Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Financial writers, lead with your message, not your source

Sometimes you go to a conference or talk with an expert and return to your office with a message you've just got to share. That's great. But in their enthusiasm, financial advisors often make the mistake of starting their article or blog post with the name and credentials of the expert or conference, instead of their message. 

Here's a made-up example of this common mistake. It's the kind of problem I often see in advisor-written articles.
Last month, Jane Miller, an estate planning attorney with 30 years experience, gave a great talk at the Anytown Library about estate planning for families including children with special needs. Jane practices in Nexttown with the firm of Miller, Brown, and Lopez. I'm going to share some of her main points with you.
Let's assume this paragraph went out in a client newsletter. Do any clients care about Jane, where she spoke, and the identity of the partners in her law firm?  Maybe some do. But I'll bet the families with children who have special needs care a lot more about the details of Jane's advice.

I suggest rewriting the beginning of the article to focus on the message, rather than the source.
Sometimes your clients' best-intentioned efforts to help their children with special needs may backfire, as I learned in a presentation by attorney Jane Miller of Miller, Brown, and Lopez. There are three steps you can take to help your child financially, while maintaining their access to means-tested programs.
Do you grasp the difference between the two approaches?

Unless you're reporting on your one-to-one meeting at the White House with President Obama or your Hollywood meeting with the hottest movie star, start your article with your strongest message.

Related posts
Grab readers with an anecdotal lead
Bloggers' top two punctuation mistakes
How to make one quarterly letter fit clients at different levels of sophistication

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.
Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved


  1. Susan,
    This tip about not leading with the source's name is so true. Recently, a staff editor at a large fund company told me, "Our goal is not to wow our readers, it's to inform and educate them." So, in your example, readers don't care about attorney Miller, but they sure care about their clients whose kids have special needs.
    Harriett Magee


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