Most company websites have news and thought-leadership sections bulging with articles, columns, content – and even more content. But is this writing as distinctive as it could be? Here are the best ways to make your company’s investment content stand out.

My best schooling in news reporting came from a small but frantically busy news agency in London. At the time, part of the agency’s bread and butter was covering court cases of every type: crown courts, coroner’s courts, industrial tribunals and the General Medical Council.

These were all excellent sources of news, with some stories big enough to make national headlines. And many were sold as ‘exclusives’ to the newspapers that would pay handsomely for them. Part of the skill of the agency’s news desk was knowing exactly which newspaper was the best fit for each story. The distinctive ‘personalities’ and agendas of certain newspapers made it easy to know what kind of story would appeal to them. Female city trader sues for harassment? The Daily Mail. Plumber goes on lottery-win bender? The Sun. Eco campaigners sue chemical giant? The Guardian.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that the newspapers or outlets with the most distinctive personalities and voice also tend to be the ones with the biggest following.

Now that most financial services companies have websites with sections for insight, news and opinion, how can they learn from the professionals, develop a distinctive voice and build a following of their own?

Know Your Readers

The most successful news sources know their readers inside out, and understand what gets those readers excited. What sells copies? Generates clicks? Inspires comments and debate? Once the hot topics are discovered, they are written about and re-investigated over and over again by writers who feel just as passionate about the very same issues. Be inspired by the Financial Times for its consistently excellent news and commentary, and its loyal and opinionated readership.

• Be specific

Fill the news and insights sections not with the kind of general information that can be read anywhere, but with very specific material related to the company, and to the company’s customers and potential customers. Write about the issues that are absolutely relevant. Get the ‘heads of’ round the table to talk about what’s genuinely new at the company. Invite customers in, often, to gain real understanding of their most important issues and concerns. For mastery of fresh and newsy insight, take a look at Rathbones.

• Be even more specific

Armed with information from both the company and its customers, the in-house news feed can start to cover topics that give genuine insight into the company and are of real relevance to customers. Vague and samey articles can be replaced by the fascinating nitty-gritty. For example:

o 42% of our investments are held in US companies, so our customers need more US economic news.
o Over a third of our customers are going to hit retirement age in the next five years – let’s plan an advice series to help them prepare.
o We’ve decided not to invest heavily in China this quarter and we should explain why.
o Our clients are only saving 10% of their income for retirement – how can we persuade them to raise this?

We like the way M&G customers who want to know anything and everything about bonds can go to Bond Vigilantes.

• Be Open

Offer up real insights into the company and its personnel; give genuine behind-the-scenes views of what’s happening there. No confidential information needs to be revealed, but customers do want to be welcomed into the world so they can feel a part of it, be valued and learn more. Asset manager Woodford is aiming to set new standards for customer communication.

Keep learning about your customers

Understand your customers as well as a successful news source understands its readers. The clearer the picture of the customer – who are they, and what do they earn, spend, drive, save, worry about, and so on – the better the news and insight content can be shaped to suit their needs. This way readers will come to you for the information they want, instead of skim-reading your generic content, which they can find elsewhere. There’s no doubt that Blackrock is making every effort to understand its customers.

• Have an opinion

Don’t be shy of declaring an opinion and fostering several hot topics. Become known as the go-to experts on Japan, for example, or the optimistic Brexiteers, the unruffled long-term investors or the buzzy high-tech experts. The more a company can shape and develop its own interests, opinions and identity, the more it can talk in a distinctive voice. The granddaddy of investor opinion will always be Berkshire Hathaway.

Here at Copylab, we create carefully focused editorial content for our clients. We’re also trialling software that can allow us to assess what could work best for your company’s news channels. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.

Carmen Reid

An author and journalist, Carmen specialises in customer-facing content. A committed wordsmith, she enjoys a good debate with the Copylab grammar geeks.