Which investment white paper would you read?

Friday, Jun. 13th 2014

Your white paper will attract more or fewer readers based partly on your decisions. Your title—and the way you position your topic—are critical.White paper

I’ve listed some titles below. Think about which you find most appealing. If you understand what boosts the appeal of these titles, you can generate strong titles for your white papers. I welcome your comments on how to approach white papers and their titles.

Which of these white paper titles is best?

  1. Small cap stocks—this white paper could discuss any aspect of small cap stocks. The broadness of the topic cuts its appeal.
  2. Investing in small cap stocks—this title is more specific than #1, but not as specific as the titles below
  3. Why invest in small cap stocks—this title and the two that follow promise that they’ll make a case for me to invest in this asset class.
  4. The case for small cap investing
  5. The benefits of investing in small cap stocks
  6. How small cap stocks may help you boost returns, while reducing risks—this title is more specific about the benefits, which may attract readers interested in those benefits. The title is a bit long and it may make your compliance professionals nervous. Check with compliance before using any title that makes you stop and say, “Is this okay?”
  7. Opportunities in small cap stocks—this title suggests benefits without getting specific. It may be vague enough that your compliance professionals will allow it, assuming you have the proper disclosures in the body of your white paper.
  8. Your short-term opportunity in small cap stocks—”Short-term” adds a sense of urgency. If you don’t act soon, you may miss this opportunity.
  9. A 50-year opportunity in small cap stocks—I’m throwing this in because “Dan Fuss: The 50-Year Opportunity in Bonds” was one of my most popular articles for Advisor Perspectives. Of course, the name of legendary bond manager Fuss contributed to the article’s appeal.
  10. New research boosts the appeal of small cap stocks—if the title refers to proprietary research from your firm, this will help your white paper stand out from the many other white papers on this topic.

What’s YOUR take on these white paper titles? Can you suggest a better alternative? I’m interested in learning from your insights.

For more on what makes for a great white paper, read “White paper marketing: Walk a fine line.”

 

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in white paper | No Comments »

Top problems in asset management firms’ blog posts

Thursday, Jun. 12th 2014

Investment management firms are joining the blogosphere, but they’re off to a rocky start. Here are some mistakes that I’ve seen as I’ve sampled nvestment manager blogging tipsasset managers’ blog posts.

Mistake 1: Failing to adapt materials written for other media

Materials written for other media don’t transfer well to blogs. For example, I’m thinking about traditional market commentaries and position papers. Many of these commit the mistakes I list below.

The solution? Break your traditional materials into chunks and edit them to make them more reader friendly.

Mistake 2: Poor skimmability

Everybody skims content in these days of information overload. If you present big uninterrupted blocks of text without headings you’ll scare away readers who can’t quickly assess your content’s relevance.

To reel in readers, use informative headings. For example, don’t just write “Bond Market,” but share specific information. Perhaps something like “Convertibles attractive as Fed tapers.” or “Avoid this sector as Fed tapers.”

To enhance the skimmability of your posts, write short paragraphs.

Mistake 3: Excessive formality

The blogosphere is an informal place. Writers typically use “I” and address their readers as “you.” They also shun formal words and writing styles.

Asset managers, your blog is great place to loosen up your writing style.

What do YOU think?

What are asset managers doing on their blogs that you like or dislike? I’m curious to hear your opinion.

If you’d like more guidance on writing blog posts, check out my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

______________________________________________________________________

Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Content strategy and someone like you

Wednesday, Jun. 11th 2014

How can you keep the attention of your audience? That’s a big concern for anyone publishing anything these days.

The following sentence caught my eye in The Content Strategy Take Back to Work Toolkit in a Northwestern University class that I just started on Coursera:

In order to hold the attention and interest of an audience, the writer needs to speak in a voice the audience will recognize as someone like them.

Wow! That’s a vote for writing in the voice of a human being rather than an institution, unless you’re an institution trying to appeal to other institutions. I think this is an important lesson for financial services organizations to remember when communicating with individuals.

Still, I’m not convinced that statement is always correct. After all, even if I’m a casual, relaxed individual, would I want the doctor treating me for a serious illness to write in a casual, relaxed style? Formality and gravity might appeal more to me.

Someone like you?

What about you? Do you prefer content in which the writer appears to be someone like you? I’m interested in your thoughts.

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Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in marketing | No Comments »

Writing a list? Use parallel construction

Tuesday, Jun. 10th 2014

Lists are a great way to provide easy-to-skim content. This accounts for the popularity of blog posts with titles such as “Top 10 Ways to…” Close-up Of Black Electricity Paralled lines in Cable Vertical On A Spool or “3 fatal mistakes of…” However, please construct your posts well, or you’ll lose readers.

One of the most important rules for lists is to use parallel construction. What’s that? For example, if the first of your “Three best tips” starts with an imperative verb saying “Do this,” then the rest of your tips should do the same.

Let’s compare Example A, which uses parallel construction, with Example B, so you can see how much better Example A is.

Here’s Example A:

1. Review your blog post to see if it includes the right information.

2. Check to see if the information is presented in the right order.

3. Copyedit your text.

Here’s example B:

1. Reviewing your blog post to see if it includes the right information can be helpful.

2. Check to see if the information is presented in the right order.

3. The final step is to copyedit your text.

If you’re like most people, you found Example A easier to skim and absorb than Example B.

Even professionally edited publications sometimes forget about the importance of parallel construction. I wrote this blog post after reading an article that promised a list of mistaken investment beliefs. Some of the items fit the description of “mistaken beliefs.” For example, the author does not believe that “‘Volatility’ Is For Misguided Geeks.” However, another item on the list shared one of the author’s beliefs instead of someone else’s mistaken belief.  Yet another item on the list was the author’s request to readers. I appreciated the author’s colorful writing. His headings were intriguing. However, I wish that he’d followed the rules of parallel construction.

 

Image courtesy of sritangphoto/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Twitter power user’s tip: Share your Twitter name as live link

Monday, Jun. 9th 2014

In less than 60 seconds you can supercharge the impact of sharing your Twitter name. Just follow my advice. Turn your Twitter name into a live link. You’ll pick up more followers faster.

Don’t do this

I was reminded of this issue when some colleagues shared their Twitter names as comments on a Facebook post. They shared their names in plain text. Like this: @susanweiner. In order to follow @susanweiner, any readers would need to copy-paste the name into Twitter to search on it, or manually type https://twitter.com/susanweiner. That takes time and effort.

Twitter name—share it like this

To make it more likely that people would follow me—and to make things easier for potential followers—I added a link to my Twitter page to the Facebook comment. It looked like this image:

Twitter name live link on Facebook

When possible, share your Twitter name as a live link. Like this: @susanweiner.

You’ll gain more followers and they’ll appreciate your making things easy for them.

YOUR Twitter tips?

Do you have tips for adding Twitter followers in a non-spammy way? Please share.

______________________________________________________________________

Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in social media | 2 Comments »

3 ways to add word images to your social media

Sunday, Jun. 8th 2014

I’m a word lover, but even I have to admit that images can punch up your written communications. I’ve written earlier about using photos, but sometimes word-based images can do the trick. Here are three techniques I’ve used to generate them, starting with the most sophisticated. But I’m no techno-geek. If I can use these techniques, so can you.

Is it worth your time to create and use images? “Content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without,” according to “A Complete Guide to Visual Content: The Science, Tools and Strategy of Creating Killer Images,” which appeared on BufferApp.com’s blog. This is increasingly true even on social media such as Twitter. Sometimes those images can feature words.

1. Canva.com for images

Canva.com is a website for creating images at no cost to you in its most basic form. It’s not your only option for doing this, but “The Art of the Perfect Post,” a webinar delivered by Guy Kawasaki, Canva’s chief evangelist, convinced me that it might be simple enough for me to use. He positioned it as much easier than PhotoShop and similar programs.

To create an image in Canva, you click and drag the elements of background, text, and images. Canva provides some ready-made layouts for you. Some backgrounds are free; others cost $1. There is no cost to access Canva. I’m far from being a Canva pro, so I suggest you poke around the firm’s website to learn more.

Here are some images that I created using Canva.

Susan Weiner presents at NYSSA 20133Cs of investment commentary InvestmentWriting

One thing I wish I’d realized: Once you upload your images from Canva, they disappear from your Canva account. As a result, if I ever want to edit these images, I believe I’ll need to recreate them from scratch.

2. Wordle.net

Wordle is a website that generates “word clouds” showing the frequency of words that appear in text that you input. For example, here’s a Wordle word cloud that I used to illustrate my blog post on “Plain English and good writing.”

Wordle imageWordle image of Susan Weiner's MarketingProfs article about plain English and good writing

Wordle imageWordle image

3. Screenshots of text created by your word processor

You don’t always have to time to create something fancy. That’s when I take a screenshot of text that I’ve created in my word processing software.VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR For example, I created a text block to accompany my virtual book tour’s links, as in “Week 4 of the virtual book tour for Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.” It’s not pretty, but it’s better than nothing.

I use Microsoft Office’s Snipping Tool to capture the screenshots.

 Other tools?

If you have other tools that you recommend, please share.

 

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Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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How to discuss index and portfolio returns: My case against synonyms for “return”

Saturday, Jun. 7th 2014

Hot buttonHow many ways can you say “returned” when writing about indexes and portfolios? This question seems to eat at many investment and marketing professionals in the asset management world.

I’m delighted that writers of market and portfolio performance commentary seek to make their writing more lively for their readers. I know that’s why they’re asking about synonyms for the verb “return.” However, they have hit one of my hot buttons. Please, please, please stop using gazillion synonyms for “return,” “rise,” and “fall” when you write dense paragraphs.

Why do I say this? When you read a dense paragraph or report with many return numbers, it becomes hard to absorb them if your brain also has to interpret the different words representing “return.” For example, you have to decide “Is ‘delivered’ positive or negative?” or you must recognize that 5% is positive when it follows “gained,” but negative when it follows “fell.” Sure, it’s not brain surgery. However, it slows your readers.

Please take the test below.

Which of the following is easier to understand?

If you’re skimming or reading in a hurry, like so many of us, which of the following sentences can you understand more quickly?

  1. The S&P 500 returned 2.9% vs. -1.3% for EAFE.
  2. The S&P 500 was up 2.9%, while EAFE was down 1.3%.

I am such a strong believer in #1, that I’m posting a poll where you can answer this question. Let’s see what people say. The poll offers a “comment” box if you’d like to opine on this topic.

My suggestions for return-heavy paragraphs

1. Stick with the verb “return.”

2. If you’re comparing two numbers, put the numbers close together for easier comprehension. In other words, “The S&P 500 returned 2.9% vs. -1.3% for EAFE” instead of “The S&P 500 returned 2.9% and EAFE returned -1.3%.

3. When reporting more than two returns, consider using a table or graph. It’s easier to scan data arranged neatly in columns than in a long, long sentence. You can still refer to the returns in your text, along with a suggestion to “See the table of index returns.”

4. Present returns in a logical order. For example, give all stock index returns first, followed by all bond index returns. Or, all U.S. index returns, followed by developed country and then emerging market returns.

When “return” synonyms are okay

I happiest to see synonyms for “return” when a paragraph is devoted to a single index. For example, “The S&P 500 soared 25% for these three reasons…”

A little variety is okay even when you’re discussing more than one index. Perhaps you start with plain old “returned” for one index and then use “soared” for the second index to add emphasis and personality. Just don’t throw too many synonyms at me or I’ll get cranky. More importantly, you’ll lose readers when they get bogged down in SynonymLand.

Don’t give up on colorful language

My rant against synonyms for “return” shouldn’t scare you away from using colorful language in other places. I’m generally a big fan of powerful verbs and language that shows your personality. I’m leery of synonyms only when they interfere with comprehension.

Note: Edited on June 10 for clarity.

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in writing | No Comments »

Seven tips for slogging through blogging: Lessons from the Blogathon

Friday, Jun. 6th 2014

“How can I force myself to blog regularly?”

The investment and wealth managers in my blogging classes often ask this question. I grappled with this challenge during the 2010 Word Count Blogathon, for which I committed to post daily. And now I’m participating in the 2014 Blogathon. So this is a good time for me to share tips with you.

Tip 1: “Set it and forget it.” Most blogging platforms allow you to schedule blog posts in advance. This potentially lets you put your blog on auto-pilot when you’re busy. During the 2010 Blogathon I learned how to take automation one step further. I set HootSuite to tweet my blog posts without human intervention.

Tip 2: Blog when the spirit moves you, whether or not your schedule requires you to post. It’s much easier for me to blog when I’m in the mood. On a good day I can push out three or more blog posts. To help me write regardless of location, I always carry a spiral-bound notebook or pad of paper. It’s worthwhile jotting down blog ideas, not only full-fledged posts. It’s much easier to blog when you don’t face a blank PC screen or piece of paper.

Tip 3: Write posts that are “evergreen” or tied to a future event, so you’ll have material to post when you’re too busy to write. “Evergreen” articles aren’t time-sensitive. Like a pine tree, they don’t lose their attractiveness with the changing of the seasons.

When I participated in the May 2010 Blogathon, I scheduled a bunch of evergreens to run between May 16 and May 31, when I was distracted by attending the CFA Institute’s annual conference and going on vacation out West.

Blog posts tied to events such as the April 15 tax deadline or the August-September “back to school” season aren’t evergreen. But they can be written and scheduled long before a timely date for posting.

Tip 4: Keep it short. Short blog posts are okay. Just pick one point and explain it. This is how I dealt with Jeremy Grantham’s wide-ranging presentation to the CFA Institute’s annual conference. Having trouble writing economically about your topic? Slice it narrower.

Tip 5: React to online articles or blog posts. Notice when you have strong feelings upon reading something. Your passion makes it easier for you to jot down a quick blog post that links to the original article. Links spare you the need to describe the other author’s position in detail. However, it’s kind to your reader to briefly summarize what sparked your blog post.

Tip 6: Hire someone to type your blog posts if you dictate or write your drafts on paper. I drafted this post on a plane to Las Vegas. Later I scanned it for my virtual assistant to type. Or follow the suggestion that Bill Winterberg of the FPPad blog gives in the comments below.

Tip 7: Update and republish old blog posts. I originally published this post in 2010. However, with a few tweaks, it’s relevant again in 2014.

 

For more tips on blogging, check out my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

______________________________________________________________________

Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by admin | in blog | 9 Comments »

Blogging Q&A with David Merkel of Aleph Blog

Thursday, Jun. 5th 2014

I met investment manager David Merkel when he contacted me about speaking to Baltimore’s CFA Society. I’ve noticed that his Aleph Blog posts frequently get picked up in investment blogs’ roundups, including Tadas Viskanta’s Abnormal Returns. Having met many people who blog in the hope of attracting clients, I was intrigued by David’s statement on his blog that “…though David runs Aleph Investments, LLC, this blog is not a part of that business. This blog exists to educate investors, and give something back. It is not intended as advertisement for Aleph Investments; David is not soliciting business through it.” This is a good reminder that advisors blog for many reasons.

By the way, David was a wonderful host for my presentation earlier this year. He has also reviewed my book on his blog.

This Q&A is part of a series that started with Michael Kitces.

David MerkelQ. When did you start The Aleph Blog and why do you explicitly state that it’s separate from Aleph Investments?

A. I started Aleph Blog in February 2007 because I wanted to develop my own voice. I had written successfully at RealMoney.com for four years, and wanted to broaden my writings.

Aleph Blog is purely for the public good. That has been the goal from day one. There are many people that want a trustworthy investment advisor with talent. They contact me of their own desire.

Q. Has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships?

A. Yes, my blog has brought new business. Many of my clients came from reading what I wrote over the long-term. But I don’t sell my readers on my abilities. To do so is tawdry. I don’t like being sold to, so I don’t sell to my readers.

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

A. Can’t say. Aleph Blog is varied in what it writes about. I know this is a challenge for some readers, but I write about what I feel more strongly. I have a broad set of interests, so I may not be the best as far as marketing goes.

I have not tried to boost readership artificially. I’m not out for fame. I just try to produce good content, and let the readers do what they will. I do know that I have respect from most of the top bloggers.

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

A. I have written many effective blog posts. I wait a year before I declare them to be such. You can read them here: http://alephblog.com/category/best-articles/

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

A. Define your period over which you generate articles. You can generate a lot of little articles every day, or you can generate one significant article once a month. Or you can do something in-between. But be regular, or people will forget about you.

Second, write about what you feel most strongly. And if you don’t have a strong feeling, don’t write.

______________________________________________________________________

Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in blog, financial advisor | No Comments »

20 topics for your financial blog

Wednesday, Jun. 4th 2014

If you feel frustrated by coming up with topics for your financial blog, the journalist’s five Ws and 1 H can help. Below I share a list of 20 topics inspired by the 5 Ws and 1 H.

As you brainstorm topics, think about how you can solve problems for members of your target audience. This will make your posts relevant to them. For help with this, read “WHAT PROBLEM does this blog post solve for them?

WHY

  • Why I blog—remember to focus on your readers as you write about yourself. I aimed for that in “Why I write for you.”
  • Why I manage money the way I do
  • Why I became financial planner or an investment manager
  • Why I changed your mind about a topic important to how I help clients
  • Why investors should pay less attention to financial news

WHO

  • Who can you trust with your money
  • Who should inherit your wealth

WHAT

  •  What do you want?—ask your readers what they’d like to learn about on your blog. I’ve written about how to do that in “Ask Questions to Generate Content That Pops,” my guest post on the Wired Advisor blog.
  • What is most important for the success of your investments or financial plan
  • What is the biggest risk to your financial success

WHEN

  • When should you retire or start collecting Social Security
  • When you’re ready to buy a house

WHERE

  • Where in the world should you invest
  • Where should you custody your assets

HOW

  • How to go broke—sometimes writing about what not to do can be powerful
  • How to pick a financial advisor or investment manager
  • How to pick a mutual fund or ETF
  • How to create a portfolio for the long run
  • How to deal with the stock market’s ups and downs
  • How to protect yourself against inflation

For more ideas about generating blog post topics…

…check out “Photo + Mind Map = Blog Inspiration.”

______________________________________________________________________

Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing, or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in blog | 2 Comments »