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Financial blogging tip: opinion + summary

If you’re a financial advisor who feels too busy to blog, you’ve got lots of company. It takes hours—maybe even days—to craft a finely tuned, completely original, 1,000-word article. RELAX. I’m not suggesting you write a literary masterpiece. I have a financial blogging tip that will save you time.

Short blog posts are fine. Especially when they also express an opinion and give a sense of who you are, two things that are key to attracting readers. You can do both in only 250 to 400 words. That’s as little as one double-spaced page. In fact, this is the length that I recommend to the beginning writers in my writing class, “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A 5-Week Writing Class for Financial Advisors.”

One quick way to achieve this goal is to summarize and express a personal opinion about an article, blog post, or other brief communication.

Here’s a five-step process to write an opinion-plus-summary blog post.

financial blogging tips being typedStep 1: Find an article (or other short piece) about which you have strong feelings

At least for me, it has to be a piece to which I have a gut reaction. Like “This is nuts!” or “I love how this writer made the case for deflation.” Here’s a bonus financial blogging tip: It’s a lot easier to blog when you feel passionately about your topic.

Step 2: Identify the points that you want to make about the article

For example, “This is nuts because of reasons #1, #2, and #3.”

Step 3: Write an introduction that summarizes your topic

It should say the following in a few sentences:

  • The author says X in his article “NAME of ARTICLE with LINK TO IT ONLINE.”
  • The author makes some good points, but I disagree—or strongly agree—with a certain part of his argument.

Step 4: Summarize the parts of the author’s piece that are relevant to your argument

You don’t have to discuss the whole thing. Be selective. The nice thing about summaries is they’re relatively easy to write. After all, an author has already tried to organize thoughts logically for you. It’s fine to quote the author, but don’t copy too much or you’ll bore your reader and be vulnerable to accusations of copyright violation. For tips about “fair use” of other people’s content, see “Legal danger for financial bloggers: Two misconceptions, three resources, one suggestion.”

Step 5: Inject more of your opinion into the piece

You hinted at your opinion in your introduction. At some point, you’ve got to explain why you feel that way. Where you place your opinions depends on the flow of the blog post. For example, in “‘CFA credential implies a standard of care not always upheld,’ says Forbes opinion piece,” I spent three paragraphs summarizing the article before elaborating on the opinion I’d briefly expressed in my introduction.

Follow the five steps in this financial blogging tip, and you can write compelling blog posts more quickly than your colleagues who begin by staring at a blank monitor.

If you’re interested in learning how to write better financial blog posts, register now for “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A 5-Week Writing Class for Financial Advisors.”

 

This article was originally posted as a guest post on the Wired Advisor blog, which no longer exists in its original form.

Image courtesy of Goldy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Use a wacky days list when you run out of blog ideas

If you ever run low on blog post ideas, a wacky days list may solve your problem. You can use the list as the basis for brainstorming exercises. Whether it’s weekly calendarEmployee Appreciation Day or Be Nasty Day, it’s amazing how a holiday calendar can spark ideas for your financial blog.

Days with obvious relevance

The titles of some days may lead directly to blog post ideas. For example, Employee Appreciation Day made me think of:

  1. How you can help your employees by offering a better 401(k) plan
  2. How your firm appreciates its employees’ continued learning as they try to better serve clients
  3. Three budget-friendly ways to show your appreciation for your employees

Days that trigger personal stories

Some of the calendar days may trigger personal memories that you can use to make a point for your readers. Let’s take National Frozen Food Day. You have a blog post if you remember the great “deal” on frozen food that went bad when you didn’t have enough room in your freezer. There’s a lesson about false economies.

Days that serve as metaphors

Plant a Flower Day could serve as a metaphor. You can suggest steps that your clients can take that will brighten their financial lives as a flower might brighten their gardens.

How about YOU?

How do you use holidays or named days to inspire your blog’s editorial calendar? I’d like to hear from you.

 

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Save your trash to feed your blog

Writers often cram too many ideas and facts into their first drafts. This happens frequently in blog posts. It can even happen in longer pieces, such as white papers, scholarly journal articles, or books. You need to trim the excess to polish your final version. However, you don’t need to lose your extra content forever.

Blog treasures from trash

Let’s say you came up with three great examples and one example with only tangential relevance. If that fourth example tells another story more powerfully, you can use it to start a new blog post.

Sometimes it’s hard to delete information that fascinates you, even if it weakens your final product. I hope that knowing you can use those ideas elsewhere will make it easier for you to trash it, and then use it to feed future blog posts.

Your examples?

Have any of your blog posts started with content you sliced out of other pieces? Please share.

Blogging Q&A with advisor Richard Rosso

Richard Rosso, senior financial adviser for Clarity Financial in Houston, Texas, communicates with an enthusiasm that’s infectious. I tapped him as a guest blogger last year to discuss The Fee Value Proposition.” When he mentioned his writing for MarketWatch Retirement when we met at my presentation in Houston in March 2014, I got the idea of asking him to share his thoughts about the benefits of that writing, as well as his blog. In the Q&A below, he says that he can attribute roughly $2 million in new client relationships to blogging.”

By the way, although Richard suggests that I’d tell him to shorten his blog posts. I think the right length is different for everyone. For folks who struggle to write, shorter is better. There are also people like me who just prefer to keep things short. Then, there are bloggers, such as Michael Kitces of Nerd’s Eye View, who regularly attract readers with very long posts.

Q. When did you start your Random Thoughts of a Money Muse blog and when did you start guest-blogging for MarketWatch Retirement?

A. I started Random Thoughts as a labor of love in 2010. Blogging felt like a natural extension of the writing I was doing on a daily basis for my book that was published in 2012, Random Thoughts Of A Money Muse. Blogging became a method to share voices and experiences, both from myself and others, especially those experiencing troubled relationships with money. The blog is purposely off the traditional path—I call it “the fringe of money”—when compared to bloggers and blogs I respect and read religiously, like Josh Brown’s www.thereformedbroker.com and Michael Kitces’ Nerd’s Eye View at www.kitces.com. Friend, mentor, and best-selling author James Altucher told me that financial topics are boring. People tune out quickly. So I sought to add personal stories (sometimes painful), pop culture, a bit of the spiritual; and then bridge over to salient money lessons. To me, creating a story, painting a picture, makes financial topics easier to digest, and broadens the appeal.

As for MarketWatch Retirement, I am a financial geek at heart and retirement planning as a topic of study is a passion. I’ve been working with Robert Powell at MarketWatch for years. He’s featured as a “money muse” in my book because he is [one of the most studied journalists on the topic of retirement. I began submitting article ideas to him. Since January 2014, I’ve become a regular contributor.

Retirement planning is a formidable challenge, especially post-financial crisis. I seek to share relevant experiences of pre-retirees and new retirees with subscribers to Retirement Weekly and MarketWatch. Life stories are important. They provide Main Street context and valuable lessons for readers.

Q. How has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships? Please explain and quantify, if possible.

A. The blog has improved my client relationships because it opens up a part of me that’s personal. Clients feel connected. Several have tough life stories they are no longer hesitant to share with me and others.

My client relationships are deeper and robust due to the writing. Several posts have generated calls and greater discussion with client families, especially the kids. The blog makes me a real person—I make mistakes. This vulnerability exposes me as human and approachable. People often hesitate to ask questions of—or feel intimidated by—advisors. My clients and prospects feel comfortable asking me anything because I expose pieces of myself and they know they’ll receive straight answers. My material is in depth enough to showcase my knowledge, but I don’t overdo it. Subtle is best.

On occasion, I’m surprised at the responses. Recently, I had two clients come forward and tell me how much they look forward to my posts and share my commentary on a regular basis.

Another benefit is that posting my blog segments to social media occasionally generates story ideas for media. I’m honored to help reporters blend the money and human side. As a result, their stories are robust and memorable.

The writings for MarketWatch Retirement Weekly allow me to “report” what people are thinking and how they’re living in retirement. I’ve received an increased number of hits to my blog since I began contributing regularly to Retirement Weekly. More importantly, the blog assists my marketing efforts. Blogging is such an inexpensive way to share knowledge. Combined with social media, blogging has resulted in prospects and clients. I can attribute roughly $2 million in new client relationships to blogging. It’s a lot of work—you need to stick with it—but the rewards are worth it.

Q. What blogging techniques or topics have most helped your business?

A. I have trained myself, along with lessons in your book on financial blogging, to keep my technique simple and straight. It’s challenging for advisors to take their ego out of their work. I make sure my writing is not about me, it’s about the readers. It’s designed to stimulate responses, emotions and then ostensibly, connections to money lessons. I rarely go longer than 1,500 words, although I know from your guidance that I should cut the word count by half. I’m a work in progress!

It enhances readership when I add pictures or photos to blog posts. People sometimes remember the photos with a smile long after the words are forgotten. It’s a challenge to find just the right visual or mix of photos as to not overwhelm the reader; I think I’ve gotten it down purely by trial and error. There’s no doubt that well-placed visuals add impact.

Topics that have worked for me include how to cut down on debt, the psychology or emotional biases of money, how to raise money-smart kids, and how to increase return on life. These definitely resonate. I purposely stay away from short-term market commentary. There’s plenty of it out there. I seek to have readers examine themselves or their financial situation from 30,000 feet looking down. Focusing on one stock or how the Chinese PMI came in is best left with economists and financial journalists. I can converse about these topics with the best of them. The focus for my blog posts is to inspire the heart, not the head.

Q. What are three of your favorite—or most effective—blog posts?

A. The three blog posts that are the most effective or that have generated the most conversations are the following:

Five Questions To Ask A Financial Adviser. Today. I Mean Right Now.

I consistently come across people who tell me they feel they’re bothering their financial advisors if they ask questions.

The Tolle Of The Governor: 6 Steps To Rebirth.

I will tie in to story lines of popular television shows as attention grabbers. Here, the money lesson focused on replenishment of savings and the act of saving money.

When Organs Go Wrong – 5 Ways To Get Them Right Again.

When I went through a stress-induced illness I openly shared the experience with readers. The money advice? How good financial habits create less stress.

Readers tell me that blog posts like this evoke emotional responses. Well, isn’t money emotional? If I can evoke a feeling or incite passion then slip in a money lesson without anybody noticing, then mission accomplished!

Q. What’s your best tip for advisors who blog?

A. For advisors who blog my best tip is to check yourself. People don’t care how smart you are until they know how caring you are. Reveal your vulnerable or human sides, take ego out of your work, keep readers emotionally involved, be entertaining, keep it simple (no math, just words.) Remember—you’re selling yourself to clients and prospects. There are ways to surgically showcase your financial knowledge without overdoing it.