Writing lessons from a famous painter’s journey

I don’t usually read books like Franny Moyle’s Turner: The Extraordinary Life & Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner. But I shook up my routine during an out-of-town vacation. As I read about the artistic education of Turner, a barber’s son who became one of Britain’s greatest painters, my mind flashed to lessons for writers, especially bloggers.

Turner took lessons from other painters. Writers should do this, too. But that isn’t the lesson that struck me. Instead, I was intrigued by the role of copying. “In addition to views he worked up from his own sketches, Turner copied published work by other living artists to sell in his father’s shop,” writes Moyle.

I’m not suggesting that you copy other people’s writing. I certainly don’t want you to plagiarize. However, before long, Turner started using copies as the foundation for experiments. For example, while working within outlines set by an artist named Cozens, Turner “reverses Cozen’s scheme, placing in light what the artist had placed in shade and vice versa, altering the drama of the view,” writes Moyle.

Can you do a Turner on a blog post that you admire?

Here are some ideas for how to achieve that.

1. Copy the structure, not the content

Study the structure of a blog you admire. See if you can apply that structure to a different topic.

For example, if you read a great post about “5 ways to save more for retirement,” analyze it to see why it works. Then, you can apply what you learn to a different topics, such as “5 ways to get the most out of your homeowner’s insurance.”

2. Turn dark into light

Turner literally turned dark into light in Moyle’s example.

You can metaphorically change dark to light by writing, for example, about the upside of indexed annuities after you’ve read an article about their drawbacks.

3. Change perspective

Turner sometimes changed the perspective from which he viewed iconic sights. Or, he inserted people or cows where he’d seen none in real life.

You can mix up your perspective too. Instead of viewing an investment product through the eyes of your typical client, discuss it from the perspective of a broker who puts commissions above all else. Or, take the perspective of an investor in a very specific situation who might benefit from that product.

Looking at how others write—and putting your own twist on their writing can help you generate new topics and new approaches to tired topics. Try it!

Top posts from 2017’s first quarter

Top posts on InvestmentWriting.comCheck out my top posts from the first quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on investment commentary (#1), marketing (#2, 3), public relations (#4, 7), writing (#1, 5, 10), email (#6, 7), and blogging (#8, 9).

My post about words to avoid (#1) seemed to resonate the most with readers. It also spurred comments suggesting more words to avoid. I was surprised that I didn’t receive angry comments from fans of technical language. Perhaps that’s because I said that “Some jargon is okay if your communications go exclusively to other investment professionals.”

I must thank my gym for its contribution to this top 10 list. “Words to avoid” was inspired by watching CNBC on the elliptical machine. Some words are okay there because CNBC targets investing geeks. But those same words will puzzle regular folks. “Marketing lesson” discusses my gym’s smart handling of an annoying problem.

Here’s my list of posts that attracted the most views during the first quarter.

  1. Words to avoid in your investment communications with regular folks
  2. Marketing lesson from clashing clocks
  3. 10-minute boosts for your financial content marketing
  4. Financial PR opportunities for professionals—and they’re free
  5. 20 ways to organize a story
  6. Personalized subject lines can backfire in emails
  7. Quit sending press releases as attachments!
  8. 4 reasons learning to blog helps CFA charterholders
  9. 5 ways blog posts are like tulips
  10. When do you push proper usage on your writing clients?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fixing compliance issues with comments on your LinkedIn Pulse posts

More financial professionals are blogging on LinkedIn Pulse, LinkedIn’s blogging platform. Sometimes this raises compliance issues that you may not know how to fix. Compliance issues for content that you post are easy to handle. But what about compliance issues with other people’s comments on your LinkedIn Pulse posts?

Compliance issues for content that you post

It’s easy to manage compliance issues directly related to the content that you post to LinkedIn Pulse—or any social media. You handle it by only posting content that you believe to be in compliance.

If you’re a registered representative affiliated with a broker-dealer, you should probably get all of your content reviewed before you post it.

If you’re a registered investment advisor (RIA), your employer may require compliance review before posting. However, many RIAs have a lot more leeway than registered reps. If there’s no formal review process, you should identify criteria for distinguishing compliant content from non-compliant content. You can also keep a list of recommended disclosures.

Compliance issues with other people’s comments

But what about other people’s comments on your LinkedIn Pulse posts? I investigated this after someone posted a spammy link in response to one of my posts on LinkedIn Pulse. Surprisingly, the LinkedIn Help person who responded to my inquiry didn’t immediately know the answer to my question.

However, eventually, I learned that you can flag and hide comments. Just click on the three dots (…) next to any comment and a dropdown menu opens. Click on “Flag and Hide” to remove the troubling comment.

If comments make you—or your compliance professionals—too nervous, then you can disable comments. I don’t recommend this unless your compliance professionals insist on it. After all, you’re posting on LinkedIn to deepen your relationships with readers. You don’t want to mistakenly give readers the impression that you don’t care about their reactions.

Managing Comments on LinkedIn Pulse gives LinkedIn’s official explanation of how to disable comments, as well as how to flag and hide comments. However, I couldn’t find the Settings icon that they refer to on my Pulse post.

If you have problems with LinkedIn, visit its Help Center. If you don’t find what you need, open a case using the contact form.

4 reasons learning to blog helps CFA charterholders

CFA candidates and charterholders have great quantitative and analytical skills, so why should they care about learning to blog? The ability to write a great blog post matters because good writing skills will carry you far in your career—and life in general. There are four reasons that learning to blog helps CFA charterholders at all stages of their careers.

Reason 1: Writing is an essential career skill

The world’s best ideas don’t mean anything if you can’t move people to act on them. Whether you’re writing an equity research report, a marketing email, a resume, or a blog post, good writing will boost the impact of your ideas.

Reason 2: Blogging is a great way to improve your writing

 Blog posts are short, which makes it easier to produce many of them. Yet each post must satisfy the basic requirements of strong written communications:

  1. A strong title and introduction, which quickly relays your main message.
  2. Information about why your readers should care about your topic—your audience suffers from information overload. Readers want to know “What’s in it for me?” before they invest time in your piece.
  3. Reader-friendly writing—this means writing that’s well organized and economically written. A logical flow of information, informative headings, and strong topic sentences make it easy for people to understand your message even when they only skim it. Short sentences that avoid jargon make it easy for readers to absorb your details.

These characteristics will serve you well in most written communications. Financial professionals who have taken my blogging class tell me that they’ve applied my lessons to emails, articles, and more.

Reason 3: You may need to blog for work

The number of investment management firms in the blogosphere has been increasing. The range of corporate blog contributors is also expanding, from the strategists who’ve traditionally opined on markets, to folks in lower-level roles and with other areas of expertise.

Blogging is also relevant to CFA charterholders who go out on their own, whether they start private wealth management firms, launch a product, or do consulting. A blog is a great way for smaller firms to differentiate themselves with a display of personality. That’s much harder for a large firm limited by a bureaucracy, corporate branding guidelines, or other constraints.

All of this makes it increasingly likely that you’ll need to blog at some point in your career.

Reason 4: It’s fun and helps you think better

Blogging can be fun. Writing helps you to develop your ideas. It’s satisfying when a glimmer of an idea turns into a complete post. Even better is when your posts help—and spur comments from—your readers.

Start now!

You can start blogging today. It’s easy to set up your own blog using free software from WordPress.com or other providers. You can also contact other people’s blogs for guest-posting opportunities. I’ve blogged about how to find opportunities in “How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments—Part I Your approach” and “Part II Blogs that accept guest posts from financial advisors.”

Check out my five-week financial blogging class if you’d like to learn more about writing blog posts.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Financial Blogging class registration ends Feb. 24, 2017.

 

5 ways blog posts are like tulips

I love tulips. But for years I didn’t grow any because my backyard squirrels dug them up and ate them. I finally figured out that my front yard was a safe place for tulips, so I planted some.

As a result, when a writing exercise suggested thinking about red tulips, I was interested. The red tulip exercise yielded this post.

Here are five ways blog posts are like tulips.

1. Their starting points may be ugly

A tulip bulb isn’t pretty. Your blog post may start with a poorly shaped idea. With either one, if you plant and nourish it, it may grow into something beautiful.

2. Symmetry is powerful

A tulip has symmetry, with equal-sized petals around a center. This structure can work for blog posts, too. For example, it works in list posts like this, where each numbered item is like a petal of roughly similar size.

3. Everything comes back to the center

As a tulip’s petals connect to its stem, a blog post’s paragraphs connect to a central theme. There’s power in this connection.

Also, the petals overlaps slightly, forming a connection. That’s similar to how transition sentences link paragraphs.

4. Large collections are powerful

Have you seen photos of vast tulip fields in the Netherlands? They’re stunning, especially because they form single-color blocks. Folks can see them from far away.

Similarly, when you create a large body of blog posts with a narrow focus, they boost your visibility. You’ll appear prominently in search results. Also, the depth of your work will boost your credibility when people visit your blog.

5. They can be overrated

Have you read about the seventeenth century tulip mania, when a tulip could cost as much as a house?

Blog posts can be overvalued, too, though I doubt the mismatch will ever reach manic levels. A blog is not the solution to all of your marketing or communication problems. Your strategy must integrate other elements, too.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy “Financial blogging lessons from my spinning class.”

Image courtesy of  panuruangjan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Financial Blogging class registration ends Feb. 24, 2017.

Controversial topic spurs LinkedIn discussion

One of my LinkedIn Pulse posts on a controversial topic received 34 comments in less than two days. It also received 33 likes and more than 200 views in that period. That floored me.

The comment-spurring post was “Periods: One space or two at the end of a sentence?” It’s a topic that spurs strong feelings in people, especially if their teachers or editors have emphasized that there’s only one correct answer.

What can you learn from my controversial topic experience?

You may assume that my post generated comments because it was controversial. In “13 Types of Posts that Always Get Lots of Comments,” ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse lists “Debate or controversy posts” as one of his 13 post types. “Put two or more opposing arguments to your readers and step back to see what happens,” says Rowse.

I think it’s more than that. I think part of my post’s success was due to my choice of a controversial topic that is also safe. Punctuation isn’t a sensitive topic in the same way as politics or religion. Readers can disagree on punctuation without others thinking “Oh, how horrible that person is for opposing my opinion!” I doubt that clashes over punctuation have ended any friendships or turned off potential clients.

Another strength of my post was that it posed a question, inviting comments. Moreover, it was an easy question—one space or two?—that could be answered briefly. Rowse’s article listed question posts among the types mostly likely to spur an above-average number of comments. He said, “Ask a question and those who hear it are wired to answer it. I find when I include a question in the title of my posts that comment numbers tend to be at least double normal posts.”

My post wasn’t one of my more in-depth or insightful posts, much as it hurts me to say this. Sometimes being safely controversial and asking an easy-to-answer question can override the quality of your work. On the other hand, I am relieved to report that some of my more thoughtful posts have also spurred comments. In his article, Rowse listed “meaty posts” as good candidates to spur comments.

What’s YOUR experience with comments on LinkedIn Pulse?

To get a sense of whether controversial topics—especially those that are safe and pose a question—work best at spurring discussion on LinkedIn Pulse, I invite you to share the name of your most commented-upon LinkedIn Pulse article in the comments, along with a link to your post.

If you’d like to learn more about my experience with LinkedIn Pulse, read “My experiment blogging on LinkedIn.”

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How to be a great guest blogger

Providing guest posts for other people’s blogs is a great way to raise your visibility. I’ve discussed how to snare these opportunities in “How to guest-blog on personal finance and investments, Part I: Your approach” and “Part II: Blogs that accept guest posts from financial advisors.” However, your responsibilities don’t end once you’ve sold the host blogger on your idea. There are more steps you can take to deepen your relationship with your host and her or his readers. Become a great guest blogger and get results!

1. Provide your post as promised—the first rule for a great guest blogger

If you’ve promised to submit a 400-word post on emerging market debt by the first of the month, do it. Your host may be counting on you to fill a hole in the blog’s editorial calendar. Don’t disappoint him or her by flaking out or writing on an unrelated topic.

2. Proofread your work

Take more care than usual in proofreading your draft before you submit. Sloppy errors undermine your credibility. Your hosts—and their readers—may wonder if you manage your clients’ investments as carelessly as you treat your words.

You can find proofreading tips in

3. Follow through on host requests

Provide whatever additional materials your host requests. For example, I ask my guests for a headshot photo and a one-to two sentence bio. Your host may ask you to edit or clarify something in your draft. Go along with those requests, assuming they’re reasonable.

4. Keep your requests reasonable

It’s reasonable to expect at least one link to a web page or social media profile of your choice in your bio. After all, readers should learn how to find you.

Don’t go overboard by inserting a gazillion links or overtly promotional text in your guest post. You can get a sense of what’s reasonable by looking at earlier guest posts on your host’s blog. Some blogs are more tolerant than others.

5. Help the host with PR

Your host will appreciate it if you spread the word about your guest post via social media. If you’re on Twitter, earn extra points by including your host’s Twitter name in your tweet. For example, “TITLE is my guest post on @susanweiner‘s blog: URL.”

6. Respond to reader comments on your guest post

Engaging with your guest blog’s readers will deepen your relationship and increase the odds that they’ll visit your website or blog. It’s important to respond to reader comments.

Of course, you can’t respond to comments if you don’t know about them. A good host will send you a message after the first comment. Typically, when you post your reply, you can subscribe to be notified of additional comments.

If you don’t want to rely on your host for an initial notification, you can leave a “thank you” comment on your guest post. It could be something simple like “Thank you, NAME, for this guest-blogging opportunity. I’ll be happy to respond to any comments or questions from your readers.”

7. Reciprocate

If your blog offers a good audience for your host, it’s nice to offer her or him a guest slot on your blog. Of course, that assumes his or her expertise is relevant to your audience.

Other tips?

Did I miss any tips for how to be a great guest blogger? I’m always open to your suggestions.

 

Note: This post has been updated since it originally appeared on a blog hosted by Tony Vidler.

Clapping people image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Financial Blogging class

8 ways to find guest bloggers for your financial blog

Sometimes it’s good to invite a guest to share the spotlight on your blog. Guest bloggers help you

  • Meet new readers when your guests’ followers visit your blog
  • Deepen your relationships with your guests who’ll feel grateful for the exposure, especially if you promote their guest posts on social media and elsewhere (I include my guests’ posts in my monthly e-newsletter)
  • Learn something new
  • Enjoy a break from your writing duties as you save time—loading a guest post takes less time than writing one

Where can you find guest bloggers? Start with experts whom you know and read.

1. Colleagues and referral sources can become guest bloggers

If you’re a financial planner or money manager, you probably have colleagues to whom you refer clients for tax preparation, estate planning, and other needs. When these folks appear on your blog, you’re introducing them to your clients and burnishing their credibility. Your clients will feel as if they know these professionals by the time you introduce them in a meeting.

A guest post is also a nice way to attract and thank a source of good referrals. You can offer a slot on your blog even if you’re not yet able to reciprocate with referrals. This shows that you value the relationship.

2. Bloggers whom you read

Have a favorite blogger who writes about a topic that interests your readers? You can propose a guest post on your blog. If the bloggers are complete strangers, introduce yourself briefly. They’ll probably want to know about your blog’s readership so they can assess the usefulness of a guest appearance. Speaking of readership, guest bloggers with strong followings can help attract new readers to your blog.

3. Non-competing experts in your field

Let’s say you’re a wealth manager who works exclusively with orthopedic surgeons in New England. If you like the expertise and blogging style of a wealth manager who focuses on Californian orthopedic surgeons, you’ve got nothing to lose by trading posts with that manager. In fact, you could gain a lot by taking advantage of that manager’s expertise for your clients.

4. Authors with new books

A blog like mine typically can’t snare a guest post by a renowned academic such as Meir Statman. However, my blog became one of the first stops on his virtual book tour for What Investors Really Want. “Guest post: ‘Client fears and financial advisor services’ “was the result. Check with publishers if you learn of a new book coming from a relevant author.

5. Forums and other discussions

I’ve found some of my guest bloggers through online forums. For example, “Do longer articles really get shared more often?” by Angelique Geehan originated with a comment she left on one of my posts on the Investment Writing Facebook page. Mridu Khullar Relph’s “Don’t make it hard for people to comment on your blog” started with a discussion on a private forum for writers. I found Ted Jenkin, who wrote “Peter Lynch Went Grocery Shopping With Me At Whole Foods The Other Day,” at a cocktail party during a conference held by the Financial Planning Association. I found other guest bloggers through their comments on my blog or social media.

6. Look for answers to your questions—or your readers’ questions

Do your readers have a nagging question? Ask an expert to answer it on your blog. That’s how I landed designer David Williams’ post about making your white papers visually appealing.

7. Ask around

Let people know that you’re seeking guest bloggers. You can ask online via social media, private forums, and other places. You can also ask offline, mentioning your needs in your presentations or face-to-face meetings.

8. Keep your eyes open!

If you’re always looking for guest bloggers, I bet you’ll find them in unexpected places. Perhaps you’ve already done so.

Don’t rely on guest post submission guidelines

In my experience, guest post submission guidelines don’t keep away low-quality guest post requests. Spammers ignore them when they’re looking solely for an SEO (search engine optimization) boost from the links embedded in their guest posts on your blog.

I share my guest post submission guidelines as a courtesy to my guests offering high-quality posts. Guidelines make it easy for them to understand what I expect of them.

Please share YOUR tips for finding guest bloggers. I always enjoy hearing from you.

 

 

Note: This post originally appeared on the Wealth Management Marketing blog, which no longer exists.

Infographic: 5 Ways to Add Personality to Your Financial Writing

Want your financial writing to stand out? Use the tips in my infographic, “5 Ways to Add Personality to Your Financial Writing.” For more details on adding personality and warmth to your writing, read parts one and two of my two-part blog post.

For real-life practice in adding personality to your financial writing, sign up for my next financial blogging class or hire me to coach you.

Infographic 5 ways to add personality to your financial writiing

Top posts from the second quarter of 2016

Check out my top posts from the last quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on investment commentary (#1, 2, 4), white papers (#5), writing (#8), blogging (#6), marketing (#3, 7), social media (#9), and email (#10).

  1. Who are the fixed-income commentary winners–and why?—I’d like to send a big “thank you” to all of the savvy fixed-income and other investment professionals who answered my survey
  2. Fonts: By the numbers—a guest contribution by @JoyceWalsh13 
  3. Who’s writing the great investment content?
  4. 5 rules for using quotes in investment commentary—a guest contribution by @RobertMartorana
  5. Financial white paper writers who say “yes”
  6. Naming your financial blog–Is it necessary?
  7. Stop saying “Click here”!
  8. Style guidelines for financial services firms
  9. I’m no extrovert, but I play one on social media and so can you—if you’re an introvert, this may resonate with you
  10. Email and the mystery of the missing agreement