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What is the difference between copy and content?

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

And what does any of this have to do with sausages?

What is the difference between copy and content? This is something I get asked surprisingly often when I'm working with my coaching clients. If you're writing for business (either for yourself or someone else) then this is something you need to know about - and care about.

In the copywriting business, we have a saying: sell the sizzle, not the sausage.

What does this mean?

I have this wonderful memory of coming down the stairs of a B&B with my mother as a child. We'd go away on little breaks together and the moment my feet sank into the shagpile carpet of the guest house stairs, I knew I'd be descending into the miasma of breakfast coming up to meet me.

If there had been fat sausages and greasy bacon littered all over the stairs, the effect wouldn't have been the same.

What does all of this have to do with writing for coaches and therapists?

Content is all about the sizzle

It all comes down to purpose.

If you're writing a:

  • blog

  • podcast script/notes/shownotes

  • LinkedIn article

  • About Me page

  • thought leadership article

then it's likely your purpose is to:

  • build relationships

  • build confidence

  • solidify your authority in this area

  • showcase your experience and skills

  • show empathy and compassion

  • share vulnerability

  • share skills, tips and hacks

  • give your opinion.

This is where you need to waft all those good vibes. Please don't throw sausages at your reader, entice them to you with the sweet scent of what you do well.

Content is all about delight, sensation, connection, intellectual stimulation and tapping into emotion.

Copy is all about the sausage*

Now you've turned your reader's head and got their attention, what are you going to do with it?

If you're writing a:

  • call to action

  • services website page

  • marketplace ad

  • membership offering

then it's likely that your purpose is to:

  • inform someone of the nuts and bolts of how to work with you

  • highlight the benefits of what you do

  • set yourself aside from others in your field

  • distinguish what you offer from what you don't

  • detail your readers' next steps.

There is nothing wrong with giving your reader clear instructions on how to access your service and what's involved - just don't let it dilute the value of your content.

A few useful tips

It can be tough to judge the delicate balance between sharing for the sake of sharing with no clear purpose, and selling with icky forms of manipulation - like enforced endless scrolling, pain-point-prodding and FOMO.

To keep it ethical and intentional:

  • Review the points above and decide whether you're writing copy or content before you start.

  • Resist the urge to break the flow of content with excessive or obtrusive calls to action. Avoid making your content salesy.

  • When you talk about your experience and skills, this can fall under content if it's connection-building storytelling, or copy if you're giving facts about what a qualified and experienced human you are. It all comes down to purpose.

  • When you show up as yourself to sell, make it willful. Be honest about your fees, what someone can expect from you and what you expect from them.

Show and tell

If you value relationships over cheap clicks at any cost, and working with people because you're a good fit for each other over scaring them into signing up, then knowing the difference between content and copy will be a useful skill.

It's not something you'll get the hang of straight away, so be patient and kind with yourself. Over time you'll get a feel for what sits right where and you'll find the right balance of sizzle and sausage.

It takes a certain degree of bravery and faith to put yourself out there and wait for it to come back around to you. As long as you work with a strategy in mind, good intention at heart and purpose at the core of what you do, then it will pay off.

And that said... is the copy part of my blog post.

If the aggressive nature of traditional marketing is grazing against the compassionate nature of what you do, then check out the rest of my blog which is turning into quite a library of topics and handy tips. And then there's the option to work with me - either as a writer or a writing coach. Book a call and we can have a friendly chat about your needs and whether we're a good fit for each other.

*if you sniggered at this point, know that I love you.

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