting, content marketing, and content strategy. 

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting includes the creation of original content based on a variety of source material, including but not limited to, stakeholder interviews, online research, client meetings, and existing collateral. The writing process and requirements of the end product will differ, depending on whether the content will live online or in print. Different platforms require different messaging, so copywriters, brand strategists, and even public relations professionals will often work together to determine what best conveys the brand’s message.

Copywriting accomplishes a number of goals. Most importantly, it weaves the brand story throughout all content. It communicates with target personas in a way that resonates with their needs, it builds trust in B2C relationships, it engages readers, and it works to find a balance between thought leadership and promotional content. Copywriting deliverables may include:

  • Brochures and billboards
  • Social media posts
  • Landing pages
  • Ad campaigns
  • Blog posts

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the process of using digital platforms to create, publish, and promote content for target audiences, according to Hubspot. The goal of content marketing is to attract new customers through informative, credible, entertaining content that encourages them to take profitable action. Content marketing segments its audience into personas to ensure different content is targeted and promoted to the right groups of consumers.

As a component of inbound marketing, content marketing aims to pull prospects toward your brand by showcasing thought leadership in blog posts, case studies, white papers, podcasts, or ebooks. This approach is much different from traditional marketing that pushes out brand messaging to the masses in hopes that the right message will reach the right people.

The best way to get involved in content marketing is to get started with a plan. Work with your team to brainstorm topics that are relevant to your organization and industry. Conduct keyword research around these topics to ensure the content you create is optimized for performance. Next, document major campaigns or product releases within your organization. Plan to publish informative, relevant (i.e., nonpromotional) content that supports these events. Finally, use social media to research and engage with subject matter experts within your field. Once you have a library of content created, you’ll want to share it with audiences to whom it will be releavnt.

The more credible content you have, the more audiences will recognize your organization as a thought leader in your industry. In fact, content marketing practices like blogging, can lead to a 67 percent increase in leads.

Content marketing deliverables may include:

  • Keyword research
  • Editorial calendars
  • Infographics
  • Social media
  • Blog posts
  • Video

What is Content Strategy?

Content strategy is the planning, publication, promotion, and management of your content-related assets. It’s the structure around which your content is built; it is the foundation and framing that holds together your content house. Your content strategy outlines what content you’ll create, who will create it, how often it will be created, and how it will be promoted after publication.

If copywriting and content marketing are about what to create, content strategy is about how to use content to meet your business goals. 

Too many marketing professionals who have been indoctrinated with the “content is king” mantra fail to see the importance of beginning with a solid strategy. That path leads to unfocused content that is not optimized for performance and, ultimately, destined for failure. Your ability to understand how strategy paves the way for copy execution can be the difference between mediocre and great content.

Content strategy deliverables may include:

  • Content audit
  • Competitor research
  • Persona development
  • Buyer journey map
  • Workflow development
  • Promotion schedule

Why is Content Important Necessary?

In an increasingly digital world, we don’t always get the human interaction we crave, but that’s where content can help. Credible, trustworthy content connects with consumers and provides information that is relevant to them. If it’s done well, content can provide a personalized experience between a brand and its consumers.

That’s why investing in creating great content is not only important, but vital to your marketing strategy. To thrive in your industry, great content needs to exist on your website, social channels, and print collateral. Your messaging has to resonate with consumers, or your brand will soon be obsolete. Now’s the time to put copy, content, and strategy to work to share your brand’s story.