Tag Archive for: blogging

Finding easy-to-follow formulas for your blog posts

WSJ formual“Are there writing formulas I can follow?” This question from one of my blogging class students popped into my head as I read a Wall Street Journal article.

Find formulas in newspapers

If you’re an analytical, formula-loving blogger, then turn your eyes to The Wall Street Journal or another newspaper. You’ll find great models there. I especially like newspapers as models because their articles are short and typically get to the point right away. This is perfect for financial blog posts.

Formula: Summary + examples + explanation

“U.S. Profit Streak Hit by Global Weakness” on the Wall Street Journal‘s front page on July 30, 2012, suggested a formula to me. Start your article with a short summary statement. Follow it with short examples. Then dive into explanation.

Here’s how it looks in the article.

Intro: Bid adieu to growing profits.

Short examples: Slowing economies from the U.S. to China, increasingly wary shoppers, recession in much of Europe and a stronger dollar…

Explanation: Until Friday, the outlook had been for further growth in earnings. But forecasts are now turning negative…

Does this formula work for you?

If you use this formula, I’d like to see examples of your work. Please post them below.

By the way, if you like this post, you might also like “Make your writing easier with my fill-in-the-blanks approach for structuring articles.”

Escape your fears: A writing topic for financial advisors

“That guy looks like he wants to escape,” I yelled to my husband. I was joking about the stuffed animal trying to climb over fencestuffed animal climbing up the fence along the Ashuwillticook bicycle trail. However, the sight made me think about how appealing escape is for most people.

You can offer escape in your blog posts. To pick your topic, just fill in the blank for what you can help readers escape. It could be escape from debt, stock market volatility, or anything else that worries your readers.

Put “escape” in your title so it’s clear what you’re offering.

What kind of escape do you offer?

Please share a link to your financial blog post exploring this theme.

For cyclists who escape to western Massachusetts

If you ever get a chance to bicycle in the Berkshire Hills, I recommend the bicycling the Ashuwillticook trailAshuwillticook Rail Trail from Adams to Cheshire where I saw the “escapee” of this blog post. This pleasant trail runs along water most of the way. You may hear spring peeper frogs as my husband and I did. The Daily Grind in Adams makes a good reuben sandwich.

Photo + Mind Map = Blog Inspiration

It’s not easy generating ideas for a steady flow of blog posts about financial planning, investments, or related topics. When your well runs dry, consider looking through your old photos for inspiration. This blog post was inspired by stumbling on a Barbie on a Rhode Island beach this summer.

Step 1: Pick a photo

Choose a photo to spark your brainstorming. I suggest choosing one that has no obvious connection to your blog’s topic. No dollar bills, piggy banks, or smiling retirees. This will free your mind to go in any direction.

There is no obvious connection between Barbie and writing. At least none that I can think of.

Step 2: Jot down any thoughts that come to mind

Look at your photo. Write down any thoughts that occur to you.

Some of you may come up with fully formed topics. If that’s not true for you, then organize your thoughts into a mind map in the next step.

Step 3: Draw a mind map

Draw a mind map with your photo at the center. As branches, draw potential blog post topics.

I drew the mind map below on the Green Hills Beach in Rhode Island’s South County region. If you find my handwritten map hard to read, look farther down for the same map, recreated using Mindomo.

As you can see, the Barbie on the beach sent my mind in many directions.

mind map

Mind map

Mind map

Barbie mind map created using Mindomo

Your mind map will look different, reflecting your interests and inclinations.

Step 4: Write your blog post

Your next step? Pick the topic that most appeals to you and start writing!

If this idea sparks a new blog post, please link to it below. Some vacation photos inspired one of my most popular blog posts: “Writing tip: Pop the balloon or make it your focus.”

How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing–Part one

Independent financial advisors find personality is a powerful marketing tool. It’s one thing that’s unique to you. However, it is not always easy to infuse your writing with personality.

In this two-part post, I address five tools you can use to address a personality gap in your writing, starting with personal stories.

1. Personal stories

Telling personal stories is an obvious way to give a flavor of your identity. It’s simplest if you’re an advisor who has grappled with many of the same financial issues as your clients. For example, you may have struggled with how much allowance to give your children. A story about how you reached your decision–or how you communicated it to your children–is a great kernel for a blog post, if you’re comfortable sharing.

Your personal story need not be directly related to a financial decision. I like how Jude Boudreaux of Upperline Financial writes about life lessons learned from his baby in “Baby Steps Aren’t Just for Babies.” Even non-parents like me can relate to a baby learning to walk. Jude takes pains to translate his little girl’s first steps into lessons for you, the reader, rather than focusing solely on himself and his family. He concludes by asking, “What baby steps can you take today to continue your growth as a person?”

Looking for inspiration?

Here are more examples of financial planners who share personal stories:

Still stumped? Father’s Day is coming up on June 17. Consider writing a post about “Lessons I learned from my father.” Be sure to include the implications for your readers. Give them a reason to care. If you write a Father’s Day post, please post a link in the Comments section. Thank you!

 

For more on this topic, please read the second part of this article.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

5 Things to Stop Doing in 2016

To improve your communications in 2016, I propose five things you should stop doing. If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, consider some of the items on my list to improve your relationships with clients, prospects, and referral sources.

1. Sending emails with missing or poorly written subject lines

For starters, never send an email with an empty subject line. People like me often delete those emails, assuming they’re spam. Another subject line “don’t”: keeping the same subject line even after the topic has changed.

If you’re writing to request an action, put that action in your subject line.

If your email is simply an FYI, say that in your subject line.

Whatever the purpose of your email, communicate that in your subject line.

For more on emails, see “Top four email mistakes to avoid when you’ve got a referral” and “4 reasons your emails don’t get results.”

2. Publishing or sending any written communication without proofreading at least once.

Example of typo that I'd like to eliminate as part of my New Year's resolutions

Sigh. I missed this typo.

Mistakes, especially stupid mistakes, make people wonder about your intelligence and attention to details.

Even writer geeks make mistakes. I am the poster child for that. I was so excited about finding a Strunk and White grammar rap video, that I posted it to my blog without proofreading my post. Oops! An obvious typo sneaked in.

3. Not blogging because you think your writing isn’t good enough

If you have a valid reason to blog, you can find a way to make it work. Keep your blog posts short. Use audio or video, if you’re more comfortable in those media. You can improve your blog post writing skills with my financial blogging class.

4. Avoiding social media

Social media isn’t going away. Dip your toes in the water. Get on LinkedIn and connect with as many people as possible, even if your Compliance Department limits your activity. You may be surprised by what you discover. Already on LinkedIn? Check out Twitter. Here’s how I built my Twitter following, which currently consists of more than 11,000 followers.

5. Ignoring your most common writing mistakes

You have lots of company if you’re making “Bloggers’ top two punctuation mistakes.” If you’ve moved beyond those mistakes, you may benefit from my favorite online resources for grammar, punctuation, and word usage help.

Thank you, Dorie Clark for inspiring this post!

Clark’s “5 Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012” is a good read. What are your New Year’s resolutions related to writing and communications?

This blog post was edited on June 11, 2012 to correct a typo and in Dec. 2015 to update the post, which was originally published in 2012, for 2016.
Image courtesy of Prakairoj/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Guest post: “Do Questions Make Good Titles?”

Do Questions Make Good Titles?

By Ady Dewey

In finance-related writing, it seems that titles posing questions are popular. Scan the news, or bloggers’ posts, on any given day and you’ll find queries as headlines.

Is it an effective approach? It depends on the question. In my opinion, literal questions can be more successful than rhetorical ones. This is especially true if the article succinctly answers the question. Your question tells your audience exactly what will be covered, much like how a frequently asked question (FAQ) is formatted. It may draw readers who have that question in mind.

Questions that are rhetorical can mask the subject or be perceived as cynical. When the article does not address what readers expect, they may leave your page—or click to continue searching.

A question also needs to end in a question mark. However, if you are a writing a movie script, you may wish to reconsider this approach entirely as there’s a superstitious belief that films with a question mark in the title do poorly at the box office. This is why the punctuation is missing from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

So unless you’re writing a financial box-office hit, use questions for titles. They can be an effective hook to assure hits, generate interest, and draw in readers.

And there’s another use of questions as titles: ask yourself the question before you even begin to write. It can help you keep your prose or analysis succinct and focused on your audience’s needs.

 

Ady Dewey writes the blog PensionDialog covering issues in public pensions and retirement security. She is also an associate professor at the University of Maryland University College teaching communications.

How a blogging buddy can help your financial planning or investment blog

Inseparable: 2 cats

photo: ljcybergal

Accountability works. You’re probably familiar with the benefits of the accountability imposed by a financial plan or investment policy statement. So, here are suggestions for how to make a blogging buddy work for you – and for your buddy, too. This is an idea I’ve discussed in “Blogging buddies: Financial bloggers’ secret weapons.” I see three potential areas of focus for blogging buddies:

  1. Deadlines
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Feedback

Deadlines

Sometimes simply telling someone else that you’ll post to your blog at regular intervals–for example, every other Tuesday–can make a difference. Scheduling a celebratory email saying “I did it!” can reinforce positive behavior. On the other hand, your buddy’s friendly “Where is it?” may stop you from getting too far behind.

Brainstorming

Every blogger feels stuck sometimes. Perhaps you can’t think of a topic for next week’s post. Or maybe you’re struggling with how to explain a complex topic.

Having a friendly person to act as your sounding board can help you break through. I suggest you identify your biggest challenge and talk it through with your buddy. That may inspire you with new ideas. Plus, your buddy can add her or his thoughts.

Feedback

It’s hard for writers to look objectively at their own drafts. Third-party feedback is valuable.

Here are some questions to help you give and solicit good feedback:

  1. What did you like about this blog post?
  2. What’s your sense of the audience this will appeal to and why it will appeal?
  3. Is there anything confusing or difficult in this draft?
  4. Is the vocabulary appropriate for my audience?
  5. Did you notice any typos or other mistakes?
  6. Does this make you think of other topics for future blog posts?

You can customize your question list based on your needs.

Has a blogging buddy worked for you?

If you’ve experimented with a blogging buddy, I’m curious to hear about your experience. Please share.

I have a goals buddy instead of a blogging buddy. Her perspective and support have helped me conquer many challenges. She is a writer in a noncompeting field. I hope you also find a great buddy.

 

InvestmentWriting.com is one of “7 Financial Advisory Blogs that Rock”

What a delight! The Investment Writing blog has been named one of “7 Financial Advisory Blogs that Rock” on the ClientWise blog.

My blog was singled out for its “mission to bring clarity to the sometimes arcane and confusing world of financial writing, especially when done by financial advisors, investment advisors and wealth managers.”

More financial blogs that rock

I’m honored to be in the company of outstanding bloggers named by this ClientWise post. They include

What YOU can share with another winning blogger

One of the seven bloggers who rock has taken my blogging class tailored to financial advisors. You can, too. But you’d better act soon. The class starts May 16. I don’t plan to offer it again until 2013. Plus, I plan to raise the price significantly next time.

Register now for “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A 5-Lesson Writing Class for Financial Advisors.

Woody Allen’s wisdom for successful financial bloggers

You’ve probably seen financial blogs that start strong, then disappear. They fail to achieve the investment or wealth management professional’s goal of connecting with clients, prospects, and referral sources.

As Woody Allen is reported to have said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Blog regularly and you’re bound to see results over the long run. Be patient.

Having trouble sticking to a schedule? You’ll find helpful tips on this blog. Here are some to get you started:

 

Note: This blog post was edited on June 10, 2012, when I corrected a mistake in the Woody Allen quote and then again on October 22, 2012, when I learned that he may not have said this after all. Later, I edited this post to add more related posts.

Image by Colin Swan CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons