She’s A Copywriter; Is That PR?

After yesterday’s post, I must have more thought provocation (kidding), and I turn to (and thank profusely) my new tweep Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud (you can address her as Shakirah because I asked), for this guest post on her talents as a copywriter. Is that PR?

Shakirah Dawud says:

I’m a copywriter. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. My elevator speech: “Hi, I’m a freelance copywriter.” (I know it needs work, thank you.) My byline: “Shakirah Dawud, copywriter.” I’ve been happy that way for nearly 10 years. And then Jayme started giving me ideas. Illusions of grandeur. I may be something more. Or something less, as Gini Dietrich found some believe. Depends on your experience, I guess.

Anyway, I know what I do: I write copy. But what does copy do, exactly? Well, let’s take for example a brochure. It briefly takes the reader on a tour of a business’s offerings, lists facts, adds stars to the special bits, and makes an offer, leaving the reader wanting more. It does this for all who care to read, but weeds them out line by line until only the interested and qualified customers are left at the end, looking for the phone number or website.

How about copy on the back of a package? It’s even more brief, sandwiched between prerequisites like ingredient and component lists, instructions, and those mystifying recycling codes. It specifically explains what it is, what it isn’t, and all but snuggles into the reader’s arms, getting as comfortable and unforgettable as possible.

And then there’s the press release. Done right, everyone is talking about its subject, seeking the related brochure and reading the package copy right through to the end. They’re forming opinions, debating the outcome, and causing a money-making stir.

I thought for a while that this third piece was the only real “PR” in my line of work. But when you think about it…

  • All three types of copy face outward, get in the faces of prospects, and offer further means of developing a relationship.
  • All three constitute variations of what could be the first impression of any company.
  • All three should be current or at least avoid being dated.
  • And all three must be planned, strategized, fact-checked, and choreographed into the right places to elicit the right reactions.

I tentatively decided after reading Jayme’s post about the definition of public relations that I, marketing copywriter, probably fit in there somewhere. What I’m certain of is that neither PR nor marketing could possibly live a happy life without the other.

What do you think the relationship is?

(Image Credit: ConversationMarketing.com)

12 comments
Laurie Halter
Laurie Halter

I also like Shakirah's point that if you're a copywriting/PR/marketing professional and you're looking at work that can be thrown your way, most will, of course, say yes to additional revenue regardless of whether it falls into another "camp". If you can do it, you can do it and will. I absolutely think it's up to the establishment (company, client, firm etc) to determine who does what and why. I also love the thought that the copywriting is a "task" that goes along with the PR strategy. Good point.

Jenn Whinnem
Jenn Whinnem

Taking my conversation from Twitter to the comments...I think a good copywriter/editor can be a part of PR efforts. Shakirah asked me, but whose effort is it? A great question I'm hoping others will weigh in on. I had the pleasure of working with a truly gifted copywriter who was great at thinking of new angles stories (to Laurie's point) - perhaps there is always some necessary overlap.

Laurie Halter
Laurie Halter

@soulati - I think a copywriter can be a PR person or vice versa. However, having hired both PR people and copywriters, many people can't do both. PR has a certain skill set and so do copywriters, and they don't often intertwine. What I've found is this - PR people are great at PR. Copywriters are great at copy. Hire each independently because you'll get the best of both worlds. Unless you find someone who truly can write, as well as charm editors, reporters etc and seek creative angles for stories - if so, HANG ON and don't let anyone poach the professional!!!

Soulati
Soulati

OK, here we go, Shakirah. So glad you've guest posted here; thank you. I've ALWAYS been curious about your area of expertise and how it, uhmm, interferes(?) with my writing skills in public relations. But when you're writing packaging and ad copy or radio spots -- sure, have at it. When you write a website and I see the copywriter marketing tonality, I begin to bristle a tad. When I'm asked to draft the brochure, white paper, article, etc. and my work is edited by the copywriter and changes the entire product...OUCH. When you jump in to writing a press release and then ask me to edit it...en garde!

Not saying "you" as YOU; just sayin'. I bet copywriters reside more in marketing because marketing needs writers. Public relations automatically writes and does the rest, too, and marketing (in my experience) is seeing the value of PR writing and now we have lots of writers.

I'm so confused who does what and when to hire a copywriter as PR person? Should I?

Jayme Soulati
Jayme Soulati

You're so right! Who's going to turn away business because they can't do it? And, look what happens when that happens. PR gets the riot act thrown at it because some practitioners said they could and they couldn't. Part of being a seasoned practitioner is to know where your weakness lies; I just hire the expertise if I can't do it.

Soulati
Soulati

I so agree, Jenn. Social media is the culprit. We're blending more than we ever have, and I'm not sure there's a fall out to occur as a result. For me, just a lot of questions about who's doing what, when and how. You know that word we're not supposed to say? "Ownership?"

Taqiyyah Shakirah D
Taqiyyah Shakirah D

My thoughts, too, Laurie. There's a relationship, but also a reason they're not synonyms.

Soulati
Soulati

Hi, Laurie! Thanks for this insight. As a writer/PR person, perhaps this is my struggle on this issue. You've helped clarify the roles, the blend, and the need to keep them separate, too! Social media is helping the confusion, I suspect, too. Great seeing you here; thanks for popping in.

Taqiyyah Shakirah D
Taqiyyah Shakirah D

In terms of hiring, well... I think it depends on what you need. Do you need another piece of the PR strategy or another person to strategize with? I think copywriters are part of the strategy, and I agree with Laurie that it seldom works both ways. In terms of the actual relationship, well... I've seldom been asked to horn in on public relations work (to my knowledge). It makes me wonder, too, though, whether establishments are clear on who is best to do what. Because if you ask me, I'll tell you yes, I can write the pieces you named. But so can you. The differences in what we each come up with is in the purposes versus the "purposes" of those pieces.

So copywriting is a "task," as I've said before, and it's one you do as well as I. But PR is a "mission" that should execute each "task" wisely in order to get the best result.

In terms of representation, I think only a select few copywriters are as quick (and silver) of tongue in public as they are of pen in private. For that "task" you'd do much more nicely than I, IMHO.

Taqiyyah Shakirah D
Taqiyyah Shakirah D

Perhaps it's not that *we're* confused, but that we are *being* confused for each other. When we look over the wall and see we're being employed for parallel tasks for the same ostensible purpose, it seems the question of ownership has certainly been begged.

Hows about we blame the establishment?

Soulati
Soulati

Fascinating. Today I was asked to write a definition about What is Marketing...which goes hand in hand with What is PR....and now What is Copywriting. I'm getting all befuddled about the how and why of this; am hoping each of us remains confident with respective skills, and we don't get caught up in a big question mark. Thanks, Shakirah. I like "quick and silver of tongue in public as they are of pen in private." Read it twice for resonance, and makes total sense!

Jayme Soulati
Jayme Soulati

Good answer -- "the establishment." Yes, I agree.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I just have to say — I’ve always liked it when the rest of the marketing mix didn’t know what it was I did; that way they knew they needed me yet couldn’t do it themselves. It was sort of like a protective barrier, you know?  (But, that was back in the silo days; now we’re all playing happily in the sandbox — well, once we stop fighting over ownership of social media and who writes a press release!) […]