To answer the question “What does a copywriter do?” we first have to ask what precisely a copywriter is. For those of us who haven’t been copywriters, the word, “copywriter” seems pretty simple to explain. It’s someone who writes copy, no?
Okay, what is “copy” then? Copy can be described as how words are combined in such a way as to convince the reader or hearer to buy, think or feel something. It can be utilised in any medium, including magazines, social media posts, and advertising campaigns.
So, what does a copywriter do, then? At first thought, it seems like an easy thing to answer. A copywriter is someone who writes copy, who arranges words into meaningful sentences and gets paid for it. However, not all copywriters are created equal.
Being an effective and efficient copywriter takes more than the capacity to write clever words. It takes passion, it takes time, and the most important thing of all is that laziness has no place in the life of a copywriter. Simply copying and pasting text from another source won’t cut it.
Being a great copywriter means immersing yourself in the world of the thing you are writing about. There is no way you can write great words about tiles if you don’t know anything about tiles. Of course, you can always go to our beloved Wikipedia, and copy some words from there, but, one, this is plagiarism, and two, the person who is reading your words should not be mistaken for a fool. Always assume that the person you are writing for is an intelligent human being, who may not know much about the subject you are writing about. Your job is to teach them in a way that both educates and empowers them.
What distinguishes someone who can write a coherent sentence from a copywriter? I suppose you could say that it has to do with being paid, but there is more to it than economics. Think back to your favourite blog or advert. What is it about that advert or blog that makes it so special?
Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Slightly adapted, this could apply to a great copywriter too. It’s not really so much what they write, but how those words make us feel.
The power of feelings
When I think back to my favourite advert set on a glorious beach at the tip of Africa, I remember the feeling of belonging, of connecting and of being a part of a tribe. I believed that if I ate the peanut butter being advertised, that I would be as strong and clever as a black cat.
Decades later, I realise that while there is no amount of peanut butter in the world that could make me feel smart and omnipotent, I have a feeling of nostalgia that reminds me of who I am and where I came from. This feeling, as far as I remember, is evoked by the words spoken in the advert, written by a very talented copywriter who captured the essence of my childhood.
To answer the broad question of what a copywriter does, I would argue that it is not so much what he or she does, but how the words he or she uses makes us feel. Having read or heard them, do we walk away feeling empowered and informed? Will we remember those words, and will they capture the essence of the moment in time when we read or heard them?
(In case you were wondering what advert I am referring to, here is the link: https://youtu.be/NXkdrdtGZJc)