Technical Writing, Copywriting, Content Writing: What’s the Difference?

By August 6, 2018Content Marketing

We are in the midst of a writing renaissance. From 2011-2017, the number of U.S. writers and authors has increased more than 12%. Specific to content marketing, blog content has shown greater than 400% search engine indexed pages than sites without blogs. Couple those trends with the gig economy pushing many writers out of full-time employment and into ad hoc roles, and you get an influx of talented, available writers and customers that value their product.

The movement toward digital marketing has created new challenges for writers, with client demands changing based on their current priority. Some clients use content to establish thought leadership in a specific niche. Others know they’ve found the golden goose, and they need to outline the benefits to demonstrate the brilliance of their product or service (Apple is a great example of this over the last 2 decades with iPods, iPhones, and iPads).

Discerning the nuances of each type of writing – content marketing, copywriting, and technical writing – is crucial for writers to best address the needs of their clients. The purpose/intended audience, and style all help frame these three similar but unique writing styles.

 

Technical Writing

 Purpose/intended audience: to describe complex information to a technically-savvy audience suited to receive it. Examples of technical documentation include company technical specifications, consumer assembly guides, work instructions, test procedures, and owner’s manuals. All of these forms assume a baseline expertise in the subject matter, and they help to clarify new or unknown information for the reader.

Style: technical writing aims to instruct, teach, explain, or clarify information from an expert in a given subject to an audience of colleagues in the same technical community. The text can contain terminology, acronyms, and references specific to the discipline. It is not entertaining, and not meant to inspire the reader to buy. Tech writing also does not typically consider searchability.

 

Copywriting

 Purpose/intended audience: to inspire the reader to act by crafting the text in the form of advertising, increasing brand awareness and often marketing a specific product or service. Agencies use copywriting to develop concepts to advertise their brand or product. The audience is usually the target customer.

Style: copywriting is aimed at the general consumer base of a given brand. It is usually shorter in length than technical and content writing. Copywriting can have an emotional appeal, and include incentives, testimonials, and verbiage that creates urgency (e.g. “limited time”) and confidence for the reader (e.g. “certified”). Digital copywriting incorporates SEO, and it utilizes subheadings to direct action words toward the audience, with the goal of motivating the reader to act.

Historically, B2B companies would beg for meetings with decision makers at key customer accounts to pitch a new idea or product. B2B copywriting offers these companies the unique opportunity to present their idea in the exact voice and form they choose, directly and instantly to their target audience.

 

Content Writing

Purpose/intended audience: to inform the reader of an interesting industry trend or topic with short, medium or longer-form articles. Audiences can be direct consumers or B2B companies with varying levels of background in the topic, which makes content writing a fun challenge to ensure the broad, diverse audience learns something and maintains interest throughout the piece.

Style: content writing is engaging, conveying to the reader why the topic is relevant often in story-telling form. It should be easy to follow and understand while conveying the author’s and/or publisher’s expertise in the subject matter. Effective content is very powerful, in that it provides the content creator an opportunity to speak directly to a target audience, delivering exactly the message and tone they want the readers to hear. A recent study by Content Marketing Institute showed that 70% of B2B marketers planned to create content in 2017 than 2016, due to the proven effect of higher quality content, a defined content strategy, and increased priority on content marketing.

 

B2B content marketing provides companies the chance to demonstrate thought leadership to prospective clients, creating immediate credibility with companies with whom they haven’t previously worked. Utilizing content writers with engineering acumen has shown to be an effective way companies are building this credibility today.

Choosing the proper type of writing is key when delivering an important message. Depending on the goal of the piece, the reader can take away very different messages if the writing is not applied correctly. It is important to make sure you take the simple step of understanding the goal of a piece of content before selecting the writing style used to deliver the message.

With many new writers available for freelancing, you can afford be selective once you define the marketing or writing style. Not all writers are created equal; i.e., a Technical Writer may not be an effective Content Marketing storyteller. Once you find a writer whose portfolio and expertise matches your needs, the clarity of your technical documentation, sales pitch, or digital marketing voice will shine through.

 

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