5 Project-Management Mistakes that Can Derail Financial Thought Leadership
Despite their best intentions, there are several common mistakes that financial marketers make when it comes to managing thought-leadership projects.
Creating thought-leadership content in financial services requires more than just having a great writer, a compelling topic, and the appropriate content medium and distribution channels.
Even if you have all of these pieces in place, if you don’t manage the project properly, there is a good chance the content will miss the target—or the budget and deadline. Effective project management is essential for making sure this doesn’t happen.
Having worked on hundreds of thought-leadership projects for companies across the institutional asset management, private wealth management, investment banking and private equity, and professional services industries, we have identified several common mistakes that project managers make that can derail a company’s thought-leadership efforts.
Not providing the writer a creative brief
A creative brief is a short, formal document that outlines all the desired elements of a thought-leadership project.
It should include information such as the project’s timeline and target audience, as well as the subject matter experts whom need to be interviewed. The creative brief should also include the process, inputs, and any other information that will give the writer, designer, and any other people involved in the project information about the direction of the project.
CMOs or marketing managers might not want to take the time to create this document, but it is a small investment on the front end that pays huge dividends throughout the course of the project. Check out our quick guide for creating an effective creative brief for financial thought-leadership projects.
Not providing the firm’s style guide
A style guide is a document that identifies how a firm’s written content addresses things like capitalization, punctuation, proper names, numbers, etc. It also may include information about the tone and voice the firm uses in its marketing content.
Having a style guide is paramount. It ensures that all of the firm’s writing conveys a unified voice. Seemingly minor deviations or inconsistency might signal sloppiness to the reader.
Before any thought-leadership project begins, financial marketers should ensure that their writer has the firm’s style guide. Moreover, if the firm doesn’t have a style guide, the marketing manager might consider having the writer create one as he or she works on the project.
Not sure where to start in creating a style guide? We have you covered. Check out our blog post and video about the information that should go into your firm’s style guide. Or, an even quicker way to get started is to use Associated Press style, commonly used in most newspapers and magazines, and make any modifications to fit your firm’s preferences.
Not providing the firm’s branding guidelines
Like a style guide, a firm’s branding book provides valuable insight for a thought-leadership writer.
While financial marketers may think that their firm’s branding guidelines are too high-level to be valuable for a writer, that is simply not the case.
Information about the firm’s brand positioning, tag lines, target audience personas, and key differentiators, help the writer understand how the content fits into the bigger picture of the firm’s marketing effort.
Not providing specific examples
Most financial marketers are great at giving thought-leadership writers high-level guidance or feedback. But many marketing professionals don’t always provide specific examples to help articulate the higher-level ideas.
For instance, financial marketers will say to writers that they want a blog article to be “pithy,” “conversational,” or “authoritative.” While this high-level direction is certainly helpful, it is even more helpful when these adjectives are followed by specific examples of what this looks like in practice.
A good way to do this is to show the writer an example of an article that matches the “authoritative” style and tone they are looking for. Or, if a good example isn’t available, provide an example of writing that doesn’t hit the target of being “authoritative” enough.
Withholding valuable input materials
Marketing managers often worry about giving writers too much background information or too many input materials to sort through as part of the writer’s preparation. The marketing manager’s logic might be: “I’ll just give the writer one or two blog articles we have written on the topic. After all, I don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information.”
Most writers, however, would rather have more information, not less. It is usually fairly easy for writers to scan through inputs to quickly get a sense of what is available and what is relevant. But if the inputs aren’t provided to the writer in the first place, he or she is left to guess at what additional information might be available.
Financial marketers should err on the side of inclusion when deciding what inputs to send to a writer. We have found that existing slide decks, articles, blog posts, newsletters, brochures, redacted RFPs, and internal documents can all provide a gold mine of details that are helpful in telling the larger story.
Finally, it is important that financial marketers provide writers all the input materials and background resources as early in the process as possible. This allows the writers to immerse themselves in the topic before interviewing the subject matter experts.
CMOs and marketing managers at financial services firms have a lot on their plate. In addition to providing quantifiable results to the executive team and navigating restrictive compliance procedures, financial marketers also have to partner with portfolio managers, bankers, analysts, and other professionals in the revenue-producing departments who might think that they should get to call the shots when it comes to marketing decisions.
The project-management elements we described above may require some additional effort on the front end, but we have found that they go a long way toward ensuring that the end deliverable is on point.
About the Author Scott Wentworth is the founder and head writer of Wentworth Financial Communications. He has served as a ghostwriter for portfolio managers, investment bankers, attorneys, and other thought leaders across the financial services industry. It took all the willpower he could muster to not include "Who You Gonna Call?" in the title of this blog post.