Intelligence

6 Tips for Writing Like a Financial Journalist

Marian Daniells

Vice President

When it comes to developing effective marketing copy, writers must balance a number of elements: the company’s core messages, the brand’s voice, and SEO keywords, just to name a few. In addition to considering these priorities, a financial marketer may want to look to reporters who cover the space as writing role models–especially if securing media interest is among your media objectives.

Here are six tips to help marketers write like financial journalists:

Start with the Five Ws: who, what, when, where, why (and how)

It sounds basic, and it is. The first step in writing with clarity and purpose is to gather and organize the information you want to share with your audience, and answering these easy-to-remember one-word questions is a tried and true jumping off point that reporters have relied upon for decades. Even in a piece of marketing content as brief as a tweet, consider each of the five Ws before finalizing copy.

Remember the inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid is a news-writing format that dates back to the early days of the medium. It’s a framework that positions the most important information at the beginning of the article, and fleshes out the story with further details as it goes on. Editors often shorten or add jump cuts (when a story jumps to a different page) to a finished news story, so reporters would front-load the most important information to increase the likelihood that the reader sees it. Even though the inverted pyramid is an old concept, the structure is more useful than ever in today’s environment of digital information overload. If you only have a moment to capture your reader’s attention before they scroll to the next email in their inbox or update in their feed, make sure you deliver the information you want them to retain–or that has the best chance of sparking their interest–right up front.

Skip the jargon

A little-shared secret from journalism school? Write for an intelligent ninth grader. Assume laypeople can understand complex concepts, but explain them nonetheless. Skip jargon and industry- or company-specific acronyms, and include visuals where they can help improve reader retention or storytelling. Even if your audience is niche, generalized content will resonate and read better than jargon-heavy material.

Use AP Style

The AP Stylebook is a set of rules and guidelines followed by journalists who write for the Associated Press and has been widely adopted by a number of other news organizations, publications, and companies. Particularly if you’re developing language that you hope will be quoted or incorporated in a news story (like a PR pitch or news announcement), adhering to AP Style guidelines will help ensure your content reads smoothly and professionally and can be quickly repurposed by time-strapped reporters on deadline. Essentially, it means you’re speaking (writing) the same language as reporters. When dealing with financial topics, pay particular attention to the correct formatting of numbers, titles and company names.

Include stock tickers where appropriate

In the financial services space, the markets are always relevant. Even if the content you’re writing is not directly concerned with stock performance or market implications, a financial reporter, analyst or another professional will likely evaluate it in that context. Especially when developing content related to financial filings or developments like earnings announcements and annual reports, consider including the exchange the company trades on and its ticker symbol in parenthesis after the first mention of the company name.

For example: “The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) announces…” etc. This is standard practice in most press releases issued by public companies, and some news outlets do it as well.

Keep it short and sweet

Shakespeare wrote that “brevity is the soul of wit;” it’s also the bedrock of good business writing. Effective marketing copy is clear, concise and compelling. To keep a savvy financial audience’s attention, skip the flowery metaphors and long, contemplative paragraphs and get to the point. Shakespeare’s not going to read your copy–but your audience will appreciate your verbal efficiency.

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