Resolved: to write effectively! Susan Weiner, famous among CFA societies for her effective-writing workshops, has produced a powerful reference guide that should become the single best source for assisting independent and fee-only advisers in their blogging activities. The lessons contained in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients are highly accessible. Through exercises and outlines, reinforced with a workbook-style appendix, the reader quickly learns what it takes to accomplish excellent short-form communication.
Why did the author write the book at this time and for what broad purpose? She believes that blogging is a must for independent and fee-only advisers. It enables them to communicate clearly and deepen relationships with clients. Blogging also helps build an advisory business by keeping clients and referral sources engaged, eventually attracting new clients. Ultimately, blogging is a way for financial advisers to cement their reputation in the field.
The book is neatly arranged into two sections: (1) process and (2) time management, compliance, and marketing.
Weiner first addresses the raison d’être of blogging—namely, addressing the topics clients want to hear about. Brainstorming ideas, she says, must be clientcentric. The focus should be on identifying, understanding, and writing for the reader. If all this is done well and frequently, clients will know that the blogs are written with their investment needs in mind. Reading the posts will remind them how their advisers make them feel.
Weiner begins by discussing mind mapping, a visual brainstorming flow of associated ideas. In case the technique does not work for every reader, she also provides a “blog post preparation worksheet.” My advice is to use both tools at once for maximum effect.
By the time most readers reach Chapter 3, “Jumpstart Reader-Centric Writing,” they will probably be champing at the bit, ready to put form to thought and pen to paper. The first draft, the author explains, encapsulates the blogger’s ideas and energy. She recommends just writing freely and getting the ideas on paper in however disorganized a fashion.
The next step is to identify what is most important and interesting in the material. Then comes checking the reading level of the text and editing, all with an eye toward keeping it short and strong. To illustrate the desired result, the author provides an example—on property valuation, of all things—that will leave the reader wanting more.
Weiner also addresses the important question of how frequently and when to publish. Will the blog be “evergreen” and undated, or will it be issued regularly, intermittently, or “as inspired”? The best advice is to stick to a schedule.
The middle portion of Financial Blogging is destined to become the first stop for compliance-conscious bloggers. It features a chapter on compliance that is as complete as a practitioner (compliance officer, branch manager, or research director) could wish for. The chapter deals with federal, state, US SEC, and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) oversight. It serves as a checklist for examining the blogger’s internal guidelines and furnishes concrete examples of how recommendations should be communicated. It also addresses such sensitive issues as customer complaints—as well as statements of praise—and how to handle them in a compliant manner. Weiner recommends staying abreast of SEC and FINRA alerts on using social media sites and personal devices.
Readers already familiar with many of Weiner’s writing techniques will be happy to see that she also fully covers the important task of promoting blogs. She describes all the means of disseminating the message—whether on paper or in social media—urging bloggers to select the methods that work best for them. Weiner encourages bloggers to respond punctually to readers’ comments, guest-blog for others, and invite guest bloggers. Other tips include automating the flow of content into social media, setting up permalinks, and flagging key words. She also shows how to use search engine optimization (SEO) to disseminate blogs to desired channels.
Finally, the appendix is helpful both for getting started as a blogger and for becoming more effective. Its worksheets and other resources focus on getting blogs’ points across in a highly readable way.
While Financial Blogging provides on-point guidance for mastering the blog as a short form of communication, it also functions as an excellent tool for sharpening longer forms of investment writing. Both students and seasoned journalists will find the book easy to use, and it will benefit novice and senior advisers alike. The book will be especially helpful to those who are hesitant to express their ideas online. All in all, Financial Blogging is a handy reference and reinforcement for both theory and practice.