Who's Really King? Copy or Audience? And where does Content fit in?

Hi guys. We've been working on content marketing. I'm thinking we've been saying content is king.

Then I got an email from Michel Fortin with a link to his latest post: The Need for Long Copy and Other Stupid Myths. It's an interesting read.

In his first few paragraphs he says:

Recently, Terry Dean wrote an awesome article, entitled "Copy is King and Other Common Lies." The article boils down to the fact that the market and the offer come first.

Copy is still important. Design plays an important role, too.

But copy is not king. The market is. And I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, after reading the article it made me think of something I've been meaning to share with you for a while.

Terry's article is really what I wanted to write about. His title "Copy is King and Other Common Lies" caught my attention because at first clance I mixed up copy and content...

When I read his article, he said the sequence is

1. Audience

2. Offer

3. Copy

4. Design

Russell, I was delighted to see Terry suggested Audience is number 1 - that puts your Audience & Message Platforms at the top of the mountain.

When I came over here to share this, I realized I'd mixed up copy and content in my mind. So now I'm wondering

1. Is copy different from content? I'm thinking yes. Content is the knowledge, wisdom, information, expertise we share. Copy is the way we write or say it. What do you think?

2. What is the sequence really? Is it really a sequence or more like your model, Alan, where you do several things simultaneously?

This all is alot to digest and really get. There's such a difference between being exposed to something and really getting, owning, integrating, and using something. I'm thinking most people are getting exposed to all this stuff, and they're really not given the tools to master and use it.

I could write on, and I'm afraid if I do, my nose will be hitting the keys instead of my fingers, so maybe it's a topic for conversation on our call on Tues.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Replies to this Topic

Hi Bonnie...

This is a great conversation to have.

Copy in this CONTEXT is "SALES" copy - that' what Michel does... he's in the direct response copy business.

What you're referencing is how to sell with copy.

Content is educating, supporting and engaging the market.

Sure, copy in reports, whitepapers, e-books, video and podcasts is important - because you want the reader, listener and viewer to give you their attention and interest - so writing good information copy is important.

However - in the context of learning about content marketing - listening to and reading direct response copy writers is not the most recommended place to start.

The Internet Marketing / Direct Response Marketing experts are not discussing content in the context we're discussing it... when they write for audience, offer, copy and design... it's clear they are selling - we're not selling with outstanding content... at least not at first.

So - to wrap it up and bring it in for a landing... don't get caught in the Internet Marketing / Direct Response Marketing Guru world... they are ALWAYS speaking about writing SALES COPY - and selling.

Lastly - the more savvy internet marketing gurus use pre-launch content to create attention and draw you in- usually citing money and time as the hooks.

Some use reports, some video and some webinars and tele-conferences - no matter the media... they are always writing copy to sell... and we're not talking about selling - we're talking about attracting your target audience and being the source for needed problem solving information.

Which leads to trust and credibility - sales copy and direct response is about; "buy or don't buy" - rarely ever a conversation - online sales pitches are usually filled with urgency, fear of loss and targeting people's emotional feelings about time and money - mostly money - cause that's what we're all after... so it's cotton candy... it taste good going in - but then dissapates and doesn't leave any redeeming value.

All I can say is; "Caveat Emptor... Buyer Beware"

If you want to sell like direct response copy writers then the content marketing startegy we're discussing is not for you... we're talking about leading and being the source for real world information that solves problems... we're not discussing how to write "do it or don't" sales copy.

Thanks for reading my two cents.


Thanks, Alan, for making this so simple and clear to get. I do believe the material we just shared is worthy of articles, interviews, etc.

I'd also like to talk about finding your style or voice for the content you create. That seems to be a key part of credibility and trust.

Your thoughts, guys?

I think there's a lot of bleed among these categories and an aspect of holistic communication is essential when delivering messages... 

Hi Bonnie - you wrote:

"I'd also like to talk about finding your style or voice for the content you create. That seems to be a key part of credibility and trust."

I like to write as if I'm speaking to one person, and I prefer to write in a more personable tone, rather than corporate or academic speak...

Building trust and credibility stems from people liking you - this is why last week we discussed being you and not only discussing the business stuff - but also, showing parts of you from a personal perspective... this makes you approachable and more likable.

I don't think anyone needs to look far for their voice - just be you - be professional and personable - and provide high value in solving problems for your target audience.

I've said it before... no one is going to care if you dress the part, say everything eloquently and being sure you're "professional", if you're not providing solutions to their problems.

Some folks talk about creating a "stage persona" - my thoughts on this is... if you're faking it - everyone will sense it... if you're genuine and authentic people will be drawn in.

The take away - don't try to model or copy someone else simply because it works for them... that's not the best approach... the best approach is to deeply want to serve your market, solve their problems, make money and have fun... in that you will find your voice.



Hi Stewart - you wrote:

I think there's a lot of bleed among these categories and an aspect of holistic communication is essential when delivering messages...

I completely agree... though using Sales Copy - and writing problem solving Copy for your target audience do not live in the same space... meaning, content marketing is about educating, supporting and engaging your target audience - so sales messages are not present in this type of content.

Sales copy is found when people are ready to see what you have and want to buy.

So, yes, both are important and needed - but when you're providing outstanding content for educating, supporting and engaging - you're not selling.

And when you're selling - you're using the problems and challenges the prospect is experiencing as leverage to make the sale - meaning, buy this, and you will not have the problem anymore.

Anyway... I hope that's clear.

So agreed... you need both.


You know, gang, I sure wish this conversation were somewhere public. Alan, you really are doing an excellent job of clarifying for us what's what and how the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit together. Thanks!

Bonnie... in the coming weeks I'm going to have forums and blogs at OutstandingContent.com.

I'm working as fast as I can to have a destination for these conversations - I don't think the group site is best only because the content will not be on this site - it will be at OutstandingContent.com.

Also... over the coming weeks things will speed up a bit as well.



Great. Thanks for letting us know.

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