I’m a financial planner and I blog, regularly. “Huh? A blog? Why? How? What?” For those new to the idea of blogging, the word “blog” is short for “weblog”, which is really just an online journal where people post their thoughts, opinions, gripes and worries. How does this mesh with the financial planning world?
Well, besides the fact that almost every new financial planning website has a “blog” on it (Blog Rule No. 1: If you’re not going to update it, take it down. It’s as obvious as Christmas decorations in July), a blog is a really good place for planners to display their main commercial asset – their knowledge. One of the reasons I keep a blog is the chance to talk about topics that interest me, while at the same time allowing me to show what I know. (Blog Rule No. 2: Stick to what you know and let others do the rest. I don’t blog about fashion because I don’t know my lapels from my labels, so I wouldn’t do it justice.) It’s also a forum where I can grow a “portfolio” of work that I can later package and send to people as part of my marketing material.
Finally, I like to blog because I’ve always liked to write. As financial planning becomes more and more homogenised, drowning in disclaimers and public relations nothingness, a blog gives planners a chance to express themselves clearly and simply. (Blog Rule No. 3: Do not use buzzwords or jargon. We know what SoAs are, but to most clients they’re “financial plans”.) Which isn’t to say that keeping a regularly updated blog is easy. I would say it takes up about four to six hours a week. Writing, editing, proofreading, rewriting, posting and reading your posts can really chew up your time. One way I get around this is to block out Sunday afternoon to write the coming week’s posts. Once they’re written, I leave them alone until Monday morning, when I re-read them, make any corrections necessary, then schedule one to post each day over the rest of the week.
This means that in busy weeks I do not have to look at the blog again, but there is still some activity going on. There are a number of benefits to keeping a blog, but for me it’s the personal reasons that keep me doing it. As I said, it lets me express my opinions about financial planning issues, which can sometimes be difficult in an industry as fractured as ours. It gives me the chance to post educational information about financial planning basics. It also lets me indulge in writing, which has also been a hobby. (Blog Rule No. 4: It’s still a public forum, so be sure to keep your disclaimers and legal notices up to date. Also, never, ever give personal financial advice.)
Should all financial planners keep a blog? The short answer is no. Should you keep a blog? Short answer: it depends. Some planners do not like writing, or computers, or technology, or posting information for free. Some just will not have the time, or the inclination to keep a regular blog. If this is you, then keeping a blog is a mistake. You’ll get frustrated, the quality of your posts will fall and it’ll just be a headache. Yet, for the right type of planner, a blog can be invaluable. It will complement your current marketing strategies. It gives you a conduit through which you can communicate with your clients, instead of at them. It can help to separate you from the herd, make you stand out. If you’re the type of planner looking to the future, where advice businesses will be actively engaged with their clients at a number of levels, and you can write clearly, then I believe you should start reaping the benefits of keeping a financial planning blog.
Jordan Vaka is a financial planner with Tangram Financial Services.