Discuss your mistakes like Warren Buffett

It’s not a sign of weakness to discuss your mistakes. At least, it’s not if you discuss your mistakes like Warren Buffett.

Benefit of discussing your mistakes

“Berkshire investors gain confidence because Buffett doesn’t gloss over his mistakes,” writes L.J. Rittenhouse, in Buffett’s Bites: The Essential Investor’s Guide to Warren Buffett’s Shareholder Letters. She shares several examples of mistakes that Warren Buffett has discussed in Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder letters.

“These public postmortems may not reduce the number of his mistakes—he is human—but he is less likely to repeat them,” says Rittenhouse.

How to discuss your mistakes

Buffett is a big fan of using plain language in writing about financial topics. He speaks plainly about his mistakes. Referring to Dexter Shoe Company, he wrote, as quoted by Rittenhouse,”To date, Dexter is the worst deal that I’ve made. But I’ll make more mistakes in the future—you can bet on that.” You can’t get plainer than that.

Buffett uses some humor in discussing his mistakes. For example, says Rittenhouse, “He described his biggest all-time blunder in his 2007 letter in a reference to a Bobby Bare country western lyric about going to bed with good-looking women and waking up to find they are ugly.” I think that putting down women’s appearance risks offending today’s readers. However, the use of analogy is a powerful technique.

It’s safer to poke fun at oneself. Buffett described his failure to do a big deal, saying, “The only explanation is that my brain had gone on vacation and forgotten to notify me.”

Try discussing mistakes in your performance reviews

I’ve discussed the importance of discussing mistakes in “Four lessons from Wasatch Funds on reporting underperformance.” By explaining what went wrong, you give your clients and prospects more confidence in how you’ll manage things in the future. After all, if you can’t recognize your mistakes, how can you fix them. Try it!


Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I provide links to books only when I believe they have value for my readers.

Name your photos effectively for publication

Do you want your name to appear on someone else’s photo—the wrong photo—the next time you’re mentioned in a publication? If so, simply use an automatically-generated file name, such as IMG1313. Such an uninformative file name raises the odds that your photo won’t be matched to right name in the publication.

However, most people want their name to appear on their photo—not someone else’s photo. That’s why you should put your name in the file name.

I thought about this recently when I received two headshot photos with uninformative names. My first move after downloading the photos? I changed the files to name the person in the photo.

Identifying the subject in your photo file name is especially important when you send the photos to someone who doesn’t know what you look like. But you’re not safe even if the recipient knows you. Why? Because that person may forward your photo to someone else to publish in a magazine or on a website. That other person can easily confuse your photo file with another poorly named photo file.

The professional photographer of my headshot photos named them “Susan Weiner for print” and “Susan Weiner for web.” That makes it easy for me to pull the right photo for the right purpose.

Name your photos clearly. It’ll make your life easier.

Quit sending irrelevant press releases!

As the editor of a monthly magazine, I receive many irrelevant press releases. All that those press releases achieve is to annoy the heck out of me. Your lesson from this? Quit sending irrelevant press releases.

Learn what topics are relevant

How do you learn what’s relevant?

Of course, the fastest solution may be to phone the magazine to ask, but you can do less-personal research. First, look at a sample or two of the magazine to figure out if it covers topics relevant to your organization.

If flipping the magazine’s pages doesn’t answer that question, look for the magazine’s information aimed at advertisers, which may be called a media kit. These materials often list the topics covered by the magazine. Plus, they typically describe the magazine’s readership giving you an idea of whether those readers are an attractive target for you.

Figure out if the magazine has a place to use your information

Your next hurdle is to figure out if the magazine might do something with your press release. Just because your topic is relevant to the magazine doesn’t mean the magazine can use it.

Earlier in my career, I worked for a publication with a column that ran snippets from press releases about new products and the like. There was also a press release-fueled column about new hires and promotions. If you find a similar column in your target population, add it to your press release list. If you don’t find a column that relies on press releases as fodder, look at the magazine’s articles. Are they written by professional writers who interview sources like you? Then the magazine may be an appropriate target.

In my current role, I don’t have similar columns, except for a column that highlights media mentions for members only. Also, the magazine relies on articles written by financial services experts, so I’m not going to interview your experts for an article. I’m a bit cranky about the many press releases I receive because there’s virtually no press release or interview pitch that’s appropriate for me.

The organization that I work for has filters to screen out press releases. If your press release sneaks through, I set up a rule to direct your future emails into a PR folder, never to be seen again.

A realist’s perspective on irrelevant press releases

I’m a realist. I figure you’re probably going to continue sending press releases. However, realize your releases may get ignored, or even marked as spam. But, occasionally, you may get a good results that makes it all seem worthwhile.


For another one of my cranky posts about press releases, read “Quit sending press releases as attachments!

Financial PR opportunities for professionals–and they’re free

Everybody likes to get something for free. That includes free financial PR opportunities suitable for financial advisors and other financial professionals.

Your first stop in looking for free PR should be the professional associations that you belong to. Back when I reported for trade publications, I relied heavily on those associations to find me experts for interviews. I sent them the my topic, publication, deadline, and contact information. They shared my info with their members or suggested individual experts to me.

The flip side of the help that I received? These associations’ members received leads at no cost to them. Contact your association to see how it can help you with financial PR opportunities.

Today there are a number of services, such as ProfNet and HARO, which provide PR leads to broader audiences via email. I believe you must pay a fee to receive leads from ProfNet, while HARO leads are free only for an unfiltered flow of leads.

VestedIQ for financial PR opportunities and more

Recently I discovered VestedIQ as an e-newsletter source of free PR opportunities for financial professionals. As I drafted this post, the most recent issue of “Weekly Expert Source Requests” included press requests from CreditCards.com, Magnify Money, The Street, European Pensions, and Global Risk Regulator. You can sign up for this weekly email (and the other emails listed below) through VestedIQ’s contact form (or emailing iq@fullyvested.com)—and naming the newsletter you’d like to receive.

Of course, reporters are always in a hurry, so you have a better chance of making it into an article if you’re among the first to reply. You can sign up for real-time alerts from VestedIQ.

VestedIQ also has a “Weekly Opportunities” email that includes, but goes beyond, financial expert source requests. It also lists financial marketing opportunities, special reports, events, and award submission deadlines. A friend of mine found an exciting job opportunity in one of these emails.

VestedIQ is a financial database for PR, marketing and advertising opportunities. They want you to sign up for more than their freebies. I don’t know anything about their paid services, but the freebies are worth checking out.

What financial PR opportunities do YOU value?

I’m curious to learn how you find your best financial PR opportunities. If you’ve been speaking to the media for years, and you work with a financial PR agency, you may not need to work hard. But not everyone is so fortunate. Do you have advice for your peers?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Early Bird pricing ends Jan. 31

Quit sending press releases as attachments!

Is your goal to get your press releases deleted from the recipients’ email inboxes as quickly as possible? Then continue sending press releases as attachments to your emails. Oh, and here’s another helpful tip: don’t hint at the content of your press release in the body of your email. The body of your email should consist simply of “Here’s your press release for this week.”

If you think my first paragraph is sarcastic, you are right. I do not recommend sending press releases as attachments.

Why sending press releases as attachments is wrong

It is annoying to receive press release emails—indeed, any email—that refer you to an attachment for a reason to learn about the sender’s news. When you send press releases only as attachments, you’re making me 1) take an extra step to find the information I need and 2) expose myself to the risk of viruses in the attachment.

My attention span, like that of most email readers, isn’t very long. “Our initial data indicate that, on average, readers are spending 15-20 seconds on each email they open,” said Loren McDonald, EmailLabs VP Marketing in “Alarming Research Results: Average Email Open Time is 15-20 Seconds — Recommendations for Emailers.” That article appeared on MarketingSherpa back in 2005. I imagine that readers’ attention spans have only shrunk since then.

Improve the odds of my reading your press release

If I must click to open your press release sent as an attachment, you’re demanding too much of my time. At a minimum, you should insert some teaser copy in your email that gives me an incentive to click.

However, even better would be to drop the body of your press release into the body of your email.

Concerned that you’ll lose valuable formatting by dropping your text into email? Then use newsletter software such as MailChimp or Constant Contact to increase your control over the appearance of your release.

Asking reporters to send questions in advance

Working with reporters is easier and more productive when you understand how they work. You can ask reporters to send you questions before an interview. However, please don’t insist they do so, unless you want to sacrifice your opportunities.

Many reporters refuse to send questions in advance. They fear it’ll destroy your spontaneity. Plus, they don’t want to limit the scope of their interviews to those questions. This works to your advantage when they dig deeper into interesting points that you raise during your conversation.

If a reporter declines to provide questions in advance, you can still ask them to expand briefly on the scope of an interview request before you agree to speak.

After all, a topic of “401(k) plans” is too broad to allow you to do any preparation, or even to assess whether you’re a good fit for the reporter’s topic. If you’re an expert on, say, using your 401(k) for real estate investment, it’s fair to ask if that’s on the reporter’s agenda. You might also ask, “Are there statistics or background information that I can find for you?”



Note: This post was updated in December 2022 and was originally published in 2014.

Guest post: “Articles You Publish in Financial Trade Publications Will Impress Prospects”

PR expert Beth Chapman has years of experience helping financial advisors. Plus, she’s a longtime friend and one of my first guest bloggers. It’s a pleasure to welcome her back to my blog in response to a comment by one of my Facebook followers.

Articles You Publish in Financial Trade Publications Will Impress Prospects:

You can post them on web sites and include them in prospecting kits

By Lisbeth Wiley Chapman

Contacting trade publications with good story ideas can be a straight path to great clips that enhance your reputation and increase good referrals.

Yes, trade publications speak to your competitors.  Understood.  Stay open to the idea that the result of contributing an article to a trade publication gives you a better opportunity to impress clients, prospects and your centers of influence than a one-paragraph quote in a national publication, as ego-boosting as that can be.

Many advisors are disappointed when rebuffed by their local newspapers.  The usual explanation for not taking original material is that they would have to do it for all your competitors.  This has some truth to it, as the local newspapers need the advertising of you and your competitors.  Also, local papers use syndicated columnists regularly.  It is far better use of your time to contact syndicated columnists, whose work appears in your local newspapers, and convince them to use you as a source on a story idea you are providing.

Contribute an Article and Bask in the Glow

There are numbers of trade publications that want your input

You will find many articles in your financial trade publications, both print and online, that have been written by a peer or colleague.  The publications themselves are always looking for the thoughts of those people in the field who are dealing with the issues of financial planning every day.

Editors are particularly interested if you are doing something differently and it is working. Some topics that have appeared recently in the trade pubs that were authored by advisors, have included the following:

·  How to manage ethics training for the entire firm.

·  The financial issues faced by senior couples who choose to marry

·  The hidden fees in group annuity/401(k) plans.

In each case, the advisor, after receiving proper reprint permission, was able to use this information by posting it on their web site, sending it via an e-mail campaign, printing it and including it in prospecting kits, and using it as a handout at a seminar.

The challenge, of course, is to find a topic that the publications have identified as important to their readers.  Your persuasive cover e-mail to the editor will specifically state why this issue is of interest to their readers and why you are an expert on this issue.

In addition to the financial advisory trades, don’t forget that all of your best clients have earned their wealth in an industry or profession.  If you have a wealthy contractor, search for publications that speak to other contractors.  If you have a large percentage of doctors, look for publications that are read by the doctors in multiple-physician practices who need help with employee benefits, 401(k) plans, and insurance.

Articles in Prospecting Packages Create Trust

Articles that you have written get attention from prospects

Think about handing a prospect a marketing package that has numerous articles that you have written.  Prospects are not likely to notice that the article has appeared in a financial trade such as Investment Advisor.  What they notice is that not only were you smart enough to write it, but you also were perceived as expert by the publication, or they would not have published it.

You are aware that most clients will now stealthily cruise through your web site before talking with you.  A web site that has your authored articles posted or linked back to the publication adds an extra amount of shine to your reputation.  You are using the third-party credibility that comes when a publication deems you to be an expert.

Your clients want to trust you.  They want to be able to turn to you for advice, but first they have to be convinced.  There is no better way than offering your prospects articles you have written.  They go a long way in convincing a prospect to trust you.

Use Your Articles as Requests for Referral

Send your clients, your prospects and those professionals who are positioned to send you referrals copies of the articles you have had published.

A cover letter can go something like the following:

Dear Client:  Recently, I was quoted in (name of publication), a publication that goes to XXX,XXX financial professionals, on the topic of (give the title of the article and explain its premise.  If it is an online publication, give them the topic title and the entire URL.  Consider sending this by e-mail so accessing the article is just one click.)

You have already made the decision that working with a financial advisor is important to you by becoming a client of this firm.  Please pass the attached copy of the article to your friends who may be struggling with the difficult decision about whom to trust with their financial affairs.    If you need additional copies, please call our the office (phone number.) We would be happy to speak with your friends and colleagues about any financial issues, whether a single pressing question, or a need for comprehensive financial planning.

Thank you for your business and enjoy the article.

Requesting referrals and at the same time offering important information that educates your clients as well as their friends who may become clients, is an important strategy for your firm.

How NOT to toot your horn about your investment publications

Getting financial media recognition for your investment research enhances your credibility. It may even help you win new asset management clients and keep the old ones. However, I suggest you take the time to make your announcement about media coverage compelling, rather than boring.

To help you understand the difference, I’ve written a article closely modeled on a real article. This is the “before” version. Then, I tweak it in the “after” version.

Before Susan’s editing: So what?
We published a XXX Investment Company Report on Diversification, which you can read here.  This research was the topic of an Investment Professional article, “Diversification for the Ages,”  and was featured in Investment Manager Journal magazine article, “Hotshot’s Groundbreaking Diversification.”

After Susan’s editing: How this helps you
Did the 2008-2009 market decline make you worry about whether portfolio diversification is as effective as your business school professors told you? It can be effective. You’ll learn how we’ve boosted the power of diversification in our latest XXX Investment Company Report. We’re proud that our research is interesting enough that it has been featured in “Diversification for the Ages” in Investment Professional and “Hotshot’s Groundbreaking Diversification” in Investment Manager Journal.

What’s the difference?
The first version is heavy on “we.” The message seems to be “We are great. You should be impressed.”

The second version addresses readers’ concerns. It tells them what benefit they’ll get from reading the XXX Investment Company Report. They’ll learn that their worries about diversification may be misplaced because of the new approach developed by XXX Investment Company.

The bottom line for asset managers? Whatever you write, take the time to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Appeal to their self-interest first. Put horn tooting last.

Related posts

NOTE: I updated this article in Jan. 2017.


Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Guest post: “Adding Video into the Communications Mix”

Video makes a great complement to your written financial communications. This is the message I took away from the guest video post below by Samantha Allen of Investius.

Until I watched Samantha’s video, it hadn’t occurred to me that video’s short format can attract readers, so they’re willing to read publications that go into greater depth on the same topic. I’d been thinking of video as a competing format that appeals to people who prefer visual learning.

Thanks, Samantha!

Use a tip sheet to get PR for your financial business

Tip Sheets: One of the Most Effective Publicity Tools You’ve Never Heard Of” tells you how to use this PR tool to get exposure for your business. A tip sheet is a list of tips on how to do something.

I like that the author quotes PR maven Sandy Beckwith, who taught me almost everything I know about tip sheets. You can go to Sandy’s website to read more detailed instructions on how to write a tip sheet.

If you’ve got old tip sheets, you can update and reissue them. That’s a tip I got from one of Roger C. Parker’s Published & Profitable teleseminars.