Think it's impossible for financial firms to develop and distribute content people will engage with?

The issue may not be with the topic of finance. It’s with the firms and how they approach developing and distributing financial content.

We recently reviewed countless financial and investing blogs (ones not maintained by financial companies) looking for ideas and inspiration. Believe it or not, many of them were riveting, fascinating, engaging and countless other superlatives most people would not associate with financial content.

Here are several blogs that we found particularly interesting along with lessons financial and professional services firms could learn from them to improve their own content, packaging and delivery.

Be timely in a timely era.

An issue with much financial content is that in an period of instant information, most of it is DOA (dated on arrival.) One way for firms to differentiate themselves is to jump on the trend of being current and develop and deliver timely content.

Dealbook, a part of The New York Times extensive collection of blogs, originally made its mark by distributing a highly informative and digestible newsletter every morning at five o’clock, just in time to reach traders commuting to work.

What differentiates it from other instant news sources is that it maintains the feel of a blog, offering individual perspectives on current events and trends in the financial services industry. 

Takeaway: While few financial or professional services firms could ever marshal the resources of the venerable Times, some could offer of-the-moment perspectives on a limited range of topics. Rather than publishing broadly — and late — it might make more sense to write expertly on a few issues in a timely manner. 

If you can't create it, borrow it.

Financial and professional services firms usually don't have big budgets to develop a lot of original content. The Big Picture by Barry Ritholtz offers a great model for them. 

The blog shares a lot of ideas — some through original content along with links to interesting curated material. It is formatted in a way that makes it easy to share content across a range of social media channels.

Takeaway: If you don't have a lot to spend on developing content, focus instead on curation, engagement, discussion and sharing. Think about whether it would be worthwhile to transform your blog into an information forum. While many topics may be off limits for some highly regulated sectors of the industry, sharing information about things like financial lifestyle issues, retirement and market or economic trends is usually safe. 

Back to the basics: Provide simple answers to common questions.

For many years, the Ask Liz Weston blog has been a popular one. In many of her posts, the author answers questions from readers. The questions resonate because they feel like ones most of us would ask while reading typical financial articles. The author has a unique ability to explain complex concepts in understandable ways. She cuts out extraneous information and keeps things simple.

Takeaway: Q&A is a format as old as time, yet it's one that financial and professional service firms rarely take advantage of. It's a good one to use when communicating with almost anyone, from everyday people to sophisticated intermediaries and professionals. Everyone has questions and providing clear answers to them will make your firm seem helpful, authentic and authoritative all at once. 

The facts. Only the facts. On one subject.

Calculated Risk is a blog that’s been around for a long time. It was started by Bill McBride back in 2005 because he wanted to create a vehicle to warn people about the disaster that could happen because of the housing bubble. It's an oldie that’s still a valid goodie that financial communicators could learn a lot from.

Calculated Risk presents key information and authoritative insights about all aspects of the real estate market in an extremely concise way. It found its niche and continues to serve it today.

Takeaway: Specialized financial and professional service companies could leverage this model for developing and distributing their own content. They're perfectly positioned to use their experts to develop timely insights on a niche topic that allows them to own (and maybe even drive) their market sector.

Present a persona that will appeal to your target market.

Finance Girl is a blog published by a young woman from Manchester in the United Kingdom. She isn't a financial expert. Instead, she discusses her experiences as an average investor. Her vivid personality and the way she shares information have attracted a devoted Millennial fan base. Her readers face many of the same issues she does. She connect with them because she explains things in a jargon-free way.

Takeaway: Using a spokesperson that your target audience finds appealing is a sensible way to connect with them. It will add personality to your content and make it seem less corporate and institutional. A spokesperson can be almost anyone, from an inexperienced Millennial like Julie, to a retiree who could speak to the financial realities of Boomers, to an experienced accountant who can explain innovative tax concepts to his or her peers.

Remember: Financial information doesn't have to be delivered in print.

Podcasts were cool. Then they weren't. Today, they are again. Now that people can download unlimited multimedia content efficiently and cost-effectively any place, any time, they're starting to listen to podcasts while working out, traveling and commuting. 

One of the best and most consistent economic podcasts is NPR’s Planet Money. It packages material from its high-quality radio program together with original material into smart, engaging, digestible nuggets that use great storytelling to engage audiences on a range of topics.

Takeaway: If your firm has quality content that isn't getting read, use the Planet Money podcast as inspiration. Leverage great storytelling and novel distribution methods to get higher engagement with your material.

People enjoy humor, gossip and action. Why not include a little in financial content?

So much investment-related content is bland. Dealbreaker is an example a finance blog that’s anything but dull. It is run by Bess Levin, who is a humorist. (Careful clicking the link while at work. Many firms have banned it.) It has found a way to mix the best elements of The New Yorker, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal into a humor-laced mix of articles and other types of information that is the financial industry equivalent of The Onion.

Takeaway: This got us thinking. Even though Dealbreaker is an extreme example, there could be room for a bit of levity in financial and professional services communications. Of course these are serious subjects. However, the industries could learn something from medical and pharmaceutical firms, which deal with equally sober topics, yet still find ways to use levity (not outright humor) to engage people and explain complex, difficult concepts.

The final takeaway.

Need a fresh perspective on developing and deploying financial and professional services content? Check out Carpenter Group’s perspective on this topic. Then contact us to discuss how we could put a fresh spin on your firm’s content.