The Intern: Why Website Copywriting Isn’t A Strong Suit

Maybe my title’s misleading. I mean, at 23, Carson McCullers wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and at 18, S. E. Hinton published The Outsiders. Still, none of that was website copy. Am I right?

So many small businesses delegate their website copywriting efforts to in-house or remote interns—including the unpaid. And yet, working your way toward an English degree is very different from understanding how to strategize—in words—for a live, shifting business. I know: over four years at my own liberal arts college, I emerged similarly clueless about contextual strategy, effective copywriting, and market positioning.

Good Copywriting Requires a Business Mind

I’m not poopooing the young—or, for that matter, the old. Most of us interned at some point. Many of us also know that interns can be clever, innovative, and brilliant. They can think their ways out of boxes we didn’t even know we were in.

But copywriting isn’t like other work. It’s not like filling out spreadsheets or brainstorming cool and creative designs. By its nature, writing calls for maturity, finesse, and life (business) experience. It’s why novelists tend to be at least 26 when their debut novels come out.

It’s one thing to have your intern post on social media—and quite another to delegate your website content to their purview. We’d obviously endorse making the investment, so that it can start to pay off in multiples—not just gather dust.

Great Copywriting Requires Great Experience

We may not all agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule, but it certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? If you were rushed to the ER and your surgeon was a new graduate with only five hours of post-residency experience, you wouldn’t care how eye-popping his medical school test scores are—you wouldn’t want him operating on your insides.

Yet, for both inbound and outbound marketing, many brands are okay with cutting corners and taking their chances with interns. They feel that, in this Millennial age, interns may even know how to write better than they do. Granted, that may actually be true, but I wouldn’t count on it. Even if your target buyer persona is a Millennial, you’re going to be doing yourself a great disservice.

If you rely on interns for copy, you’ll fall into a cycle of what we like to call copy disempowerment. It’s similar to what has happened to Scripted, Contently, and other “affordable” a la carte content providers that bank on quantity over quality. Your interns will be able to chug out blog posts and social media updates, but they won’t do a good job of it. And then you’ll have unwittingly established a culture of bad writing.

New interns will see the copy on your site and in your campaigns and write accordingly. So will professional writers that you hire. You’ll be forced into a costly site rewrite and maybe even a rebranding to repair your tarnished image.

Don’t put yourself in that position. Good copywriting requires good training, and great copywriting requires great experience. The next time you’re tempted into letting an intern write your copy, think about the long-term consequences. Hire a professional; sit back; watch the magic unfold.

Once premed, Han got as far as the MCATs before he realized he had wanted to be a writer all along. Now he uses his scientific background to distill impossibly dense jargon into simple copy that sounds like it was written by humans. A Queens native, Han buys too many Steam games and doesn’t go to Planet Fitness with his girlfriend nearly as much as he should.

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