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Financial content: Ask questions of your readers

Coming up with financial content can be challenging. Where do you get the information to put in whatever you write? Questions are a great source of information for investment and wealth managers’ tweets, blog posts, articles, and even white papers. I recommend that you keep a paper or electronic notepad handy to record questions asked by your clients.financial writing content

However, sometimes you need a fresh source of inspiration, opinions, and information. It’s time to turn the tables. Ask questions to generate financial content.

1. Ask questions that people can answer with one word

A webinar presenter—I think it was social media strategist Amy Porterfield—suggested boosting Facebook engagement by posing questions that ask for a one-word answer. Because you request little from your audience, it’s easy for them to respond.

Inspired by this idea, I asked on Facebook and in LinkedIn groups for my readers to share one word that defined ideal investment commentary. The volume of replies astonished me. At one point my question was the “Manager’s Choice” on the CFA Institute’s LinkedIn group. It was nice visibility for me. I believe it happened because group members enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves on a topic about which they felt passionately. The group members’ answers broadened and deepened my understanding of my topic.

2. Run an online survey

My readers’ enthusiastic reply to my one-word question about investment commentary inspired me to create an electronic survey about the characteristics of good investment commentary.

Readers’ answers eventually led to “Ideal quarterly investment letters: Meaningful, specific, and short,” a key piece of content on my blog.

I used some open-ended questions in addition to easy-to-answer multiple-choice questions. When you include open-ended questions, you allow your readers to develop original content for you. A meaty blog post can result. However, be aware that analyzing the non-quantitative survey results can be time-consuming. While a program like SurveyMonkey can compile the quantitative answers, it can’t sort through text answers. You’ll need to evaluate the meaning of the answers and identify the best material yourself.

In the compliance-sensitive world of financial services, I find that people like the anonymity of online surveys. They feel free to express themselves in ways they’d shun if they needed approval from a compliance officer. This can spark colorful quotes.

When you write about what your readers say, you give them a voice. This helps you to build a sense of community with them. Reader-generated content also adds a sense of authenticity to what you write. This is especially true when you include direct quotes.

3. Run a multiple-choice poll

“I voted ‘yes’ on your poll.” Back in the days when I ran a poll in my monthly newsletter, my newsletter readers often mentioned my polls when I met them one-on-one. If you publish the poll results only in your e-newsletter, as I used to do, you give readers an incentive to subscribe. That’s always a plus.

Like the one-word-answer technique, multiple-choice polls don’t require much effort for people to answer, which boosts participation.

I often enable readers to add their own responses to the polls, rather than choosing from those I’ve listed. I’ve received some good insights from allowing them this freedom.

By the way, consider testing your poll on a member of your target audience before you release it. Your instructions or questions may not be as clear as you think. I think I’m a clear writer, but my outside readers have helped me to refine my questions for better results.

4. Start discussions on social media

Posing a question on LinkedIn or other social media is a great way to collect content. I especially like doing this on LinkedIn because all of the answers are collected in one place. Also, one person’s response often sparks another.

When a social media question inspires a lively conversation, that says that the topic is worthy of a blog post. It’s likely to be shared widely.

Career strategies for wealth managers without a book of business” is essentially a compilation of answers that LinkedIn members posted in response to a question. I quoted only LinkedIn Group members who gave me their permission since I posted my question on a members-only group. If you post on a public group, then technically you don’t need to ask permission. However, I think it’s the right thing to do, unless you explicitly warn people in your original post that you are looking for quotes.

5. Ask “What do you want to read?” at every opportunity

You can ask clients, prospects, referral sources, and social media connections “What do you want to read?” Also, What’s your opinion on that?” The people whom you ask will be flattered you asked for their opinion.

More ideas for generating financial content

By the way, for another perspective on using surveys and questions, read “3 Ways to Create Highly Valuable Blog Content” on the Social Media Examiner blog.

You can learn even more ideas for generating financial writing topics and content when you sign up for my class, “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A 5-Week Writing Class for Financial Advisors.” The next session starts in February 2016.

What do you want to read?

Of course, I’d like to learn more about YOUR interests. Please leave a comment suggesting topics for future blog posts.

 

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Wired Advisor blog, which no longer exists in its original form.

Image courtesy of mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Help employees write financial content for publication

Publishing investment and financial content isn’t just for the big names any more. In the old days, only chief investment officers and senior executives put their names on articles published by investment, wealth management, and financial planning firms. This was true even when junior employees, marketing communications staff, or freelancers did the writing. Today, the needs of search engine optimization, social media and blogging, plus the demand for more personal, less bland content are changing the rules. Firms are asking more employees to write for their blogs, newsletters, and other publications.

This creates challenges, as well as opportunities, for financial firms. How can they engage more employees in writing for publication? How can they ensure that the content is good enough?

Most financial services employees aren’t hired for their writing skills. Some are gifted idea generators and wordsmiths. Others don’t enjoy writing and haven’t been trained to write well.

I have suggestions on how to inspire your employees to write more and better. If you need practical help right away, send your employees to my webinar on “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” scheduled for June 22, 2015 (Early Bird rate ends June 3).

1. Set a good example at the top

Employees notice senior executives’ actions. When your executives publish regularly, they set a good example for the rest of the firm.employee social media sharing stats byNeal Schaffer

Senior management can also help by recognizing the contributions of their juniors. Recognition can take many forms:

  • Sharing content on social media—by the way, don’t underestimate the value of you and your employees sharing on social media, as my photo from social media expert Neal Schaffer’s May 7, 2015 presentation shows.
  • Praising individuals for their contributions
  • Featuring contributions by junior employees, as well as senior management, in a newsletter or blog
  • Including writing as part of job descriptions and performance reviews

2. Offer ideas to jumpstart employee writing

Some people, even veteran writers, get stuck at the stage of generating ideas or starting to put words on the page. You can help them by suggesting topics or providing models for their pieces.

A. Suggest specific topics

When you suggest topics, try to be as specific as possible, especially if you’re helping a new writer. Instead of suggesting the broad topic of “market timing,” you might suggest

  • Why market timing isn’t right for retirees
  • Market timing or buy-and-hold—which is best?
  • Three reasons why market timing doesn’t work
  • Research shows benefits of market timing

A narrower suggestion gives your direction to your newbie writers. Of course, it requires you to have some knowledge of the topic so you don’t steer them wrong.

B. Provide models

Facing a blank page can intimidate writers at all levels of experience. To relieve their stress, provide your writers with models to follow. Give them examples of articles that you like. The examples can be from your firm or elsewhere. I provide one fill-in-the-blanks model on my blog.

3. Train your employees to write

Investment commentary webinar June 22, 2015

Click on image to register

Training can help your employees to overcome their fear of writing and to write better and faster. I train corporate clients and members of professional societies to write better. However, any kind of writing class, even at a local education program can help. I got much of my early training in programs offered by the Boston, Cambridge, and Newton adult ed programs.

If you’d like online training, check out my webinar on “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read.”

It’s also good to provide training about compliance rules. For example, writers can’t guarantee returns or promise that certain things will happen. Also, some topics, especially discussion of specific products, may demand disclosures. Consider providing your employees with compliance checklists so they avoid violating compliance rules.

4. Provide editing and proofreading

Typos and other mistakes undercut the credibility of your content. It’s hard for most writers to proofread themselves. This is why I suggest you use a proofreader-copy editor.

If your budget permits, hire a professional proofreader-copy editor. This could be someone in your marketing department or a freelancer. If it’s a freelancer, think about whether you want someone with financial expertise who can catch content problems. If your budget is tight, go for someone who only knows grammar and usage.

5. Reward participation

Employees like to do things that are rewarded and praised. When you recognize the contributions of your employee-writers, you’ll encourage more participation.

YOUR thoughts

How do you encourage your investment or wealth management professionals to write? Please tell me.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net