Hard Work—Not Magic—Is The Key To Effective Financial Communication

Thought leadership requires a commitment to quality and the development of original, compelling content.

“Just work your magic.” That’s a common refrain I have heard from some financial services clients over the past 13 years. This response often comes up when we’re discussing a potential article, newsletter, whitepaper, brochure, or some other type of financial communications project.

While I’m always flattered to hear that clients believe I have magical powers, the reality is that effective financial communications requires planning. It requires research. It requires writing, editing, and proofreading. In short, it requires work, not magic.

If your goal is to deliver thought provoking financial communications that will have an impact on your target audience, there are no shortcuts.

Another common term I hear is “thought leadership,” as in, “my manager would like to publish some pieces that will position us as thought leaders in the industry.” That’s a worthy goal, but unfortunately, one that is also shared by your competitors. Not everyone can be the leader.

True thought leadership requires a commitment to quality and the development of original, compelling content. If you’re simply regurgitating what your audience already knows, and taking 10 pages to do it, are you really advancing your brand? Again, there is no magic answer here, only hard work.

In my experience, whether you are writing commentary about the financial markets, an educational article for your website or newsletter, or a financial whitepaper, the recipe for success is the same:

  1. Know Your Goal. Are you writing to educate, persuade, or sell?
  2. Know Your Message. What are the one or two key messages you want to communicate? Even if someone were to simply read your headline, what message do you want to convey?
  3. Know Your Audience. To whom are you trying to communicate these messages? Are they sophisticated investors or neophytes? Tailor the tone and content to your audience’s sophistication level, and when in doubt, assume they understand less, not more.
  4. Choose The Right Medium. What’s the best way to deliver your message? If you’re targeting retirees, a printed piece (with large type) may be effective. Trying to reach Generation Y? An e-newsletter, blog entry, video, or Facebook post may be more effective.
  5. Plan Before You Write. Take the time to develop a clear outline of key points you want to communicate and make sure everyone is in agreement before you hire someone to start writing.
  6. Let The Writer Work His or Her Magic. Ok, finally some magic! Let whomever you hire to write your communications—whether it’s an employee or a freelance writer—inject some life into the copy. Communicate as if you’re a real human being, not some corporate zombie.
  7. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread. I can’t tell you how many careless errors I come across every day in financial communications. Pay the extra few dollars for a proofreader.

So there you have it. The secret recipe to effective financial communications includes six parts hard work and only one part magic.

How about you? What’s your firm’s recipe for ensuring your financial communications resonate with your target audience?

Neil Rhein is President of Bullseye Communications, where he and his team specialize in content review and content development for financial services companies and other clients.