What is “Content” Anyway?

Content marketing would be easier to understand if its core ingredient was less nebulous. 

Any time I write an article about content I’m tempted to define content as:

“You know, the ‘stuff’… anything you create that isn’t an ad.”

But even that isn’t accurate because depending on who you talk to, an ad sometimes gets referred to as content because…

… the words are what goes inside the ad and are therefore (you guessed it) the content of the ad.

How This Direct Response Copywriter Defines Content

I come from a direct response copywriting background, so let’s try this definition:

I define copy as “words that are specifically used to get a sale.” Copy is often associated with paid media, but not always.

And I define content as “words that are used to create the know, like and trust factor.” Content is often associated with unpaid traffic, but not always.

To make things even more complicated, you can use copy principles to make your content more compelling (action-driven)…

… and you can use content principles to make your copy more affinity-based (creating know, like and trust).

The Quickest Way to Know if You’re Writing Copy or Content

More important than what you call the “stuff,” is the result you want to get from it.

If you’re trying to create awareness and trigger consideration, then you’ll likely use “content.”

If you’re trying to get a sale, then you’ll likely use “copy.”

Examples of content include:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Emails
  • Pictures
  • Ebooks
  • Lead magnets
  • Whitepapers
  • Quizzes
  • Checklists
  • Courses
  • Webinars
  • Slide decks
  • Free apps
  • Social media posts

Examples of direct response copy include:

  • Sales emails
  • Sales letters
  • Video sales letters
  • Autoresponder sequences
  • Landing pages
  • Facebook ads
  • YouTube video ads
  • Google ads

Why does this matter? 

People who are in the early stages of looking for a solution don’t want to be hit over the head with a sales message. However, when they’re ready to buy, they don’t want to be bothered with general information. 

So knowing where your prospect is in their decision-making process is the most important thing.

From there, choose the tool that makes the most sense for the outcome you’re trying to achieve… copy or content.

Then, either pump up the volume slightly or dial it back, depending on the environment your words will be seen in.

Writing an ad on FB? Lean towards content writing principles with a “copy-style” call-to-action.

Writing a video sales letter? Go big on the direct response copywriting principles, but remember to add a dash of “content-style” storytelling for relatability.

As you can see, it’s the bringing together of the two styles that creates the magic. 

Posted in