These other people called Copywriters

I smell confusion. Its odour has been in the air for a couple of years, but now its stench is there every time I surf around and it’s time to reach for the copywriting air-freshener and dispel it.

Copywriters. We know what we are. We are people who write commercially oriented text to be used in corporate or marketing applications of one kind or another. We are likely to have commercial and marketing knowledge. We may be given more to an editorial approach, or may be intrinsically conceptual in our skills. We may be specialist in IT, financial services or pharmaceuticals, or we may be generalists, hoping that the next project will be fundamentally different from the last.
All of these criteria fairly describe a copywriter. We write for other people’s organisations and businesses, using our skills to convey information the business itself needs to get across.

That’s what we are.

What we are not is people who operate elaborate programs which involve setting up hundreds of websites to earn incremental incomes from affiliate programs, or parked domain advertising, or so-called ‘business opportunity’ DVD publishing. Nor are we people who stage five day conferences in concert arenas to explain to people who yearn to be rich how we, ourselves, make millions of dollars, pounds, euros or dinars every year from our websites. No, sir. Such people are not copywriters, and it’s just plain confusing of them to appropriate our name.

There is a name for what these people are. They are internet marketers. Some of them, the best of them, are quite brilliant people who have combined their understanding of internet traffic with their ability to manage lists of willing acolytes to devise niche marketing strategies which have indeed made them very wealthy, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But they are not copywriters.

So where does the confusion come from?

From direct marketing, of course. The internet marketers are generally operators of direct marketing businesses of one kind or another. And direct marketing depends on the skills of a copywriter to persuade a surfer or recipient that the landing page he’s on, or letter he’s holding, offers the immediate opportunity to purchase the answer to his wildest dreams.

So internet marketers do use the services of copywriters. And some internet marketers are indeed, themselves, superb copywriters.

But they really have to rid themselves of their identity confusion.

When they write the copy to sell their stuff, they are copywriting, sure enough.

When they sell their stuff, cut their databases, hold their seminars, they are internet marketers.
But only if they regularly take on and solve the problems of third-party businesses in need of communications expertise are they what you or I should feel OK with calling a copywriter.


That feels so much better.

3 Responses to “These other people called Copywriters”

  1. Paula Charnock

    Bravo and here here. As a relatively new entrant to the world of Copywriting, I have of late encountered internet marketing companies who believe that the services of a Copywriter are actually secondary to their success in the world of website marketing. We all know the key to a successful website is content, content that will have an equal appeal to both the search engines and on-line customers. Not as easy as it looks and is a skill that Copywriters are having to incorporate into their skills base. Better incorporate into an existing skills base however than use it as a basis for writing.

  2. Laurence

    Ah, Paula…that’s a different point, I think! I was talking very specifically about the theft of our professional name by ‘internet marketers’, ie people who run ‘direct marketing to list businesses’, generally selling digital products.
    I think you are asking why website owners in general want copywriters to be able to demonstrate skills in search optimisation. If I’m right, then that seems to me by now to be an unarguable demand. Any kind of generalist copywriter needs a reasonable (though not necessarily expert) understanding of SEO. Why? because it’s a demand of the market, and that’s where our work comes from.