Simple language helps your readers, even when they understand technical terms

Tuesday, Apr. 15th 2014

51w5AgB9pBLPlain language helps your readers, even when they understand technical terms.

The Yahoo! Style Guide makes a great point on this topic:

Even if more technical or sophisticated language is appropriate for your site, your readers will appreciate simpler language in the areas where their eyes are scanning to determine what a page is about.

Example of how to use simple language

How does this apply to you? Let’s assume, for example, that you’re writing a piece about the Barclays Capital US Aggregate Bond Index. That’s quite a long name—too long for a snappy headline or heading. If you were speaking face-to-face with bond geeks, you might refer to “the Agg” because you can judge from your conversation—and their faces—whether they understand your language. However, such “insider” language probably isn’t right for a printed piece.

What’s the solution?

You could substitute “bond index” or “investment-grade bond index” in your headline or heading. As Yahoo! suggests, this will help your readers to skim. If they don’t immediately realize you’re talking about the Agg, they’ll quickly pick it up when they dive into the body of your piece, where it’s good to be precise about your index.

Try using plain language. If you do it right, you’ll enjoy the results.

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner
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Blogging with James B. Stewart of The New York Times

Thursday, Apr. 10th 2014

Looking for ideas on how to structure your blog posts? Newspapers like The New York Times can provide inspiration, as I’ve found with blog post formulamany articles by Floyd Norris and with the column by James B. Stewart that I discuss in this post.

You can find a formula for introducing a blog post in Stewart’s “Why Russia Can’t Afford Another Cold War: Now It’s Part of the Global Economy.”

Stewart’s formula? “This, this, and this have happened. This may seem like X, but actually it’s Y.” This intrigues the readers by overturning their expectations.

Here’s the formula matched with Stewart’s content:

Thing #1: “Russian troops pour over a border.”

Thing #2: “An autocratic Russian leader blames the United States and unspecified ‘radicals and nationalists’ for meddling.”

Thing #3: “A puppet leader pledges fealty to Moscow.”

Mistaken perception: It’s no wonder the crisis in the Ukraine this week drew comparisons to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 or that a chorus of pundits proclaimed the re-emergence of the Cold War.

Today’s reality: “But there’s at least one major difference between then and now: Moscow has a stock market.”

Stewart follows people’s mistaken perceptions by introducing the key factor that distinguishes the situation this time. This sets up the article to discuss how his key factor, the stock market, made a difference this time. As the stock market plunged in reaction to Russia’s actions in the Ukraine, it limited in the invader’s aggression.

It’s easy for me to imagine how you might apply this to a blog post about a specific investment strategy or asset class. You could list three facts about, say, small cap stocks. Then say “this may make you think these stocks are overvalued (or undervalued). But here’s why that’s not true.”

This format can persuade readers. Just think about all of the investors who bought into the “new paradigm” suggesting that tech stocks were not overvalued prior to the 1998 market correction. Those often followed the approach I described in the preceding paragraph. Please don’t throw out this formula because it led some investors astray. You can harness it for the powers of good.

If you’ve used this technique, please share examples below.

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Ouch, LinkedIn, why did you do that to me?

Wednesday, Apr. 9th 2014
Recommendations for Susan Weiner's presentations

LinkedIn recommendations for Susan Weiner’s presentations

If you’ve ever doubted the value of hosting content of your own website or blog, I hope my story makes you reconsider. My problem? I am losing valuable recommendations from LinkedIn. A quick tip for you: Take screenshots of any of your recommendations that will be affected.

Before you panic at the thought of losing valuable recommendations from your personal profile on LinkedIn, let me reassure you that they’re not affected. Instead, it’s the recommendations on LinkedIn Company Pages’ “Product & Services” tabs that will disappear as LinkedIn discontinues that tab. This means I’ll lose the 12 recommendations on my Financial Blogging book page, along with four recommendations for Speeches and Workshops, and three for Investment Writing Top Tips.

It never occurred to me that LinkedIn would deprive me of the recommendations that seemed like such an important part of their offering. LinkedIn did offer to send me a copy of these recommendations, upon request. I received them in an ugly Excel spreadsheet with typos—quite a contrast to the attractive presentation on the LinkedIn page that included my recommenders’ photos.

LinkedIn recommendations for Investment Writing Top Tips

LinkedIn recommendations for Investment Writing Top Tips

I suppose I could email my recommenders, asking them to copy-paste their recommendations to enter them as recommendations on my LinkedIn personal profile. However, I don’t think I’ll bother. Now that I have more than 20 recommendations there, I think new recommendations may get lost. Also, the LinkedIn’s personal profiles’ categories for recommenders don’t really fit for people who bought a book or attended a presentation, rather than hiring me to work directly for them. Also, I liked how the “Products & Services” tab let me group recommendations by category, which was more user-friendly.

I shouldn’t be surprised by LinkedIn’s betrayal. After all, I lost content when Facebook deleted its “Discussion” pages. Oh well, I still have this blog as my soapbox.

 

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Say “No” to jargon!

Tuesday, Apr. 8th 2014

simple - conquering the crisis of complexityJargon hurts your communications. I found a great quote about this in Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn.

Here it is:

To connect with people, you have to speak their language. The use of jargon represents a decision on the part of companies and governments to speak in a language that they understand and you don’t.

Jargon can lead to your messages becoming “lost in translation,” as the authors say.

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner
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Communicating your value to clients with Steve Lishansky

Thursday, Apr. 3rd 2014

romantic couple enjoying their love in kitchenFocusing on your clients instead of your firm is something I hound my clients to do in their written communications. It’s also important in your sales conversations, as Steve Lishansky of Optimize International reminded me in his presentation, “Get Paid For Your Value: How to Attract, Win and Retain Clients Who Happily Pay You What You Are Worth,” to the New England Chapter of the National Speakers Association on March 8, 2014.

Steve told a story that made his point. Imagine you meet with two designers to redo your kitchen. One launches into a discussion of his great, technologically advanced tools. The other starts by asking, “What do you want to accomplish with your kitchen?”

Which designer would appeal more to you? Is there anyone who wouldn’t prefer the second designer?

Lishansky shared several questions that can help you connect with new prospects. They include the following:

  • What’s the most important result you’re looking for?
  • What are your biggest opportunities?
  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • What are the most important measurements you’ll use to gauge your progress and success?

These questions place you on the “same side of the table” as your prospects, as together you uncover what matters to them.

This discovery also helps you to justify your fees. As Lishansky said, “when people see a chasm, they’re willing to pay you for a bridge.”

Image courtesy of Photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner
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Your bad luck can become your good fortune

Tuesday, Apr. 1st 2014

Investment Writing logo“How did you get that great website name?” People sometimes ask this question about my website’s address: InvestmentWriting.com.

I wish I could say I was inspired. Instead, I was unlucky.

I felt devastated to learn that SusanWeiner.com was not available when I created my website in 2008. It seemed like bad luck that I’d be forced to use susan-weiner.com or a similar variation.

Adding to my misery, I discovered that the descriptive term “investment communications” wasn’t available either. I’d been “director of investment communications” in my previous job, so that seemed like a logical choice.

Naming things is not one of my strengths, so I was delighted when Jeff Lerman, my website designer, suggested InvestmentWriting.com as my website’s name.

I believe InvestmentWriting.com has served me well. I benefit from the URL identifying my niche as a writer. While “investment writing” isn’t a frequently searched term, my website fares well when people search on the term. Plus, it’s memorable and easier to spell (and pronounce) than SusanWeiner.com.

investment writing

What does this mean for you?

I see two lessons from my experience.

1. Good things can come from disappointments. If SusanWeiner.com had been available, I’d have settled for a less memorable or search-friendly website name.

2. Asking for help can yield great results. My website name is just one of many good results I’ve achieved by asking others for advice. It pays to ask, although ultimately the decision rests with you.

 

If your bad luck has led to success, please share your story.

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner
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Writing wisdom from novelist Gish Jen

Tuesday, Mar. 25th 2014

why we write

A conversational writing style helps your blog appeal to readers. But “conversational” does not mean “exactly as in a conversation.”

Novelist Gish Jen says in Why We Write:

When you tell a story in the kitchen to a friend, it is full of infelicities. I try to edit those out in literature but keep the feeling of a story being told.

When you’re blogging, this may mean that you

  • Cut irrelevant details
  • Tighten the structure of your story, making it flow more quickly and logically

Why We Write offers nuggets of advice and inspiration for writers. While it tilts toward fiction, there’s something for everyone.

 

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

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5 Secrets to Finding the Best Virtual Assistant to Streamline Your Financial Advisor Blog

Thursday, Mar. 20th 2014

Saving time and energy by using a virtual assistant (VA) seemed to appeal to the advisors who read “9 Ways a Virtual Assistant Can Streamline Your Financial Blogging,” my guest post for Michael Kitces’ Nerd’s Eye View blog. But how do you find a great VA? This guest post by Kathy Goughenor gives you one VA’s perspective on that challenge. I met Kathy when I was searching for a new VA. Kathy works as a VA for someone whom I greatly respect.

In addition to what Kathy says, I suggest that you test a potential VA by paying the VA to enter one or two posts into your blog. This will let you see the VA’s technical skills. If it takes you time to develop trust, you can categorize the VA as a “Contributor.”  A contributor can enter posts into WordPress, but can’t make them go live on your blog.

5 Secrets to Finding the Best Virtual Assistant to Streamline Your Financial Advisor BlogKathy Goughenor

By Kathy Goughenor

Almost half of all small business owners spend over six hours a week blogging, according to a survey conducted by Vertical Response. Imagine how much more productive you’d be, and how much more time you could spend on money-making aspects of your business, if you turned even half of your blogging tasks over to a virtual assistant (VA).

Here are five secrets to help you choose the best virtual assistant for your needs:

1. Find a blogging expert

Look for a VA who specializes in writing, editing, and proofreading as well as the loading and search engine optimization of blog posts. This ensures you’re getting help from someone who is already an expert at these tasks.

2. Ask for referrals

Get referrals from small business owners, especially other financial service professionals. Ask me for a referral by emailing me at kathy@expertvatraining.com

3. Request samples

You want someone who has excellent writing, editing and proofreading skills. To verify your potential VA’s skills, provide a rough draft of a blog post you’ve written, and ask for edits. A VA may be willing to do this test at no cost.

4. Focus on value not price

Virtual assistance is not the type of service for which you want to price shop. The saying “you get what you pay for” holds true for the virtual assistant industry. I recommend paying about $45 per hour, in order to get a VA who is truly a professional and an expert at the services you need. By hiring the best, you’ll save time and money in the long run.

5. Contact references

Email three clients or former clients of the VA you’re considering, and ask the following questions:

  • What type of work did this VA do for you?
  • What are your favorite and least favorite things about working with this VA?
  • Would you refer this VA to your best friend? Why or why not?

Put these five secrets to work for you today to quickly increase your productivity and profits.

Since 2001, virtual assistant, trainer and VA coach Kathy Goughenour has built several successful internet businesses. Her secret to success is delegating to expert virtual assistants. Get more tips on working with a VA by subscribing to her free monthly newsletter Small Biz Smarts.

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner
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Your “lollipop” doesn’t say what you think

Tuesday, Mar. 18th 2014

Choose your words with attention to the many ways they may be interpreted. As a hike in the Rhode Island woods reminded me, your terminology lollipopmay not convey the message you intend.

On a muggy summer day, my husband and I set off on a “2.3-mile lollipop” hike. Quickly eyeballing the trail description, my husband assumed that “lollipop” meant it was an easy hike, appropriate for little kids of a lollipop-loving age. Not so.

It turned out that lollipop referred to the trail’s shape. A path as straight as a Tootsie Pop’s stick led to a circular trail. As you can tell, the author’s lollipop image was misinterpreted by a reader in a hurry.

The author could suggest to my husband that he read more carefully. After all, if my husband had read the trail summary, and compared it to the map that appeared four pages later, he could have grasped the analogy. But it’s not realistic to expect everyone to read at such length and with such attention to detail.

In this case, writing “lollipop-shaped” trail could have guided my husband to the right conclusion, which making the trail’s shape memorable through the use of an analogy.

What are YOUR lollipops?

Are there financial terms that your readers find just as confusing as lollipop was in my example?

Do you find “lollipops” in writing about investments and personal finance? What are they, and how can we describe them better?

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner
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Focus on readers with “The Language of Trust”

Thursday, Mar. 13th 2014

language_of_trust_final-coverThe Language of Trust tells you why and how you can sell more effectively by focusing on your buyers. The following statement stuck with me:

The first rule of building trust is to accept the fact that selling a product or idea has little to do with your company, what you’re offering, or your ideas. It has everything to do with your audience and what they believe, think, and want.

This is an important lesson and the reason why I urge my clients to talk about “you,” the reader, instead of “we,” the firm.

I believe financial advisors will find this book especially appealing because the authors use many examples from the worlds of financial planning and investments.

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner
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Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in marketing | No Comments »