What is a copywriter?

In January 2011, I took my freelance writing from an evenings-and-weekends gig to a part-time pursuit. With that transition came my first speed-networking event. Business cards in hand, heels on my feet: I felt ready.

The evening went well. But the next day, several emails arrived asking about registration, licensing and trademarks. Oops. I’d been mistaken for a copyrighter, but I’m a copywriter. Lesson learned: copywriting isn’t everyday lingo.

So what is copywriting? Think of it as the art of filling in the blanks. Copywriting is writing text (“copy”) for advertising, marketing, informing or sharing. It’s for a product, person, business, idea or opinion, targeted at a specific audience. Reporter + advertiser = the best of both worlds.

The work of a copywriter appears, quite literally, anywhere you see words. Most of my writing shows up on a screen, in conversation or on paper. Websites, blogs, elevator speeches, social media, brochures, white papers, articles, you name it.

When adults read to children, there’s usually a certain intonation, an altered voice and word pattern. When I was a kiddo, my mom read Cinderella’s lines in a high, princess-y voice. My dad read the Big Bad Wolf’s words in a low, booming echo.

But that same parent makes a presentation at work in a dramatically different voice and tone. It’s Three Little Pigs vs. Board Meeting: all about audience.

Copywriters mirror that audience-discerning quality. Conversational? Chatty? Bold? Persuasive? Formal? Copywriters are chameleons: we shift tone and voice to fit the client.

I studied journalism and marketing and I’ve written in both areas. Copywriting takes the yarn of journalism (facts, information, storytelling) and of marketing (voice, audience, tone) and knits them together.

Clients sometimes ask me to “make that sound good.” That’s just what we do. Good copywriters are listeners. Like reporters hot on the trail of a story, we have to ask the right questions and focus on the answers. Ask, write, ask, write. Rinse and repeat.

Listening also means good discernment, branding and marketing knowledge. Mike (yeah, the rockstar behind Fervor!) taught me it’s all about the WHY. As we write, copywriters get to the heart of the why. What’s your story? How can we tell it best?

There’s strength in numbers: copywriters work with a team. With designers, we chat about how layout conveys words. With strategists, we translate that marketing plan into stories and written concepts.

What I love about being a part of Fervor is storytelling plus impact. Telling stories of good clients, hand-in-hand with other marketing professionals? Well, I guess I’m living the dream.

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