Financial writing that works hard

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 financial writing a unique and fascinating area in which to work.

To communicate financial content effectively, there are 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. Like any good copywriting agency, listening is a big part of what we do.

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 financial writing process can be intricate. There may be many different parties involved, large swathes of information to boil down 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. With any financial writing, you need to ask yourself these 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 undertaking your financial copywriting.

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 write about key market trends, new regulations or all the other relevant news, with a strong opinion. Rather, it means that your marketing should focus on your clients and how those trends might affect them. This does not equate to 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 your financial copywriting 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 builds trust and an ongoing relationship.

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 KYC  in your financial copywriting means ‘know your customer’, it doesn’t mean 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 in financial writing 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 financial copywriting, 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 Legal and Compliance 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 as possible, can only ever be helpful in creating the most effective financial writing.

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 as their copywriting agency. Realistically, there are many choices for outsourcing your financial writing 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.

Alex Genn

View posts by Alex Genn
I run a team of 25 senior-level copywriters and am myself a professional copywriter with over 15 years' experience.

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