Sunday, December 5, 2010

November on the Investment Writing blog

If you’re not visiting my Investment Writing blog in its new location, you missed the following posts in November:

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October updates to the Investment Writing blog

If you’re not visiting my InvestmentWriting blog in its new location, you’ve missed the following posts over the last month:

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, July 5, 2010

InvestmentWriting blog is moving ...

Please keep reading my Investment Writing blog at its new location on my website: 

If you have topics you'd like me to cover on the blog, I'm always interested in your ideas. You can note them below in a comment.

Thank you for reading!

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stop! Get a better title, or forget winning readers

Would YOU eagerly read an article with the following title?

Gulf Oil Spill

Impact on State and Local Government

Analysis of original title and introductory paragraph

Thousands of articles about BP's oil spill are fighting for your attention. "Not another oil spill story!" is probably the reaction of many readers who scan this title. The big problem: The title doesn't say why you should read it.

Let's look at the first paragraph to find a reason that you can highlight in a new title.
The Gulf Oil Spill will certainly have long-term repercussions for the fishing and tourism industries as well as the overall environment in the impact areas of the Gulf region. It is early in the disaster to fully evaluate the long-term effect on the states most at risk of contamination: Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. We do not anticipate immediate negative credit implications at the state level for those in question, but feel concerns are more likely to materialize at the local level at this time. We are continuously monitoring developments in the Gulf and considering our credit exposure in these areas.

Aha! Now I get it. Look at the phrases above that I bolded. Readers of this wealth management firm's newsletter should realize that the firm is looking out for the safety of their municipal bond portfolios. Too bad the title didn't tell them that.

The introductory paragraph doesn't help either. It starts with generic information that doesn't relate directly to investments. Even worse, it buries the most important information in the paragraph's second half.

Also, if readers aren't fixed income geeks, they may not realize that "negative credit implications" translates into "possible bond downgrades that could trim the value of your municipal bond portfolio."

Please stop here. Before you read any more, jot down a new title and first sentence for this article.

Looking for a better title

Here are some alternative titles.
  1. Will Your Municipal Bond Portfolio Spill Like BP's Well?
  2. No Need to Worry...Yet About the Oil Spill's Impact on Your Bond Portfolio
  3. Assessing the Oil Spill's Impact on Muni Bonds: The Three Most Important Factors
Which do you like best? Feel free to share your title ideas.

Related posts
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Where Are We Heading? The Future of Investment Management in Boston"

The future of investment management in Boston was the focus of a panel presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society's annual meeting on June 24. The view that Boston is being left behind made the greatest impact on me, but I'll report some of the opinions of all four speakers.

Reamer: Emphasis on actively managed equities hurts Boston
The investment world is shifting toward aggressive hedge funds and passive quantitative funds, said Norton Reamer, vice-chairman and founder, Asset Management Finance LLC. There's also currently an emphasis on fixed income. This is because the public has been discouraged by the stock market returns of the past two years. They want defensive, safe investments. On a related note, large pension funds are moving more toward indexing.

These trends don't favor Boston, the home of the original mutual fund, because local firms emphasize actively managed mutual funds. At least these trends don't bode well in the immediate future.

For Boston to prosper, it must attract assets from around the world, said Reamer. However, he sees the action shifting to New York, London, and even Philadelphia and California. Boston has only one of the 10 largest hedge funds and three of the 30 largest. While Boston has a history of venture capital, venture capital is less important than private equity, which is concentrated elsewhere, said Reamer.

One of Reamer's comments held a glimmer of hope. Universities--along with arbitrage groups, traders, and others--are the source of the new ideas that are changing the investment world. Boston has some great universities. Perhaps the universities can fuel the region's resurgence as an investment center. I'm happy to note that the Boston Security Analysts Society's program committee has a subcommittee devoting to inviting speakers from academia.

Putnam: Four trends will create many losers, few winners 
Investment management is a craft, said Don Putnam, managing partner of Grail Partners, who moderated the panel. He emphasized the need to avoid losing sight of the craft before he described the four trends that he believes are changing the industry.

As a result of these trends, there will be many losers and few winners, said Putnam. The winners will be global firms as well as small cadres of capable people. The big challenge for money management will be to connect these two groups.

Trend 1: The long, complicated supply chain is reordering. For example, people are seeing the problems with "the slices taken off for people who deliver golf balls." I assume Putnam was referring to wholesalers and the broader issue of 12b-1 fees and the like, though he said that he was not making a case for fee-only advisors. Changes are coming as a result of regulatory pressures, client demands, and "better mousetraps," such as ETFs and active ETFs. Putnam said he's sceptical about growth opportunities for the mutual fund industry.

Trend 2: The relevance of specialization is declining. Why? Because the efficient frontier--and the need to diversify into many slices of the market--has been challenged. "It has been proven to be nonsense for the client," said Putnam. Clients' "true utility equation" can be delivered more efficiently with quantitative solutions, he added.

Trend 3: The arithmetic of the investment business is changing with the rising importance of asset allocation. As the utility of money management has declined, fees have risen, said Putnam. This can't last. While clients have bought the "myth of comfort and control," the past three years have increased client dissatisfaction.

Trend 4: Technology is increasing in importance. Technology should be woven into every aspect of money management, said Putnam. Technology's influence on money management has barely begun.

Manning: Structure your firm to have an edge over your competition 
You must deliver great results to keep assets, said Robert J. Manning, who spoke as CEO of MFS Investment Management, but is scheduled to become the firm's chairman on July 1. This means you must structure your firm to have an edge over your competition. Manning discussed three key elements of MFS' structure.

1. Follow a long-term investment philosophy. The world is preoccupied with short-term investment returns. However, MFS believes that you need a culture of long-term investing backed by an appropriate compensation structure. When MFS conducts performance reviews, it only considers periods of three years or longer.

2. Create a global footprint. If your people are only in Boston, you can't be a winner, said Manning. For example, if you don't have staff in Europe, you can't respond quickly enough when credit default swaps widen in Europe. As part of the global footprint discussion, Manning emphasized the need to integrate the firm's fixed income and equity teams.

3. Analysts are more important than portfolio managers. The old model is broken, said Manning. The most important employees are career analysts who have expertise in specific sectors. MFS has eight global sector heads. These are the people who, if they "see a storm coming" get the entire firm out before it hits.

The increased importance of analysts has been driven partly by the fact that clients want to buy "specialized sleeves of alpha." This is reflected in analysts' compensation. At MFS, analysts earn more than portfolio managers.

We sell the global research platform, not the portfolio manager, said Manning. The portfolio manager simply assembles the alpha streams from the analysts the way that clients want.

Hughes: Confident in Boston's future 
Larry Hughes, CEO of BNY Mellon Wealth Management, said that Boston's talent and innovation makes his firm feel confident about Boston's future.

Still, the next decade will pose challenges for wealth managers in terms of how to protect clients against continued market volatility and how to capture the related opportunities. Hughes suggested three areas for focus.

1. Investment innovation--The "set it and forget it" ways of the past won't work any more, said Hughes. It's important to capture trends that develop--and disappear--in months, or perhaps even just weeks.

2. Seamless and dynamic planning--Wealth managers must "plan across silos," considering all aspects of clients' lives, including taxes, estate planning, health care, and more.

3. Better manager-client engagement--It's important to speak in your clients' terms. Clients don't talk about the efficient frontier, standard deviation, or r-squared, said Hughes. So neither should wealth managers. Instead, wealth managers should present issues in straightforward terms, such as "helping you maintain your lifestyle."

Related posts:
* Investment management career advice from industry pros
* "Have mutual fund fees gone up or down?"
* GMO's Jeremy Grantham on "The Ethical Hole in Finance" at #CFA2010
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Investment management career advice from industry veterans

Investment industry veterans' somewhat gloomy outlook for Boston's asset management firms prompted me to ask, what should the people in this room do to promote their careers?

I asked this question during the Q&A session following "Where Are We Heading? The Future of Investment Management in Boston," a June 24 panel presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society's annual meeting. You'll find the panelists' suggestions below.

Keep learning, said Donald H. Putnam, managing partner, Grail Partners LLC. As the role of technology accelerates, you can't achieve the same outcomes as in the past using old skills. The great investors spend more time on their own skills as they get older, he added.

Take new challenges and learn new things, said Norton Reamer, vice-chairman and founder, Asset Management Finance LLC.

Be passionate about what you do, said Larry Hughes, CEO of BNY Mellon Wealth Management. If you don't feel passionate, then find something else to do.

Focus on your trade, said Robert Manning, CEO. MFS Investment Management. If you're good at what you do, you'll find a job despite the industry trends.

(Added 6/29) For more information on the panelists' presentations, read "Where Are We Heading? The Future of Investment Management in Boston."

Related posts:
* "You" can help your job hunting "thank you"
* Useful LinkedIn Groups for investment and wealth management job hunters
* Recruiter Ted Chaloner on job interviews that get results
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Financial blogging lessons from The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Tips for more compelling posts

"The titles and the first few lines of your poem represent the hand you extend in friendship toward your reader. They’re the first exposure he or she has, and you want to make a good impression."
-- Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

This Ted Kooser quote applies to financial blog posts as well as to poems. Financial posts and poetry aren’t often mentioned in the same sentence. However, both forms of writing will win or lose readers on the basis of first impressions. So, I’d like to share tips for financial bloggers based on the “First Impressions” chapter of Kooser’s book.

1. Use your title to set your readers’ expectations
. Give up bland titles, such as "401(k) plans" in favor of titles that give your audience a reason to read. For example, my title for this post identifies my target audience – financial bloggers – and the benefit I believe they’ll receive – more compelling posts. "Titles are very important tools for delivering information and setting expectations," as Kooser says. Instead of "401(k) plans," consider something like "Three ways you can get more out of your 401(k) plan."

2. Don’t lead with boring information
. Put your background information somewhere other than your opening lines. Too often, as Kooser says, bloggers – like poets – start with “information that really is not essential but is there because it was a part of the event that triggered the poem. It’s the background story, and it may not be necessary for us to know it to appreciate the poem.”

3. Deliver on your promise. For example, if your title and first paragraph promise 401(k) tips, don’t switch midstream to discussing online checking accounts.

4. Write in a consistent style. If you drew in your blog readers with a warm, conversational style, you’ll lose them when you switch to a cold, institutional style. As Kooser says, "If a poem begins with three lines of strict iambic pentameter, a reader will be disconcerted if that forceful rhythm is abandoned in the fourth line."

5. Be aware of your "voice." Kooser describes "voice" or "presence" as "the person we not only hear, but intuit to be behind the words." For example, I think my voice is friendly, conversational, and reflects a genuine desire to help financial advisors communicate better with their clients. Voice is communicated by your writing style as well as your content.

Try applying one--or all--of these tips in your next financial blog post!

Related posts
* Start with a good lead, or lose your reader

* Financial writers, lead with your message, not your source

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Guest post: "Making Research Readable"

Investment research analysts can learn to write better. In his guest post, Joe Polidoro gives directors of research his advice on how to make this happen.

I'm delighted to have met another advocate of good investment writing thanks to Twitter, where Joe tweets as @joepolidoro.

Making Research Readable
By Joe Polidoro 

Is it worthwhile, or even possible, to improve the quality of your research analysts’ writing? Yes and yes, and I’ll tell you how. First, the business case.

It seems reasonable that good writing—clear, engaging, memorable—should be more effective than sub-par writing at reaching your audience. But let’s see the numbers. 

One of the best proofs I’ve come across is courtesy of Dame Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson PLC and former CEO of the Economist Group (hat tip: Vicki Cobb and I.N.K.)

Scardino located a study in which three groups—linguists, writing professors, and journalists –were asked to improve passages taken from a history textbook. Students were then asked to read the original passages and the rewrites and immediately record as much as they could remember.

Recall of the journalists’ rewrites beat recall of the other groups’ rewrites and of the original text by a whopping 40%. Good writing matters.

And I think average writers, including research analysts, can measurably improve their writing—with the right help.

First, look for a writer
In your quest for a writing coach, avoid anyone who doesn’t make a living—and a decent one—by writing. As Stephen King said, anyone who is paid to write knows how to write effectively. Professional writers “get the story told memorably … and quickly,” says Scardino. Those who make their living doing other things, including the teaching of writing, usually can’t.

Hire a writer/coach
A writing pro isn’t necessarily a good writing teacher, however. Aside from references, here’s how to tell. Effective teaching is less about charisma, more about preparation, perseverance, and a passion for the work. So ask questions: What are you going to teach my analysts? What are your goals? What’s your plan? How will you deal with indifference or egomania?

Your writer/coach should be quick with confidence-inspiring answers.  Look for someone who emphasizes telling a story (yes, even in a research report), clarity, and effective editing. Steer clear of those who get deep into grammar and theory. Good writer/coaches use real examples and show how it’s done.

Follow through with your swing
No writer/coach worth hiring will promise to improve your analysts’ writing in one session. A golfer won’t significantly improve her game with a 3-hour lesson. If she’s serious, she’ll take a series of lessons over the season. And writing well is harder than golfing well.

It doesn’t have to be extensive—even three 45-minute sessions over four to eight weeks with your most problematic analysts will work. But set aside budget for this. It’ll show you’re serious. And it will make whoever you hire that much more effective.

Joe Polidoro spent over a year improving the equity research reports at Bear Stearns, where he worked with past and future research stars including Lee Seidler, Lincoln Anderson, Larry Kudlow, Joe Buckley, Jami Rubin, and Steve Binder. Joe now co-heads Triplestop LLC, a marketing agency specializing in asset management and related industries.

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Six lessons from the CFA Institute’s conference tweets

You can learn some lessons for how to tweet a conference from the CFA Institute. It has done things right as it timed its Twitter debut to coincide with its annual conference. But there’s still room for improvement.

Lesson 1:  Deploy a team. The CFA Institute mobilized a team of 14 people to report on its three-day conference. One person will burn out if she or he tries to cover every session. Plus, it’s impossible for one person to cover concurrent sessions.

Lesson 2: Use a hashtag. The hashtag #CFA2010 allowed people to find conference tweets by both official and unofficial sources.

Lesson 3: Complement your tweets with blog posts. You can’t say much of substance in a line of 140 characters or less. You’ll engage your conference attendees more deeply when some of your tweets lead them to blog posts. Tweets may be the sizzle that leads some reader to the steak. Read the CFA Institute's 2010 conference blog.

Lesson 4: Decide on a strategy for engaging with fellow Twitter users.  The CFA Institute included non-staff #CFA2010 tweets in the Twitter feed. It might also have engaged with other people tweeting about the conference.

I may have overlooked something, but I didn’t see any CFA Institute Twitter users getting into conversations on Twitter. On the other hand, there aren’t many CFA charterholders on--or even knowledgeable about--Twitter. “You can tweet, although I don’t know what that means,” joked John Rogers, the CFA Institute’s President and CEO, to widespread laughter when he introduced the conference’s Monday morning sessions.

Lesson 5: Monitor the back channel. This isn’t an issue for the CFA Institute yet, but it’s becoming more of an issue, as reflected in the publication of The Back Channel: How Audiences Are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever by Cliff Atkinson. The CFA Institute kept its eyes on the back channel by featuring #CFA2010 tweets on its conference blog and on screens at the conference. 

Lesson 6: Go multimedia. Some folks like to take in their information in written form. Others prefer audio and video. The CFA Institute did a great job of getting its headline speakers interviewed on camera by reporters and tweeting the interviews as they became available online. It has also gradually fed the interviews onto its blog.

Congratulations CFA Institute on a conference well-tweeted!

Related posts:
* My blog posts related to #CFA2010

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pull your white papers into the year 2010

Investment and wealth managers, you can get a lot more mileage out of your white papers today.

How's that?

Don't forget about the content once it's up on your website. Reuse it using social media.

Recycle as blog posts
White paper content can be recycled into blog posts. In some cases, you can pluck a few paragraphs and drop them into your blog "as is." However, most of the time, you'll need to frame and re-write the content. I've been doing this recently for a white paper client.  

Another possibility: Send your white paper to a blogger whom you respect. Offer to answer questions about your topic on the other person's blog. Check out "How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments," if you'd like to explore this option

Tweet it--and don't forget LinkedIn
It's a no-brainer to tweet the availability of your white paper. Smart marketers go beyond this. They tweet intriguing excerpts, keeping them short enough to be retweetable. Pithy quotes are popular on Twitter.

Remember, tweets are also great fodder for LinkedIn updates. While you're over at LinkedIn, you may also want to raise a question in a Group related to your white paper topic.

Go multimedia
Different members of your audience prefer to take in content in different ways. So, also consider turning your white papers into podcasts, videos, or interactive webinars.

Related posts
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Quick email tips for financial advisors and clients in my guest post

You can snare some quick tips for advisor-client email communications in my guest post for the KBK Wealth Connection blog.

The tips boil down to
  1. Get to your point quickly
  2. Keep it short
  3. Organize clearly
Visit Kathleen's blog for more details.
Susan Weiner, CFA, writes and edits articles, white papers, blogs, investment commentary, web pages, and other communications for leading investment and wealth management firms. She has presented “How to Write Emails and Letters Your Clients Will Read” to great reviews by financial advisors 
Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, June 7, 2010

BNY Mellon: I liked your "truth ad" until you used that word

BNY Mellon Wealth Management has a catchy new print ad asking "Can you handle the truth?" 

I love the simplicity of "Can you handle the truth?"

You can view one version of the ad on BNY Mellon's website. However, I first saw this family of ads in the print version of The Wall Street Journal. 

Print vs. online ad
The Wall Street Journal version uses the same big "truth" box, but it is mostly better than the online version.

It's better in the sense that much of its text is simpler and more direct than in the online version. I imagine that individuals seeking financial advice would find it very appealing. Let's compare the two versions. 

Print version
The truth is most investors' portfolios did not handle the past years' market volatility well. A more alarming truth is that most plans have not been changed to mitigate future risks or capture opportunities.

We have helped many investors with an honest assessment of their current portfolio and plan. May we help you?
The first sentence is disarmingly honest. At least in my eyes. 

The language charmed me until I got to "mitigate." If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I don't like "big words" and "mitigate" is one of my pet peeves. Why couldn't the writers substitute "ease," "cut," "reduce," or even "manage" for "mitigate," depending on what they meant? I suspect that a lawyer or compliance person pushed for "mitigate."

Online version 
The first line of the online ad's text--which you can read in the indented section below--is much stiffer and institutional. It doesn't sound like something a human being would say in conversation. I've italicized the words I don't like in this ad's text below.  

The rest of the text is better. I like the second sentence. However, in the fourth sentence, "complimentary analysis" suffers when compared with the "honest assessment" of the first ad. Also, "please contact us" isn't as appealing as "May we help you?"
Fundamental changes in the financial landscape have rendered many investment plans null and void.

Your plan may be one of them.

Let us help you learn the truth about whether your portfolio is positioned for the years to come.
To get started with a complimentary analysis of your investment plan, please contact us.
Related posts
* Timely, creative financial ad from Northwestern Mutual
* No more fancy-pants prose, please
Financial writers clinic: Getting rid of "mitigate"
* Can you make a case for "mitigate"?

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, June 4, 2010

Guest post: "Talking to clients about social investing"

Socially responsible investing can make for a difficult conversation between investment managers and their clients. But it doesn't have to be that way if you follow the tips provided by my friend Annie Logue, the author of Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies.

Talking to clients about social investing
By Ann C. Logue

Often, an individual client will walk into an office with a list of industries and companies that he or she does not want to own. Some clients have well-thought out objections or religious obligations that set the tone, but others have a vague idea of the goodness or badness of an industry without any real reasoning behind it.

How do you deal with such a customer?

Social criteria can be legitimate investment constraints, so one tactic is to approach it as a constraint. Get the client to identify the real issues, ideally in writing. Are they religious? Well, you can’t argue with religion! If they are more vague, then use some good questioning to get them onto paper, or ask the client to do some research. Some good sources are CSR Wire and Triple Pundit.

The real conversation is about what your client would rather invest in. Social investing doesn’t have to have lesser performance than traditional investing; the KLD Social Select 400 Index has minimal tracking error to the S&P 500 and, right now, outperforms it slightly. The secret is making sure that the companies you do invest in have a similar risk and return profile. If your client wants to sell BP, then you’d better find a company with similar characteristics. Replace BP with a speculative green tech company, and you're changing the portfolio’s nature. Replace it with a large multinational food company with responsible business practices, paying a high dividend, and subject to commodity price fluctuations, and you’re getting closer to the portfolio contribution of BP without the oil exposure.

Keep holding the conversation, too. BP had a great reputation for its social responsibility right up until April of 2010. Social investing is still investing, and you still take on company risk. Just as there is no perfect job and no perfect boyfriend, there is no perfect investment. Remind your client of the long-term goals. Many clients prefer to separate their investing from their philanthropy, figuring that the more money they make, the more money they can donate and the more time they have to volunteer.

Finally, turn your clients into activists. Talk to them about proxies. They can vote their proxies and have an influence on companies even if they do not change their ownership positions. That gives the client power without disrupting an investment position.

Social investing doesn’t have to underperform, and it doesn’t have to be a wedge between you and your client. You can use a client’s interest as an opportunity to educate them and to show how you can add value to their portfolio.
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My May blog posts by category: Blogging, economy/investments/wealth management, marketing, social media, writing

Did you notice that I went wild in May, posting every day as part of the Word Count Blogathon? For your convenience, I'm listing my May posts by category.

Economy, investments, and wealth management
Social media
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Six tips for slogging through blogging: Lessons from the Blogathon

“How can I force myself to blog regularly?”

The investment and wealth managers in my blogging teleclass often ask this question. I grappled with this challenge during the Word Count Blogathon, for which I committed to post daily. So now’s 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 Blogathon I learned how to take automation one step further. I set HootSuite to tweet my blog posts without human intervention. Read about "How to Add an RSS Feed" using HootSuite.

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.

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 FA 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.

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Boston-area networking suggestions

Social media are great, but sometimes I want to meet my business colleagues, prospects, and referral sources in person. 

In this post, I share some names of networking organizations in greater Boston. Perhaps you'll find an organization that works for you. Even if you're not in Boston, some of these organizations have a national presence.

My anchor organizations are the Boston Security Analysts Society (BSAS), the local chapter of the CFA Institute, and the Women's Business Network (WBN). I'm a volunteer for the  BSAS. I try to attend at least one program monthly to keep on top of investment management issues and to meet new people. I belong to WBN out in Wellesley to get myself out of my office to chat with other small business owners.
Here are some other organizations I've enjoyed on multiple occasions. They're a mix of financial, communications, and business groups.

There are many more worthy organizations in greater Boston. One that intrigues me is the Boston Economic Club. If only I had more time... 

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The two most important words are...

Copyblogger Brian Clark's lessons in "The two most important words in blogging" apply equally to any form of marketing communication. Pay attention because using these words will make your communications more persuasive.

See if you can guess the two words before you surf to Copyblogger's site. If you have attended any of my presentations on writing, you should know one of the two answers.

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How to write subheads that command attention

Copyblogger Brian Clark accurately notes in "How to write exquisite subheads" that subheads can turn scanners into readers.

I especially like his advice that a subhead should "express a clear and complete benefit."

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Friday, May 28, 2010

Executive's lesson for your communications with clients and prospects

Financial advisors who want to communicate effectively will follow the example set by Bill Carter in "The Scoreboard Can't Tell You Everything." Carter's lesson boils down to this: Put yourself in the mind of the person with whom you're communicating.

Here's what Carter, partner and co-found of Fuse, said in his interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times:
In terms of communication, I think that I do my best to try to step away from my own belief system and my own priorities, which are the priorities of a 41-year-old man who’s married and has a young daughter. Instead, I try to evaluate decisions based on what the 25- to-32-year-olds in our office are trying to get out of their career, what they want in a workplace. 
Your articles and conversations will be more persuasive when you phrase them in terms of what your clients, prospects, and referral sources care about. 

For example, say "Your interests come first because we don't accept payments from product providers" instead of "We are a fee-only financial advisor."

Do you apply this rule to your communications? Please share your examples.

Related posts
* Focus on features, not benefits, in your marketing
* Encourage good communication or lose your multi-generational clients

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Have mutual fund fees gone up or down?"

Investment expenses have been on my mind this month, as you know, if you've read "Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko on investing," "Morgan Creek Capital's Yusko riles up Tweeters with comments on investment fees" or you follow me on Twitter.

This prompted me to revisit my article, "Have mutual fund fees gone up or down? Are they fair or unfair? It depends on whom you ask." 

Many of the points raised in this 2006 article still apply.
  •  For most advisors, it’s a no-brainer to pick the fund with lower expenses, assuming the fund’s style, market capitalization and other major factors are equal. 
  • Controversies swirl around several topics related to fees, including their fairness, their correlation with higher fund returns, whether they’re rising or falling, and whether fund firms are responding adequately to advisor demands.
  • Some financial advisors say both critics and boosters of mutual funds may be missing the point by focusing on disclosed expense ratios. 
  • One thing seems clear: Advisors will continue to gravitate toward low-cost funds that also meet their other investment criteria.
One change since my 2006 article: The Investment Company Institute's research no longer shows that overall mutual fund expenses are dropping. The headline for its latest study says, "Mutual Fund Expense Ratios Ticked Up in 2009, While Total Fees and Expenses Remained Steady." Morningstar Advisor put a more negative spin on fees in "Mutual Fund Expense Ratios See Biggest Spike Since 2000."
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Tip for how to connect with your workshop attendees

    Advisors, you can deepen your connection with folks who attend your investment or financial planning workshops using a technique I observed at the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts annual conference on May 7.

    Consultant Shari Harley, whom I wrote about in "How to improve your financial planning client relationships," handed out postcards to her audience. There's nothing unusual about that. But what she said next grabbed my attention.

    Harley asked us to write on the postcard (shown in the photo above) at least one thing that we learned from her presentation that we'd like to apply. Then she promised to mail the postcards to us in one month, if we dropped them off on our way out of the auditorium.

    I like Harley's postcard idea because
    1. Her question spurs the audience to think about what was most valuable in her presentation.
    2. She gains valuable feedback when participants hand in their cards.
    3. She reminds potential clients of her existence--with their permission--when they receive their cards one month later.
    4. If audience members haven't acted on their goals by the time they receive the cards, they may say, "I need a consultant to help me act on this."
    This postcard technique should work nicely as follow-up to any sort of financial seminar or workshop.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Financial bloggers' posts may violate copyright law

    Copyright law isn't on the curriculum of most business schools or for CFP or CFA candidates. So it's not surprising that I've seen well-meaning financial advisors unintentionally violate copyright law in their blogs. 

    What NOT to do
    You cannot copy someone's entire  newspaper article or  blog post  word-for-word, then make it okay by giving credit to the author. This won't suffice. Not even if you link back to the original article. You are violating copyright law. 

    When in doubt, paraphrase
    U.S. law allows you to quote part of a written work under the doctrine of fair use, which you can read about on the federal copyright website.

    Fair use is a murky concept. "There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work," as it says in the federal government's FAQ on on "How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?"

    As the Copyright Office says:
    If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.
    Your safest course is to simply paraphrase or summarize the article that interests you, while also citing the source. It's courteous to provide a link to the article, if it's available online.

    Using quotes very selectively will keep you safe, while protecting other authors' copyright.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Start with a good lead, or lose your reader

    "...the lead is the doorway into every text. Its job, never a minor one, is to draw the reader over the threshold," says Francis Flaherty in The Elements of Story, p. 201.

    The lead, also spelled lede, is the first sentence or paragraph of your blog post or article.  Write a weak lead and you may lose your audience at the very beginning of your piece.

    When you write your lead, Flaherty suggests you ask "What lead will prompt in the reader the most irresistible questions, questions powerful enough to propel him through that doorway and into the story?" p. 202.

    When you write an investment or wealth management blog post, the most powerful leads often pose a problem faced by your readers and dangle the possibility of a solution. Have you written a powerful lead of this type? Please post a link to your blog post, so we can see how you've mastered the lead.
    Susan B. Weiner, CFA
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Using CFP in your Twitter name--Read the CFP Board's position

    Using a term such as CFP in your Twitter name makes sense as a marketing strategy for financial advisors. It immediately identifies you as a credentialed professional. However, it also means you're violating the CFP Board's rules.

    Twitter alerted me to this issue. When I dug into the CFP Board's Guide to Use of the CFP Certification Marks, I discovered that point 1.7 says "CFP certificants may not own or use an email address or internet domain name that includes the CFP mark." (Sorry CFP Board, I don't know how to make the (R) mark appear in a Blogger blog). 

    Here are some examples from the CFP Board of proper and improper use of their mark.

    A Twitter name isn't an email or a URL. But Twitter does make the name into a URL following the format

    I contacted @CFPBoard to ask if a Twitter name using CFP would violate its rules. Here's the reply:

    It sounds as if the CFP Board is open to your feedback about using CFP in Twitter names. So shoot SLaBonte an email, if you'd like to be heard.
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    Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved