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Financial Content That Works

While every sector has its own peculiarities, nothing is quite like Financial. Excluding health and family, what’s more important than money? It governs lifestyles and life options; it’s socially and politically charged and essential to every life. All of which makes finance a unique and fascinating area in which to work.

In order to communicate financial content effectively, there are a number of key considerations we must make, before even thinking about putting pen to paper. I’ve listed a few here, but I would be keen to hear if you think I’ve missed anything, so let me know in the comments.

 

Brand personality

Before any company can effectively convey its message, it must have a clear, consistent way of communicating. Getting to know your brand is vital, enabling you to express the values at its core. These are the touchpoints that engage your readers, letting them know what they have in common with the brand.

Getting clarity on who you are is vital.

Pinning down your brand also enables you to define its tone of voice. By tone of voice, I mean the way the brand writes and speaks to its clients. Consider the difference between how two brands, IBM and Innocent Drinks, ‘speak’. The former, is serious and full of gravitas, the latter casual and fun. That is reflected in their words, grammar, verbal rhythm and numerous other decisions.

All of these stylistic choices reflect the personality and voice, and are set down in the guidelines. Just as your visual/brand guidelines tell a designer about your colour palette and how to use your logo, your tone of voice guide ensures your written communications are consistent. This consistency of voice is essential in a world where so much of your client communications are written (on websites, email, blogs and social media).  

 

Back to basics, every time

The process of writing financial content can be intricate, with many different parties involved, large swathes of information to distil and a great deal of complexity to simplify. So, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s important, which is why I always recommend getting back to basics.

When you’re planning and executing, always return to ‘marketing 101’. Make sure you’re communicating the essentials and meeting the content objectives. Ask yourself those basic questions. Are you clearly expressing the product/service? Have you covered the key features? How do those benefit the client practically? What are the emotional benefits?

Make sure you’re asking the right questions.

In short, what’s your proposition and why you, rather than a competitor?

These are some of the questions you need to be able to answer and share with anyone who’s writing for the company.

 

Client-centric communications

One of the greatest mistakes financial brands make is thinking clients want to read about their business or even important financial news. That may sound counter-intuitive but the truth is clients want to read about themselves. They want to know about what can benefit them specifically.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t blog about market trends. Rather, it means that your blog should focus on your client and how those trends might affect them. That doesn’t mean doing what you always do and adding a ‘How does this affect you?’ section at the end, although this is very common. It means, putting the client at the very heart of the piece, by thinking about the information from their point of view and making the content about them.

You’ll still be presenting your brand as the authority but you’ll also be showing you care about how it affects your clients. This shows empathy and that you have your clients’ best interests at heart, which creates ongoing engagement.

 

Don’t make assumptions

Once you’ve worked in a sector for a while, you start to get familiar with its verbal quirks, acronyms, abbreviations and the like. To speed up communications, you might slip into jargon, which works fine in the office. However, problems arise when you communicate in the same way with your clients. That’s where we tend to make assumptions. Just because you know APR means Annual Percentage Rate, it doesn’t follow that your readers do, even if they’ve come looking for financial information.

Assuming the wrong level of knowledge is a sure way to put some people off. Jargon can make it hard for readers to grasp what you’re saying, which is a significant barrier to online engagement. Of course, people can just Google it but your brand should care enough about them to make sure they understand. Moreover, it is unhelpful to have users click away from your site.

Don’t leave clients feeling confused.

Sometimes, jargon works

Writing to suit your audience is what counts and in some areas of finance, jargon works. With many B2B audiences, it shows a brand’s level of understanding. For example, a Fund Administrator would, rightly, expect its readers to understand what it means by AUM (assets under management) or AML (anti-money laundering).

Jargon may also be used with B2C audience, for example, to signpost that a certain level of sophistication is required from the reader. Consider an online investment house, with complicated, higher-risk investment vehicles. The use of jargon around these is one of the more subtle ways they warn less experienced investors that these products are not for them.

 

Make the most of Compliance and Legal

For some reason, a lot of marketers and creatives dread working with the legal and compliance teams. However, effective finance sector copywriting is about meeting all the objectives of the project, in a way that readers really value. Of course, the requirements of the marketing team are important but so are those of the Compliance and Legal teams.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve found that problems arise when these teams are excluded from the process until late on. This can create a stressful, difficult sign-off process, with them having to catch up with the project and the marketing/creative team becoming frustrated.

Collaborate early.

We believe it makes more sense to involve Compliance and Legal from the outset, to find out what you must say and can’t say early on, so you can build that into your planning. It’s also worth getting to know the people themselves, to help you understand their approach. There are always grey areas and knowing the real red lines, as early possible, can only ever be helpful.

These teams also come at problems from different angles. That means they can offer solutions that the writer alone may not have considered. They may also know about additional relevant research that could enrich your content, adding value for readers. In short, there is a great deal to be gained from close collaboration with Compliance and Legal, and considering them part of the creative team.

 

Choosing the right content partner

As you might expect, I would be delighted if everyone who read this worked with us. Realistically, there are many choices for outsourcing your financial copywriting and there is a great deal to consider.

Most importantly, of course, you must work with writers who know the financial sector, can make complex content easy to consume and who understand it’s a regulated environment. However, please don’t just pick a writer based on experience. Make sure they care about fast, clear client communications.

There are thousands of great wordsmiths but writers who work without ego and prioritise listening to their clients are harder to find, and it makes all the difference; trust me.

What do you think are the priorities for financial content? How do you make yours stand out? Could you make your content work harder?

If you would like to discuss working with us, please drop us a line at: hello@alexgenncopywriting.co.uk



Copywriting in an ‘agile’ environment

So, you’re the superstar freelance copywriter who’s been brought in to make the magic happen on a funky new app or other digital product. You’ve been told your copywriting is going to be part of a collaborative process, and it’s going to move fast, to get the job finished on time. Maybe it’s a new micro-site for a well-known brand. Maybe it’s an app for a funky, disruptive start-up. Who knows? But you do know you’ll be copywriting in an agile environment.

Agile what?

For the uninitiated, agile working brings together everyone with an interest in the project, to co-develop it, throughout the process. And not just the other business writers / copywriters and other creatives, also representatives (‘stakeholders’) from all the departments involved.

So, you might have people from marketing, brand, compliance and legal as well as back-end programmers, the business unit lead (whatever it is they do) – and more. Of course, as you’d expect, you’ll also have front-end design, UX and marketing copywriters. And they’ll all be coming together regularly, in the room or on screen, to guide the project.

The idea is that, by meeting frequently, focusing on specific objectives one at a time, they can sign-off or develop work and solve problems together quickly, to keep the project on track. It’s a great way for the copy writer, or anyone else, to stop time being wasted on nonviable ideas or tangents. And it ensures milestones are met. When it works, it’s an effective, positive and energetic environment.

Who’s who and why?

As well a copywriter, there will be lots of other contributors; they split into two types, creatives and those I call ‘co-developers’. The creatives are, as you’d expect are the freelance copywriter (or maybe they’re in-house), UX designers, front-end designers and programmers. They’ll take the brief and create their own first drafts to meet the objective for that part of the project. Before and during this process, the co-developers advise, answer questions and support. Once this process is complete, they’ll be on-hand again, to sign-off copy writing or suggest developments/alternatives.

Ouch! My Toes!!

Whether you’re a London based copywriter offering content writing services or you’re a copywriter based up in Scotland or the States, this might sound like being bothered and having your toes stepped upon. But it’s actually rather helpful. It saves you a lot of time delivering content writing and guarantees the next iteration will be closer to perfect. Co-developers have valuable information and insight around the brand, user, market, competitors etc. They know they need to be available to feed into your work, whether it’s marketing content or anything else, help it develop and, ultimately, sign it off. All of which means you, as an advertising copywriter, can move fast, without wasting time on anything that isn’t going to fly; and almost guarantees there will be no nasty surprises towards the end of the project.

Avoiding the mud

Prepare yourself, there are going to be challenging conversations. The priorities of the legal team for example, will be different to those of the designer, and in turn, different to yours as web content writer. So, you need to listen and compromise, a good copywriter wants get to something everyone is happy with, that meets their needs as well as yours. Remember, digging you heels in is a great way to get stuck in the mud.

Make like Usain Bolt

Agile projects are mapped and run in ‘sprints’. These are short time periods, which everyone (hopefully) agrees are realistic; each with specific objectives for each creative. The overall process is managed by an account manager or ‘scrum master’, who brings everyone (not just the marketing copywriter) together regularly, to keep the objectives for each sprint on track. Big whiteboards and Sharpies are very important. Often, weekly/mid-sprint meetings only involve creatives. Issues or questions for the co-developers are raised here and passed on by the scrum master, or directly by creatives. It’s likely that the co-developers join the meetings periodically, as each sprint is completed. Regular communications and meetings mean if it’s looking like a deadline is going to be missed, everyone who it affects can adjust and the project continues to move smoothly.

As a freelance copywriter I’ve been involved in some fantastic agile working environments and seen amazing results. The key thing is that everyone needs to take responsibility and be up-front about progress, problems etc.

Of course, because my experience is as a copywriter, I’ve put together a few tips for writers on agile projects.

1. Take charge and ask questions

If you’re the lead writer on the project, step up. Don’t expect anyone to spoon-feed you the website content, app content or anything else. You need to start asking questions about what’s needed from your copywriting services. What, if anything, is pre-existing (e.g. tone of voice, content elsewhere you need to reflect)? What are the deadlines? Who needs to sign-off the content work? Make sure they do it early, to avoid delays.

2. Spreadsheets are your friends

You’ll need to do some mapping. Create a big-old copywriting spreadsheet that will connect all those wireframes and/or front-end designs with your content. You’ll need to ask the UX and/or design leads to put annotations on their documents. Use these same notations on your content spreadsheet. This is your master copywriting document. It is vital, as it will allow whoever is uploading the content to know where your content goes. Make sure it all marries up.  If it doesn’t, the wrong copywriting will end up on the wrong page.

3. Control the content process

Check if anyone has done any app or website content planning. They may well have, but it’s likely you, as a professional writer, will need to take control of the content writing process and take full responsibility for delivery of all copywriting. Make sure you find out all the different content elements needed for the project (e.g. app page content, app notifications, emails triggered by buying, FAQs etc.). Have any been forgotten? What else might it need? Check copywriting priorities with the scrum master. They may already have a plan for what the copywriter needs to do when. If not, make one.

4. Build relationships early

Work out who the copywriter will need to lean on and reach out to them. For example, if it’s a financial project, you’ll need the compliance and legal teams to sign off the SEO copywriting, content and all the other copywriting. So get to know them, find out how strict the compliance team is. Let them get to know you, as a person as well as a freelance copywriter. This way you’ll get quick answers from them, and they’ll trust you understand what they need.

Getting to know people will really help. Fist bumping is optional.

5. Think in sprints

Start thinking early about how fast you work, how much copywriting you are likely to get done in the upcoming sprint and estimate carefully. Remember, it’s always better to under promise and over deliver on the marketing materials you’ll deliver, than the other way around. Factor in things like meetings, research time and how long it takes people to feed back; these can eat up your time.

6. Set deadlines for what you need

If your first draft of content is reliant on others delivering things (e.g. wireframes, facts from the product team) establish a time frame for when you will receive these. Make sure the person supplying them is aware – make this part of copywriting spreadsheet. You can’t be sitting around twiddling thumbs and blaming others – you have to be in charge of the copywriting process. Always set deadlines for feedback.

7. UX and other people’s shoes

The UX (user experience) team is crucial to creating something that people actually use. Every professional writer knows that the best copy in the world is worthless if people can’t (or won’t want to) find it. So, work with UX to help create copywriting that people understand and want to use. One of your key skills as a freelance copywriter should be putting yourself in other people’s shoes; consider the end user. If the wireframes you’re looking at don’t make sense or follow a logical path for the target audience, say so; be confident and willing to push back. But always suggest an alternative.

8. Design is beautiful

How the app/site looks has a huge impact on whether people actually use it and whether they bother to read the creative copywriting you’ve worked so hard on. So, engage with the process. Feed in, offer an opinion, make sure that what’s on screen feels right for the product, the user and what you’re all trying to achieve. Ask the front-end designer to put your copy in situ on the screen. You’ll be amazed at how different it can look and how little space you have. The earlier you can do this the better. Plus, if co-developers can view copy in situ it’s easier for them to sign it off or offer useful suggestions.

9. Communicate; NOW

If your freelance writing is going to take longer than expected, let the team know early (there will be ample opportunities at progress meetings). Agile projects rely on everyone being honest – it’s fine to change direction, to need longer or want more information, but tell everyone immediately, so they can respond appropriately.

10. There go the goalposts

Let’s face it; clients have a habit of changing their minds and making surprising decisions. And that’s true here as everywhere. When the goal posts shift, your job as a professional writer is to be crystal clear about how the change will impact your project objectives, especially in terms of time and hitting deadlines.

So, there you have it, some (hopefully) useful tips to help you make a success of your agile project.

Good luck!



Top Tips for Super-Sticky Landing Pages

If you’re using pay-per-click advertising, there’s not much more important than your landing page. And it needs to be that’s less trampoline and more like super glue. That is to say, it needs to avoid bounce (i.e. users clicking away) and keep people on the site, moving through to purchase. As copywriters we’re often asked, how do you do that? Well, there’s no magic wand (sorry). But, like everything, there are some must-haves that will make a big difference.

Please don’t use glue on your screen. This is NOT what we mean by super-sticky landing pages.

Any good freelance copywriter knows you’ve got to consider both design and copy, and how they work together. Have a look around at successful competitors; how do their pages look? How simple/complex are they? What are they doing right? How frequent are their calls to action (buttons with where to go next etc.)?

Research is key but the most important thing is to get your offer right and communicate it effectively. Easy for me to say as a professional copywriter, I know. So, here are our top tips, to help avoid common pitfalls and create something that can turn clicks into customers…

Plan your content
Be strategic about what you include – but keep it simple. Use one main message and back it up with a few evidence bullets – these are your reasons to believe. How will you move users through? Is it clear and logical? As with all copywriting, you must be clear on what your product/service is – and who it’s for. Does the user know what to do ‘next’ and feel a sense of urgency? Consider your calls to action; make sure they’re right there after your most persuasive points.

Order… ORDER!
A professional copywriter will always check that everything is in the right order. You should do the same. Consider your hierarchy of information. Are you starting with your main offer? Does the flow of information lead users through the offer? Does it direct them to calls to action?

Check your layout
Look at your page. Is it clean, clear and simple? Whether they’re a London-based copywriter or a copywriter working from Goa, a professional writer always tries to cut page clutter. Confused people aren’t patient, and competitors are just a click away. Does your make it easy and reassure the user that they’ve arrived in the right place? You can do this through consistent branding and echoing a statement/offer from the advert that sent them to the page.

Punchy Headline
Is yours big and clear? Does it explain the product/service? Does it let the user know how it helps them? Headlines (and images) are the vital attention-grabbing elements of the page. Any creative copywriter will tell you that without a strong headline the rest of the content is irrelevant because people just won’t read it.

Are you reflecting user needs?
Has the copy pinpointed what users need? Your page must mirror what readers want/need. If it’s not doing that, it’s not doing its job. Highlight a user problem and show you can solve it! And once you’ve done that, don’t forget to tell them where to click next.

Questions and answers
As a professional copywriter we always ask whether the copy is answering all the user’s concerns. The landing page must pre-empt any questions the reader has about the product/service. This helps them to feel you know them, understand them and can help. And don’t forget your call to action, once you’ve given your answers.

Benefit-driven copy
Is your copy focused on what your product/service does for the user? A good professional writer will talk less about its features and more about how it helps the reader. Think about the practical and emotional benefits, these will sell your offer.

Consider customer objections
What are the reasons people might not buy? Freelance copywriters specialise in putting themselves into their audiences’ shoes. You can do the same. Make sure you address objections in your copy. Your benefits must be powerful enough to overcome them. The persuasiveness of your content plays a big part here.

Powerful imagery
Much as any freelance copywriter loves words, they also know the value of images. Make sure you use eye-catching images. They should back up your offer and re-enforce your messaging. They must always be relevant. They’re not just there to look nice – although that’s important. Images (and headlines) are the most important attention-grabbing elements on the page.

Ready, steady, TEST!
A/B testing is a great way to check what’s working and what’s less effective. Create two versions of your page and on one, change something you’re not sure about, maybe the main headline, maybe a key image, maybe the information hierarchy. Testing is a powerful, low-cost way of making your page work better.

Apply all of these tips and you’ll be on track for a super-sticky landing page that adds real value to your site.



Squeak. Squeak. ROAR. That’s the sound of copywriter having an idea

Sometimes copywriting is about crafting the right words. Sometimes it’s about shuffling the old grey matter, to create ideas. Sometimes copywriting is about bring it all together, for the greater good – or search engine rankings.

 

Tiny = Enormous. Really.

Everyone keeps telling you to make an impact on social media. But who has something interesting to say, week-in-week-out? Something that doesn’t make you sound desperate? That’s where a good copywriter can help, with some awesome ideas. Ideas are great. They’re small. But powerful. Tiny little things with enormous consequences, especially on social media.

 

It’s easy to be hard to ignore

A good copywriter can create a content calendar of ideas for industry/area-specific subjects write about on social media. And of course a good freelance copywriter will be able to write those smart Facebook posts and super-snappy tweets, which pique interest and get you the shares you need.

 

Look left. Look right. What’s coming?

But when you’re looking for copywriting services, you want to make sure your copywriter or copywriting team is the full package, and can give you everything you need. That’s why Alex Genn Copywriting isn’t just about ideas. We know social must drive web traffic, and that’s our focus. Our content calendars are also blog calendars. And our copywriting team is expert in writing original, search engine optimised (SEO) blogs that help push your site up the search page rankings. This turns the copywriting we do for social posts into perky little teasers that link to the blogs. Original, interesting and fully SEO blogs that people love to read – and share.

 

Beyond blogs

Of course once you get people onto your site, through your blog, you’ll want to direct them through your sales journey. And a good copywriter will have you covered there too. Not in a gun fight sort of way though. More in a, making the language work to move people through, with clever, short sentences, snappy little paragraphs headings, and punchy calls to action, sort of a way. A good copywriter can review the whole site, from content strategy to tone of voice, to terminology and even images. Clever huh?



Want A Newsletter Staff Will Actually Read?

 

Let’s be honest; too often, newsletters are dull, dense and difficult to read. They consist of a few bits of internal comms ‘news’ lumped together with minimal consideration by someone with little copywriting experience.

These are the newsletters that get deleted before even being opened (we’ve all done it, haven’t we?).

But the thing is, research shows that employees actually want newsletters. Yup. Newsletters still have a place in the hearts and inboxes of your staff.

But only if they’re enjoyable, easy-to-understand and accessible. So how do you make that happen?

 

Good copy counts

One of the biggest differences between a newsletter that’s interesting and useful (and effectively creates employee engagement) – and one that’s ignored, is good copywriting.

Just like you wouldn’t engage with a magazine article or blog post that was badly written, you wouldn’t do so with a badly written newsletter.

Unless you have talented writers within your internal comms team, with newsletter writing experience, it makes good business sense to ask a freelance copywriter. Preferably one who knows internal comms.

They can ensure your newsletter copy generates employee engagement and fits in with your company’s values and tone of voice.

But it’s not just about words

Your newsletter should, of course, read brilliantly but don’t be afraid to include videos, infographics and images, too. These make it visually stimulating and increase employee engagement even further.

Avoid information overload

With cluttered facebook and twitter newsfeeds, on top of hundreds of emails a day, text messages and TV adverts, employees are overloaded with information as it is.

To be effective, your newsletter needs to cut through the noise. Be concise. Don’t waffle on about things that aren’t genuinely interesting or relevant.

If you need to include dry or ‘boring’ information, be brief.

Personalise

It also helps to personalise your newsletters. ‘Dear Peter’ is much nicer then ‘Dear employee’. Nobody wants to feel like they are just a cog in the wheel, and an internal comms newsletter is a way of making sure nobody in your company does.

Is it working?

Measure the amount of opens and clicks your newsletter gets, as well as which sections employees really engage with. This will help you hone in on what works best.

Do all of the above and you’ll be well on your way to a newsletter employees love – and love to share.



Create Must-Read Content from Corporate Events

From large multi-region conferences to smaller internal comms workshops, corporate events are a great way to inspire, inform and engage staff.

But all too often, once the event ends, employees get back to their 9-5 and the connections and learning are lost. And where is the value for those who couldn’t attend?

These are common problems for employee engagement and internal communications teams – but they don’t have to be for you.

 

Make Events Work Harder

By using compelling copywriting, you can avoid these issues. With the right words – and the right creative copywriter – you can maximise the value of your corporate events, and your employee engagement.

Instead of a stand-alone occasion, your event can become a springboard for interesting content, reminding attendees of what they learned, and sharing valuable insights with those who couldn’t be there.

How does it work?

Before your event takes place, set up a meeting with your copywriter to brainstorm ideas based on the topics and structure of the event.

Book your copywriter to attend the event so they can sit in on the presentations and take note of conversations during workshops.

Your copywriter can also interview the speakers from your event separately to get more information about their specialist subject, or to ask for their tops tips on tackling a particular issue within the workplace.

Maximising value

If you take this approach, the opportunities for internal comms content from corporate events that really stimulates employee engagement are huge.

It could be an in-depth article with quotes from speakers. Maybe it’s a short, punchy collection of learnings from a workshop. Or what about a listicle of the top 10 highlights of the day?

All of these can be published as part of a newsletter, on the intranet or turned into a special series of blogs.

Style matters

Of course, it’s important that the copy reads well, has the right tone of voice and reinforces the essential messages from the day, as well as your strategic internal comms / brand messaging.

But get all this right (or find a freelance copywriter with the skills and experience to work with you) and you’ll gain deeper insights from events, create more shareable content and make sure employees who can’t attend feel really involved.