What Is Copywriting?
When copywriters first began plying their trade in the mid-1800s, the profession was very easy to define. Copywriters wrote ads. Period. Print advertising was the primary way companies promoted their products and services back then. There was no television or radio. Certainly no Internet.
Today, of course, things have changed dramatically. Copywriting has a much broader definition and can be difficult to nail down. Obviously, the text in an advertisement is copy. But so are the words in a press release, in a salesperson's PowerPoint presentation, in the dialogue of a radio commercial, or even on a restaurant menu.
Technically, copywriting is writing the words that are printed, spoken, or displayed in any type of advertising, marketing, sales, and publicity piece. It encompasses all communications media — print, broadcast, Internet. And it includes all the written elements of a promotion, including the headline, the body of the text, slogans, photo captions, spoken dialogue, and even stage directions (in the case of scripts for video and television).
Do not confuse copywriting with copyright. These two aren't even distant cousins! A copyright protects the ownership of original works, such as books, songs, photographs, and screenplays. It is usually denoted by the © symbol. Copywriting, however, is a form of writing and has nothing to do with creative rights, trademarks, and patents. (You can, of course, get your copywriting copyrighted.)
It's almost impossible to get through the day without being influenced, at least to some degree, by copywriting. It's in the ads you see in magazines, in the banners on the Web sites you visit, and on the billboards you notice as you drive to work. It's a big part of your life, whether you like it or not.
There's no doubt that you have been persuaded to buy something because of the copy. Perhaps a direct-mail letter persuaded you to subscribe to a magazine at a special discount. Or a catalog description prompted you to visit a Web site and place an order. Or a television commercial motivated you to test-drive a new car.
Copy is used to promote just about every product or service sold on the planet. It's also used to promote schools, hospitals, arts groups, religious organizations, and charities. Copy is even used to promote people (such as politicians), ideas (such as global warming), and ideals (such as equal rights).
About one-third of all copywriters are self-employed. In the trade, these people are referred to as freelancers. About 40,000 copywriters in the United States hold staff positions in advertising, marketing communications, and public relations firms. And many more times that number hold staff positions within the marketing and publicity departments of corporations and nonprofit organizations.
With all those “buy me” messages coming at people from all directions in both their personal and professional lives, is it any wonder that only the best copy gains attention and gets results? That's why it is so important not to take the task of writing an ad, Web page, sales letter, or any other promotional piece lightly. There are proven formats and techniques that are required in order to create copy that breaks through the clutter and persuades people to take action. All these formats and techniques are covered in this book.