Travel Content vs Travel Copy: same, same but different?

While you can’t say that the copy v content debate is an argument for the ages, it is something that can get the writer in your life just a little bit riled up. What is content? What is copy? They say ‘content tells, copy sells’ but is it really that simple? And what’s it really got to do with anything anyway? With so many questions posed, we better get to answering!

Copy or content, content or copy

Are they the same thing? Are they different things? Do you care?!

If you’re not doing some form of writing for a living, you probably don’t, but if you wanted to hire a writer to create some copy/content for your travel business, it’s probably a good thing to at least vaguely know the difference.

Ok, tell me more…

It’s a bit of an argument of semantics really, but the distinction between the two mostly seems to come down to intent.

Want something to persuade the audience to take action (eg book a holiday) or to raise some awareness around your brand? Then you’re after some copy.

Want to communicate some information about a new destination to your customers? Then content is your thing.

In short, copy is persuasion and content is information.

But you know, just to add an extra layer of ‘huh?’ copy can be content, but content is always copy, so it’s fair to say there is alot of crossover!

But, of course, in many cases you’re going to need a bit of both – a lot of content provides information with the ultimate goal of inspiring action in the reader. I mean, you’re not going to wax lyrical about that new hotel you’re selling without adding a cheeky little call to action in there are you?

So what does that look like?

Copy is things like ads, marketing emails, brochures and landing pages – the things you would use to sell your product/service. Short, snappy headlines and taglines, copy is short and to the point. In advertising, it’s copy that uses psychology to appeal to our emotions, that is bold and innovative (most of the time!), a la Mad Men, 21st century style.

Content is more long-form and includes blogs and articles, though it doesn’t have to be written and can include things like infographics and videos. Content is also where you’ll see bigger results in terms of searches, as it is this that involves the keywords and analytics that gets you up the search engine rankings.

It’s all about the writer

In the end, the best writers will do both and do both fabulously, using their skills and the right language to perfectly appeal to your audience by telling stories and subtly persuading, while also informing and provoking thoughts and ideas that build on what the reader already knows.

It’s a bit of an artform really, and one that most writers, like me, totally and utterly geek out over!

Whichever you are looking for – travel copy or travel content, or a delightful mixture of the two, I am your person, so let’s have a chat and see what wonderful words I can whip up for you.
I’m ready, waiting and very willing

Personal Travel

I love Cambodia’s Angkor, and you should too.

I adored the Indiana Jones films as a child and always harboured a (still unrealised) desire to be an archaeologist when I grew up – even after I found out that it isn’t all priceless relics and dodging rolling boulder booby traps. I think that’s why I love Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so much, because it is one of those places that, if you let it, will do all that it can to bring out your inner Indiana Jones. The jungle that swallowed this once great city conspires to draw you in, offering tantalising glimpses of grey stone through thick green foliage. The light, dappled and hazy, creates intriguing silhouettes, luring you for a closer look, the oppressive heat pushing you into the shady interior – there really isn’t any choice but to succumb and embrace the adventure wholeheartedly.

My first glimpse of the most significant and magnificent of the temples, Angkor Wat. Though it happened 15 years ago it still plays in my head like a film, it was that memorable for me.

A long, hot ride on a rickety and seriously uncomfortable bike lead to a rather tempting looking moat. The ride continues, a little faster now as anticipation takes over, my eye finally coming to rest on a stone walkway bridging the water. My eyes travel along it and there, rearing up out of the jungle, is Angkor Wat, stark and magnificent against the blue sky.

It took my breath away. Every inch of the old grey stone screamed ‘explore me’, and so I did, extensively. And a few more times since.

No matter how many people you share the Angkor Wat experience with the sense of tranquillity it still manages to exude is quite extraordinary. This could be people respecting the fact that it’s of huge religious significance, the facts it’s so large, or the fact that visitors are awed into speechlessness. A hush descends as you wander the cool stone corridors and admire the intricately carved bas reliefs, the surrounding jungle blocking out the outside world. Here day to day troubles melt away leaving you to admire the heart and soul that went into creating such a masterpiece and all you have to worry about is dodging that pack of book-selling kids who you stupidly said ‘”I’ll think about it” to.

But Angkor isn’t just about Angkor Wat. There are a great many buildings, temples and constructions on the complex to discover (we are talking thousands), some in reasonable nick, some merely piles of rock and others spectacularly reclaimed by nature, riddled with roots, trees thrusting out of roofs, walls and windows. One of these is Ta Prohm, which you may recognise if you’ve watched Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. It would take a lifetime to fully appreciate what a great city Angkor must have been and to see all that this place has to offer. That is where the bike comes in. The beauty of exploring this way is being able to come, go and discover as you please. That’s how you can truly get into explorer mode and to the few still off-the-beaten-track places.

There are huge gateways marking the four ‘compass point’ entrances to Angkor’s main walled city ‘Angkor Thom’. Each entrance is flanked by guards, wonderfully intricate in their creation right down to their toes. Passing through them, the exhilaration mounts and a sense of adventure begins to buzz (or could have been the mosquitos) right through your body. Gentling cycling these old thoroughfares, silent, admiring, maybe dodging the occasional monkey, the occasional cry may go up as someone, glancing into the foliage, catches a flash of a hidden temple held hostage by the jungle. On closer inspection, you might find that you have this particular temple completely to yourself, whilst you can hear buses and tuk tuks of tourists humming in the distance. That is the ultimate beauty of Angkor. It is a place that is timeless; it is so easy to believe that you are the first person to have set foot there for hundreds of years, to run your hands over the warm grey stone, to shelter from the sun in a shady corridor.

While you won’t have such moments in the most popular temples, they are so eerily beautiful, so shrouded in mystery, that you can’t really blame the masses for flocking to them.

The Temples of Angkor are located close to the town of Siem Reap in central Cambodia. The area was once a grand city of the Khmer Empire, the complex of temples boasting thousands of ruins and relics from between the 9th to 15th centuries.

Like what you’ve read? Excellent. I offer a range of travel content writing services, so why not drop me a line to say ‘hello!’ and have a chat about things I can write for you.

Educational History

A brief history of the written word.

Have you ever thought about writing? No, me neither, it’s just one of those things you do, isn’t it? You learn how to do it as a small child, and then it just sort of flows from there.

But if you did want to think about it…which I hope you do, so you read on a bit further… there are actually some interesting things to consider. Where did it all begin? Who ‘invented’ the written word? When did the first pen scratch words on the first paper? Why should I care?

All great questions, why don’t we find out?

Everything we know about the past is thanks to the written word. Without it, it would all just be verbal stories passed from person to person – we all know how that can turn out – missing the context that helps us piece together what happened 50, 500 and 5,000 years ago. It may sound a little bit melodramatic, but without writing, there would be no history. Not literally of course, but we certainly wouldn’t know what naughty deeds our ancestors were getting up to in ye olden times if it had never appeared.

Cave paintings, pictograms if you will, were the first instance of people recording their day to day life, the sort of ‘ah, my horse is so pretty, I’m going to smudge his likeness onto this wall’ or ‘mmm that bison was so delicious I’m going to draw it in this cave’. We’re talking the ancient hunter-gatherers here, between 40,000 and 14,000 years ago, drawn with crude ‘crayons’ made of natural rocks and charcoal. Not so much writing, but the first step on the path to the word.

When humans stopped roaming the land and began to cultivate it instead, growing crops, living in dwellings and being able to own more than just what they could carry, a counting system was needed. How else would you keep track of how many ears of corn you’d harvested, or whether there was actually an oxen missing or you’d just imagined you had four? The Sumerians of Mesopotamia came up with the counting token about 9,000 years ago, each of which was stamped with a picture that represented the item to be counted, and bingo, you’d always know if that pesky fourth bison had done a runner again. 

Fast forward to about 3,500 BCE and we’ve reached the rough time that what is considered the earliest form of writing came into being. Those busy Sumerians had developed counting tokens into ‘cuneiform’, what is catchily known as a logo-syllabic script. It’s probably not a big surprise to anyone that some of the earliest records that used this method were to do with beer and its sale. It’s good to know that the ancient people knew how to party. A ‘stylus’ made of reed was used to make marks that initially represented objects, a pictogram, but developed to represent sounds, phonograms, much closer to what we know as words today. This had a great many benefits for trading, as rather than four little stamped tokens that simply represented four cows, they could now convey what was happening to the cows – where they were going, what they were for and so on.  

Around the same time the Egyptians were using hieroglyphs (everyone’s favourite ancient writing of course) marked on papyrus. With over 1,000 distinct symbols, it was a formal writing system; each symbol representing a sound, a word or a concept, depending on the context. Further east in China, another distinct script was emerging with its roots in the art of divination (not just a subject at Hogwarts!). Oracle bones and shells were etched with marks and thrown in the fire until they cracked. The diviner would then ‘read’ them. Feels like a reach to me, but then these ancients were pretty smart. 

As symbols began to represent sounds, they were better able to capture the precise meaning of what people were saying. It was at this point that literature became possible.

The first known writer was a Mesopotamian priestess called Enheduanna (2,285 – 2,250 BCE) who wrote down hymns to the goddess Inanna. At the same time, the first epic tale, The Epic of Gilgamesh, a classic quest for the meaning of life, was also written in Mesopotamia. As writing became more prolific across the region, the Assyrian (Asssyria was a kingdom within the Mesopotamian region) King Ashurbanipal, collected as many works as he could into a great library in his capital Nineveh. It was the remains of this library, discovered by archaeologists in 1849, that has given us so much information about this time period. The tablets they found can be seen at the British Museum today.

The epic poetry of the likes of Homer and Virgil, the philosophical writings of Plato and Socrates and the fact that we know the Romans hung phalluses everywhere for good luck is all thanks to the Greek and Roman phonetic writing systems that built on what had been achieved in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and an alphabet that was developed by the Phonecians (ancient Mediteranean civilization, big into sailing and conquering). And from the Romans we got Latin, the root of many European languages. The rest they say, is history…

So next time you go to write something, especially if it’s something that records your thoughts and feelings, remember that thanks to the development of the written word, over thousands of years people just like you have done the same thing. That is what has given us such an epic and fascinating collective history of civilisation. Pretty cool huh?

Like what you’ve read? Excellent. I offer a range of copywriting services, so why not drop me a line to say ‘hello!’ and have a chat about things I can write for you and your business.