Five Writing Mistakes that Sabotage Your Investment Commentary
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To improve your writing skills, please consider attending Susan’s webinar, "How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read," on June 23 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Participants will walk away with tips for how to:
- Generate and refine ideas for commentary that will engage readers
- Organize thoughts before writing to write more quickly and effectively
- Edit writing, so it’s reader-friendly and appealing
You'll find an overview of the webinar on Susan’s website. Early Bird pricing is available until June 2. There's also a discount when two or more people register from the same firm.
Are you sabotaging your investment commentary with bad writing? You may have wonderful insights into the markets, the mutual funds or ETFs you use or your clients’ best next steps. But if your ideas are poorly written, they won’t win the results that you desire. Clients, prospects and referral sources will turn away if you don’t recognize – and fix – the five mistakes I identify below.
Mistake 1. Unopinionated
If your investment commentary simply says the stock market did this and the bond market did that, nobody will care. They can find that objective information faster and more conveniently in a quick online search, their social-media feed or financial publications.
Readers like commentators who express opinions. Being provocative is good.
For example, Bold, Confident and WRONG: Why You Should Ignore Expert Forecasts was one of the most popular commentaries on Advisor Perspectives in April 2016. The contrast between “Bold, confident” and “WRONG” attracted attention because it boldly states a contrary opinion.
If you think big original thoughts, you have plenty of opinions to share. But those people stand out because they are rare. Some firms with fewer original thoughts stand out because of the deep research and analytical resources they apply to their commentary. This advantage typically goes to the mega-firms or to smaller firms with a narrow but deep focus.
What’s an ordinary investment professional or financial advisor to do? You can share your views on a narrower slice of the markets. There’s always something that the big guys haven’t tackled – or haven’t tackled exactly like you. Perhaps they’ve overlooked an exception to the commonly accepted truths about the markets. Or perhaps they didn’t go far enough in their pronouncements.
You can also sharpen your viewpoint and connect with your audience if you avoid mistakes 2 and 3.
Mistake 2. Irrelevant
People want to know “Why should I care about this?” You lose readers when your investment commentary fails to show how market developments affects them.
One of the quickest ways to show relevance is to say how the markets affect your clients’ portfolios or the relative attractiveness of specific asset classes or investments. Of course, you must abide by compliance guidelines. Don’t guarantee an outcome or omit necessary disclosures.
For example, here’s an excerpt from Mike Lipper’s Blog showing how he accomplishes this in Beware of ‘Risk On’ Enthusiasm:
Since I have let you in my secret, here is what I recommend for your portfolio under the current circumstances: ….
Also, the post includes a disclosure of “shares owned personally.”
One-up commentary sources such as The Wall Street Journal, big brokerage firms and most pundits bombarding the internet. They try to reach all readers. Your advantage is that you can target a narrowly defined audience. Take advantage of your niche. If your sweet spot is retired executives with at least $5 million in investable assets and significant holdings of the stock of their former employers, speak to their concerns. What they care about differs from the concerns of, for example, recent college graduates who are struggling to pay off their student loans. This might mean that you delve into recent developments in private equity, which would not concern the typical millennial investor.
Your knowledge of your clients will distinguish you.