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5 Steps to Writing Better Investment Commentary With Less Pain

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As an RIA or registered rep, you probably already share investment commentary with your clients and prospects. But what if you could get a better reaction from your clients to that commentary? Or if you could make the writing process less painful? Creating a standardized process for your investment commentary can achieve both goals.

Every time you stop to make a decision about your investment commentary, you delay the process of completing it. Plus, you run the risk that you’ll make the wrong decision. This is why creating a process is powerful.

Below I share my ideas for a process that’ll make writing your quarterly investment commentary easier and more effective.

Step 1. Collect ideas and materials

Don’t wait until the day after the quarter ends to think about your commentary. Instead, as soon as one quarter ends, start collecting ideas and materials for the next quarter. Store them in one easily found location. Depending on your preferences, it could be a manila folder, Microsoft Word file, a program such as Evernote or OneNote, or even a mind map that allows you to insert links and attach files.

Not sure what direction you’d like to go in? Try mind mapping. I find it’s great for generating ideas because it can take me in unexpected directions. The unexpected can help your commentary to stand out from other people’s commentary.

Listen to the questions that your clients, prospects and referral sources ask. They know better than anyone what they care about. Answer their questions in your commentary. For example, they want to know how market conditions affect their portfolios and how you are adjusting their portfolios to those conditions. Focusing on what your readers care about will make your commentary more compelling. That helps you convert casual readers into fans and, eventually, clients.

Perhaps you use commentary provided by your broker-dealer or some other third party. In that case, add value by writing about how their content relates to your audience. For example, take their bland market observations and describe how they affect long-term retirement investors or investors who are in the asset allocations that you recommend.

Step 2. Organize your ideas before you write

When you organize your ideas before you write, your words flow more efficiently and will require less editing later on. Again, I like mind mapping as a tool. Getting the map’s bird’s eye perspective on my ideas helps me to recognize patterns in my information. Those patterns can become a blueprint for your commentary.

As you review your ideas, ask “Why will my readers care about this?” Make that theme run throughout your piece.

Step 3. Write your draft early

Draft your commentary before the quarter ends, to avoid last-minute crunches. In most cases, your views on the quarter aren’t going to change much in the last couple of weeks before you publish your commentary. You can simply drop in updated statistics, such as index returns, at the last minute. Even if things do change, you’ll benefit from mulling over your thoughts sooner rather than later.

In addition to managing your time better, early drafts allow your thoughts to marinate. You have time to figure out how to explain complex ideas clearly. You may be able to refine your commentary by the time you’re ready to publish. You’ll also be better positioned to catch weaknesses and errors when you copyedit or proofread.

As you think about your ideas, consider testing them on social media. Share a provocative status update on LinkedIn or Twitter to see what attracts interest and sparks responses, assuming compliance policies allow this.

If you’re at a small firm, exploit one of your advantages over behemoth firms. Writers at big firms are often hemmed in by corporate marketing guidelines. You probably have more freedom to express your personality in your writing. Write like a human being, not a marketing machine. Share a real-life story or your take on how your favorite hobby sheds light on the markets. That’s something no one else can do exactly like you. Step 4. Manage editing, proofreading and compliance

If you have a colleague, friend or professional editor on hand, then send your commentary to that person for editing and proofreading. It’s hard for all of us to see the weaknesses of our own work. An objective third party can help by telling you where your text is unclear, uninteresting or ungrammatical. If you lack outside resources, get Adobe Acrobat or your word-processing software to read your text out loud. It’s amazing how listening to a computer reading can help you to catch problems. I’ve discussed more editing and proofreading techniques in “5 steps for rewriting your investment commentary” and “Investment commentary numbers: How to get them right.”

For a good relationship with your firm’s compliance professionals, identify their hot buttons in advance. For example, compliance will probably demand a lengthy disclosure if you mention a specific mutual fund. When you know this in advance, you can either avoid the mention or have the relevant disclosure ready to go. You’ll get better treatment from compliance when you show that you understand the issues.

Step 5. Share your commentary

To get the biggest benefit from your commentary, don’t wait for people to find it. In addition to sharing it in your client statements, publish it on your website and in e-newsletters. Share links via social media to the extent that compliance allows. In your status updates, don’t simply say “ABC Financial’s latest quarterly commentary.” Instead, share a compliance-approved line that raises a question or expresses a provocative opinion. You’ll attract way more eyeballs that way.

The right investment commentary process will help you to deepen your relationships with clients, prospects and referral sources.


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