Quarterly Newsletters Don’t Need to Be Painful
Quarterly letters and newsletters are popular client deliverables — and for good reason. They are an effective way to connect with your audience on a regular basis and help your firm stay top of mind. But investment professionals, portfolio managers, and marketing leaders all seem to get a pit in their stomach when they talk about their quarterly letter processes. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are several easy ways to improve your quarterly newsletter process.
Writing insightful quarterly letters, newsletters, and commentaries isn’t necessarily easy, but it shouldn’t be such a burden on you and your team. Based on our experience leading these quarterly deliverables for clients in wealth management, institutional asset management, investment banking, and private equity, we highlight five ways to make your process less painful — and the resulting deliverable more impactful.
Five ways to improve your quarterly letter process
- Templatize everything
- Document the process
- Maintain an editorial calendar
- Pull the timeline forward
- Assign one owner
Don’t start each quarterly letter process with a blank sheet of paper. Instead, create a Word document that serves as the template for the various parts of your newsletter. Your template should include placeholders for headlines, sub-headers, and all of the defined sections of the newsletter, as well as targeted character/word counts for each section. You can also provide guidance on style preferences, give examples, and note specific pitfalls to avoid directly in the template.
Setting these guidelines will improve consistency and make the process more efficient from a formatting and editing perspective. It will also help your team develop more insightful ideas — people have a much easier time thinking creatively when they are working within specific confines.
Document the process
We are huge fans of process documents and believe that they should be a standard part of every recurring project. Process docs provide meaningful value from an efficiency and accountability perspective. Your quarterly letter process documents should be very clear about the key steps in each quarterly process, the timeline, and who is in charge of each step. And they should be clear enough that if someone else were forced to take over leadership of the process on short notice, they would be able to step in and manage the process seamlessly.
Process documents provide helpful structure, but they don’t have to be set in stone. In fact, we view ours as living documents that should continue to evolve over time. The key takeaway is that your process can’t be random every quarter — document your process, share it with everyone involved in your quarterly letters, and continuously refine it, and we can almost guarantee that you will see immediate improvements to your quarterly newsletter process.
Maintain an editorial calendar
Editorial calendars serve as a high-level roadmap for your upcoming quarterly letters, helping you to prioritize the topics you will cover in each section of the newsletter. Most importantly, an editorial calendar helps you align each issue of the newsletter with your higher-level marketing priorities. For example, if you are a wealth manager and one of your goals for the year is to build more relationships with business owners, you could map out an article in each quarter’s newsletter that speaks to a different challenge facing entrepreneurs.
Typically, we recommend that our clients maintain an editorial calendar that covers at least the next four quarters. Obviously, things can change that make a planned topic more or less interesting, but it’s helpful to have a starting point when you begin each quarter’s process.
We always recommend including a “bullpen” of running ideas as a section of the editorial calendar. When ideas come up about topics to cover in future newsletters, you can quickly add them to the bullpen and then move them into the “starting rotation” when the opportunity arises.
Pull the timeline forward
Most quarterly letters and newsletters are distributed within 15 days of quarter-end. This often creates a scramble to get the content out the door at the same time that you are busy with other operational tasks that must be done soon after the quarter ends.
But you don’t have to wait until the closing bell has rung on March 31, June 30, September 30, or December 31 to write your quarterly newsletters. The vast majority of the work can be done weeks, or even months, in advance. For example, if each of your newsletters includes an article or two on topics that are more evergreen, you can work on these articles during a slow point in the quarter. Even for market commentaries or other articles that rely on quarter-end data, much of the heavy lifting can be done before those numbers are finalized; once you have a sense for how the quarter is trending and what the main stories will be, write the article and insert placeholders for the data.
For most financial services firms, the days immediately following each quarter’s end are extremely busy. Do yourself and your team a favor — avoid a time crunch by working ahead.
Assign one owner
The saying is cliché, but it’s especially true in the case of quarterly letters: If a project has multiple owners, it has no owner. It is perfectly fine to divide and conquer the work required to create each quarterly letter. But there should be one person who is the owner of the overall deliverable and responsible for making sure that everything comes together on time. It is that person’s responsibility to assign tasks to the various people involved, keep everyone on track, organize meetings, resolve issues, and break any ties in the editing process.
Make one person accountable to the success of the newsletter. This will help to ensure that you get the most out of all the tools discussed above — templates, editorial calendars, process documents, and timelines — and continue to raise the bar for your quarterly letter process.
Without a standard process and structure, quarterly letter processes can get unwieldy and painful. Through our experience leading these processes for clients in wealth management, institutional asset management, investment banking, and private equity, we have learned the value of templates, process documents, editorial calendars, and other tools that can make the process much smoother.
We would be happy to share our perspectives on how you can streamline your firm’s quarterly letter process and how you can make the process less painful yourself and your team — and the deliverable more impactful for your audience. If you are interested in these and other best practices, please feel free to contact us. And for those of you who are just beginning your firm’s newsletter process, download our eBook: The Five Things Your Firm Needs to Publish an Investment-Grade Newsletter.
About the Author Scott Wentworth is the CEO at Wentworth Financial Communications. He collaborates with a team of writers and editors at Wentworth to help professionals across the financial services industry build their brands by creating investment-grade white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and other forms of content marketing.