Heads Down, Mouths Shut: The Distracted Generation

Heads Down, Mouths Shut: The Distracted Generation

To say there is a lot going on in the world right now is probably an understatement. The current events of the moment are so cumbersome and so complex that for many it has become emotionally and physically taxing.


The interesting thing about the emotion piece is that most of us are walking around unable to muster up emotion for anyone or anything that doesn’t directly affect our own lives. That is to say that we would rather lose ourselves in the joy of Beyonce’s pregnancy or the latest You Tube video of someone making a fool of themselves in an effort to ignore and/or not fully participate in the more pressing issues of the moment. As an avid watcher of the hit show: The Walking Dead, I am more and more convinced that our story – like the show will never be about the zombies or the villains who destroyed humanity; but rather the human beings that were so out of touch with reality that they allowed it to happen.

Of course there will be the bunch who say: “I can enjoy pop culture and be just as socially vigilant as the next soldier”. Sure you can. I will not deny you your joy. Lose yourself. However, I will wager you that the people dying in Aleppo have no distractions; nothing to divert their attention from the daily horror of their own lives. The biggest diversion those poor people have is the pain of losing loved ones, the periodic pleas over social media to save them, and the hunger pangs plaguing them for weeks at a time.

Do you think the people of Flint, Michigan have the luxury of caring about pop culture or the latest viral video when they are going on their third year of having lead-ridden water to drink, cook, and bathe with?

What freedom to divert attention do the people of Pinellas County, Florida have as 95% of their students continue to fail reading and writing with a white-run board of education who prides themselves on incarcerating young black children for minor offenses?

Enjoy your diversions, your bubbles, and all of the things that make you comfortable and happy daily. I simply hope that the freedom to enjoy those things is never taken away from you. I hope you never have to become invisible to a whole society of people who value their diversions more than your well-being.

I hope that you never encounter an injustice so horrible that people leave you to cope in deafening silence, because they are afraid to lose what little has been afforded them.

By all means, keep your head down at that job where you can’t seem to make strides, but affords you a regular check. Keep your mouth shut so as to not stir your friends, family and professional network – I’m sure they will all come to your rescue should misfortune befall you.

Personally, I cannot keep my head down. I will not keep quiet. I have watched enough atrocities to know that I am quite fortunate and at any moment it can all be taken away from me. Nothing that is granted is indefinite. I know enough to know that I cannot cure all of society’s ills, but I know that to not step up and lend a hand is a moral sin.

As we all continue to watch many of the constructs of society and government crumble before us, we need to ask ourselves whether we are going to be proactive and do our part; or wait until misfortune hits closer to home to snap out of it and into action.

Please know the goal has always been for each of us to be so wrapped up in self-preservation, survival and distractions that we remain oblivious to all of the underhanded things going on right under our noses.

If you want to know what’s going on you merely have to stop and pay attention to what is going on and the connectivity of each event. Enjoy the glimmers of beauty still present for our enjoyment regularly; but please also recognize that your ability to enjoy those moments is a privilege many do not have.

Ultimately it is your choice to stay abreast or to live in ignorance. Choose wisely.

Janine Truitt
WorkForce
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Janine’s career spans ten years in HR and Talent Acquisition. She is a dynamic speaker, entrepreneur and an important voice bringing business savvy to the discipline of HR. ... Click for full bio

Advisors: 5 Tips for Getting a Blog Through Compliance

Advisors: 5 Tips for Getting a Blog Through Compliance

Whether they are a financial advisor at an RIA firm or a broker-dealer, the conversation always seems to go the same way. Immediately after a financial advisor agrees that writing a blog post with me would be a great way to improve branding, the next words out of their mouth are always, “But what about getting a blog through my compliance department? Such a pain in the neck and it takes forever.” Have you ever said these words, or something to that effect? As someone who has both been a financial advisor in the past — and now writes financial advisor blogs for a living– I can offer 5 painless tips for getting your financial advisor blog (and investor decks, social media postings, or any other content) through compliance.

1. Understand the Mindset of the Compliance Professional

The bell rings…ding, ding, ding…

In one corner, in the gold trunks weighing in at 180 pounds, three time Golden Glove Champion, your firm’s Chief Compliance Officer!

In the second corner, in the red and black trunks weighing in at 150 pounds, the challenger, Financial Advisor Joe!

What a battle. Sound like your situation? In my talks with financial advisors, I’ve heard the tone get downright adversarial when it comes to their experiences getting content through compliance. It doesn’t have to, and should not be, this way. Here’s why: compliance has ultimate authority over what goes through and what doesn’t. They make the decision. Fight them, and they will win. Understand their mindset and strive to cooperate as much as possible, and you’ll find that over time they’ll loosen up that tight upper lip and make things easier for you.

So let’s start by looking at what the Chief Compliance Officer at your firm thinks about as he or she is commuting to work everyday. Unlike financial advisors, they aren’t paid for productivity. They’re paid to minimize risk. Their worst nightmare is letting something slide that gets picked up by the regulators or results in a compliance breach, because that can only happen once or twice before they’re out on the street looking for a new job.

Now, whether you’re at an RIA firm or a broker dealer can be quite influential here. At an RIA firm, the CCO is often a member of the staff that has a collegial relationship with the advisor team. The advisor team also tends to be smaller at an RIA firm which means the CCO probably knows them better, which in the CCO’s mind, reduces risk and makes them feel more comfortable.

But at a broker-dealer, the compliance officer has to deal with hundreds of advisors, many of whom he or she has never met before.  There’s no relationship and no trust most of the time. Wouldn’t that make you nervous? The compliance officer has no incentive to cut you any slack because you’re just another number. And I have to admit, they aren’t always pretty; some financial advisor blogs fall into what I call the “Chaotic Picasso” category. You are not their friend, you are the enemy because you acting upon even the slightest oversight can get them canned, the slightest slip up, the most minor miscommunication. There are only two exceptions. I’ve found in my work with broker-dealer teams, the advisors who either are the top producers or have already established trust with compliance are the ones whose content gets placed at the top of the pecking order. But what do you do if you’re not one of these select few?

The answer is that you have to “sell” yourself to them. Just as you would to a prospect, build trust gradually. You wouldn’t expect to close a sale on the first phone call, would you? No. You take the time to do things like meet with the prospect, ask them questions to seek to understand their challenges and goals better, and then to set forth a plan of action that they will agree to. You see over time that this warms up even the toughest of skeptics.

That’s really critical: get their buy-in. How do you do that?

  • First of all, give compliance a long lead time when you first start to work together. Don’t make your first submission be about an event happening a week from now. Give them a ridiculous amount of lead time, as much as you can.
  • Give them a heads up. Either meet with them in person or have a phone conversation about what you want to write about, and be clear. Ask for their advice about what would make it easy to get it approved. Maybe even submit an outline of the posting before you write the content so that you don’t waste time writing on something they have to ding.
  • Make the content appealing and entertaining to read. Keep in mind they have to read a million dry, boring financial advisor blogs all day long. Using humor and other techniques that I’ll discuss later in this article might just make them enjoy reading what you write and let’s be honest that makes them feel more inclined to support what you’re trying to do.
  • Lastly, give them a break and steer clear of the problem areas. Just like that one teacher in school that everyone said was such a hard grader and would return your essay with red pen scratches everywhere, understand what it is likely to get their goat. I’ll comment more on this topic later in my article, but the list includes anything related to performance, track record, and advertising or soliciting your firm.
     

How do you make an article meaningful without discussing these topics, you may ask. Behold the answers in the next section!

2. Avoid the Landmines

Financial advisors complain that they can’t get anything meaningful through compliance. In reality, though, most advisors feel that in order to show value they need to predict the market, pitch products, boost about past trades, or their firm. In reality (and especially if you are marketing to certain generations such as Millennials) it’s all been said before and if you really want to rise above the noise you have got to come up with something different anyways.

People choose you based upon service, not product, most of the time. So serve them like clients! Give them the gift of knowledge with an intriguing, spot on, highly relevant piece. The best financial advisor blogs answer questions that people have. The way Google and the social media engines work is through relevance. For example, if you were to do some online searches and research the questions that people tend to have about mortgages, it’s not about the intricacies of the paydown schedule. People use the Internet for “social learning”, reading threaded conversations where they can learn through the experiences of other people.

If I were a financial advisor who wanted to find the buzz uttered by people who were first time home buyers, I’d visit the Quora mortgage page (“Mortgages”, n.d). The biggest question people tend to have is about the mistakes first time home buyers make. Other topics involve the actual process of working with a loan officer, PMI, ARMs, and how to work with lenders. These are examples of great financial advisor blog topics. Establishing yourself as an expert by answering questions relevant to first time home buyers will get your content liked, shared, and indexed better by Google because you are, in a sense, providing a service online to people through your content.

What prevents many people from answering questions this way is the fear of doing work for free. Nobody can argue that getting paid is the end goal for everyone in business. Yet there is some grinding that you have to do before you can earn the privilege of getting paid 100% of the time for your wisdom. Most of the really successful people will say that, online or not, they only get paid for 25% of the work they do. Show enough value, and eventually the leads will come. Talk to what people want to hear about, and eventually the paying clients will hear you.

If you want to build your cybercredibility, traffic is what matters to Google. You may get 1k views and only one lead, but in a sense the rest of the 999 people have paid you with their view. I caution my clients not to underestimate the value of being followed online. A subscriber may not have an immediate need but over time chances are that they or someone connected to them will. Herein lies the importance of the financial advisor sales funnel. Touch them once or twice a month with value rich, insightful content through newsletters, social media, and even direct visits or calls, and you’ll see them convert over time.

3. Find a Financial Copywriter

I find that many financial advisor blogs run into problems with compliance because of how they phrase things. This takes a certain degree of writing skill that may or may not be a priority for the advisor to have. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; hire a good financial copywriter, one who is familiar with FINRA and other regulations governing the copy, can save you the headache of going back and forth with compliance ad nauseam.

Here are some examples of phrasing that can improve compliance success. In each case, I’ve presented the novice phrasing as well as the way a professional financial copywriter would phrase it.

  • Distressed debt is a great addition to any large pension portfolio who wants to outperform.
  • Distressed debt has become a popular investment choice for many of the top global pension funds such as CalPERS.
     

What makes this good copy? The balanced view that it provides. While a novice writer would express a strong opinion that may be construed financial advice (which is the compliance officer’s pet peeve), a professional writer will couch this opinion in fact.

Technology is bound for a reversal and is one of the best places for your money in 2018.

When arranging a target asset allocation, investors may find it useful to consider a range of sectors where economic growth may likely be on the rebound. While the future can never be predicted, a likely source of economic growth in years to come will be the sizzling technology sector which has most likely hit rock bottom. Experts see this sector as due for a turnaround in 2018. Do you agree?

The lesson here is to ask, not advise. The language in the second statement is conditional rather than absolute, i.e. “may find”, “can never be predicted”, “most likely.” These words are soothing to the compliance officer’s ears!

  • Hedging strategies shield investors from dips in the market.
  • Hedging strategies are a form of risk management put in place when an investor wishes to obtain a way to protect the portfolio from dips in the market.
     

What makes the second example of copy easier on the compliance officer is the higher truthfulness of the second statement. While statement #1 is true is some cases, it’s not always what ends up happening. Compliance officers love it when you explain the strategy and the goal rather than making blanket statements about outcomes that may or may not apply in all situations.

Here are some tools that I myself have compiled to assist in the process of putting together financial advisor blogs.

One final caveat on hiring financial copywriters. Before you hire one, make sure that you get straight what kind of financial advisor blog content you’d like produced. Some copywriters just recycle canned content that has already been used elsewhere for other clients. You don’t want to be left holding the bag when it comes to plagiarism. Be sure to search on a few phrases by inputting them directly in Google just to make sure that what you get hasn’t been published elsewhere. Or, you can consult with one of the free plagiarism check services available through sites such as Grammarly.

4. Include Graphics

As someone who produces digital copy for a living, it’s clear to me that the best received content is visual. I don’t mean graphs and charts, I mean imagery that conveys the message you’re trying to make. For example, if you’re talking about how a particular rebalancing technique works well for pension funds, include a picture of pension fund employees sitting around a conference table looking happy instead of a boring old graph of historical performance.

You know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Spice up your piece with stock photos or designed images that convey your point creatively. Compliance won’t have anything to say about it and your audience will like the article better.

By the way, for those of you who are looking to penetrate a local market, including keyword-rich labelled graphics is a great way to juice up your SEO. So are Infographics. Google loves these!

Where can you find these images? Check out stock photo websites such as Pexels or  Shutterstock. For custom designed images, you can hire resources inexpensively through freelancer sites such as Fiverr.

5. Distribute Like Crazy

Getting your content in front of a targeted audience is a great way to get views on the article without having to go to town on the content. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that there is ever a good reason for weak content. I’m saying that a well targeted message put in front of the right group will go far just because you’re speaking to the right people.

If you’re a compliance officer, which article do you review first (and possibly be a tiny bit more lenient towards). One, a financial advisor blog that went on a rep’s blog and got 50 views, no comments, no leads, and net-net did not earn money for the firm? Or scenario #2, let’s say that article got picked up by CNBC and featured as syndicated content, gaining attention for both the rep and the firm, got backlinked to by several websites, earned over 1,000 views and led to several new prospects getting in touch with the rep? These #2 articles make the compliance officer look great and would motivate them to put your order first the next time around.

Related: Advisor Brand: 3 Critical Areas to Customize for Higher Online Conversions

Bonus tip: Don’t Forget LinkedIn Messaging!

LinkedIn has recently revised its platform to enable instant messaging to your contacts. This is not something to be taken lightly. Many people will engage over instant messaging just because they are online whereas if you sent an email they would never respond. As long as you are messaging one person at a time, this doesn’t count as “advertising.”  Many compliance departments will track this activity but do not require pre-approval. This is a great way to communicate freely over social media and get attention from prospects that might be in your network. Scour your contact list and see who might be a potential prospect or center of influence and then ping them.

Sara Grillo
Marketing
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In a past life, I worked in finance in a variety of sales and marketing related roles, and hence hold the CFA® designation. With a BA in English from Harvard with honors and ... Click for full bio