Weighing Words

“Words had meaning. He revered them and used them scrupulously, even in insult” - from the obituary of Antonin Scalia, US Supreme Court justice in The Economist

Antonin Scalia was a renown conservative for whom the law, and in particular, the United States Constitution, was written in words that meant what they said in a very literal sense. His conservatism required him to interpret the words as they were written by the Founding Fathers in the 18th century.

Scalia relied on the precise legal meaning of the way words were originally laid down in law. He therefore shunned "judicial engineering" that might allow more modern interpretations of that document. He thus opposed abortion and same-sex marriage of which the Founding Fathers were, presumably, ignorant.

The term “financial engineering” describes the bespoke strategies and products those in capital markets – investment banks, hedge fund managers and private equity investors - use to create financial opportunities for their clients. It is this flexible interpretation and innovation that adds value to the process.

FinanceWriter has (rather brazenly!) played on that term in its slogan, “Precision in Verbal Engineering”. Our clients approach us to create opportunities by communicating through financial writing. They ask FinanceWriter to “engineer” the right messages via the right channels. They want to precisely target the right readership and audiences through thought leadership articles, speeches, blogs, websites annual reports and annual reviews they commission us to write.

The “precision” we offer is in our choice of words and in the way we construct verbal opportunities by structuring an argument, laying the foundations for a brand or building the marketing case.

Scalia was said to “revere“ words and “use them scrupulously”. Does that suggest that financial copywriting should adhere to “Scalia’s Law of Words”? That words should mean what they say and be wholly unambiguous?

Weighing words

It’s a strange notion because the icon of the very justice that Scalia dispensed is Iustitia (Lady Justice) bears scales for weighing the balance of evidence. The device she holds in her left hand suggests that evidence, which is largely presented in the form of words, has to be “weighed up”: but allowing for a degree of subjectivity, the plasticity of meaning and interpretation and, of course, conceding to the principle of reasonable doubt

The articulation of evidence through the opening and closing speeches of court advocates or barristers, of the testimony they extract from witnesses through cross examination can, on the one hand, appeal to the emotions and on the other be inexact, sometimes purposely so!

More literary than literal

Dry legal utterances are handed down with the unilateral majesty and authority of the law. In direct contrast to unbending legalities our strategy is not to dictate, but to engage.

Our approach is to carefully choose words, use language and adopt a preferred “tone of voice” not so our messaging is imposed, but so that readers and audiences interact, react or become absorbed.

With perhaps a more literary than literal emphasis we select words that resonate with both the intellect and the emotions of the audience. We seek to convey the underlying values of a brand; encourage the adoption of a message or an alignment with a set of principles.

Using verbal branding FinanceWriter unashamedly seek to bias the reader in favour of the values a company’s brand seeks to project. We deliver a clarity and a consistency to which laws cannot aspire; as the wording of Second Amendment of the US Constitution, concerning the right to bear arms, enduringly proves.

An Audience With…

Speeches like Churchill’s wartime oratory and a saucy best man's painful ridiculing of the groom at a wedding may be extremes of public speaking. But they have in common the fact that the speakers knew their audiences

The chief executive of a FTSE 100 company knows his brief. He answers questions on his group's finances, organisation and strategy in breath-taking detail.

His job is not only to enhance shareholder value, something at which he has proved very successful; but through his speeches, to help investment banks, pension funds, asset managers and other investors to justify their holdings of equity in or bonds issued by his company.

He must report the company’s performance and relay its strategy, not solely through its annual report and annual review, but in speeches to the shareholders at the annual general meeting and to stockbroker’s analysts and the financial media.

His speeches are not limited to audiences in the financial world: he has to motivate and explain the company to employees. He must ameliorate the concerns of environmentalists and communities that host the groups' international operations. He is obliged to speak to a range of stakeholders in terms that will build the firm's reputation, validate and strengthen its brand and to ensure his business is understood and trusted.

The CEO is a Nerd!

There is one major drawback, by his own admission, this CEO is a nerd. He is clever, driven and a good leader. But when it comes to his public utterances, his training and background as an engineer, become painfully obvious.

He loves numbers, he loves detail and he is dedicated to precision. But too many numbers, too much detail and unwavering specificity will drive audiences to surreptitiously play Candy Crush on their iPads and iPhones or catch up on some sleep in the darkened auditorium.

Covering All the Angles

Speeches written by someone steeped in a subject are invariably too long. They want to cover all the angles going into minutiae and trying to justify every thought with enough evidence to convict a murderer.

When the CEO’s frantic Chief of Staff called FinanceWriter to ask for some help we were able to assure him: we knew the CEO’s reputation as an excellent businessman, but that did not mean he was good at everything, including writing speeches.

FinanceWriter is flexible about how it drafts speeches for clients: some clients provide a draft and we rewrite it as a speech. Others will want to talk about the content of the speech and we go away and create a speech from that conversation. Some clients simply say, “Write me a speech on xxxx” and leave the rest to us.

Who Do You Think You Are Speaking To?

When commissions a speech, the crucial element is not the content or even the length, but whom it will address. The most important component of a speech is the audience.

A speech to retail shareholders on a subject is a different speech to one, on the same subject, addressed to bankers, treasurers or asset mangers who can more easily digest technical and financial intricacies.

It sounds obvious, but adapting the language, the content and the tone of voice” can be the difference between polite applause or a crowd thronging around the speaker after the speech wanting to make contact, know more or do business with him.

The Chrysalis Crisis

Butterflies metamorphose from eggs to larvae and then emerge from a chrysalis. Have emerging market butterflies stopped emerging?

A sucking sound can be heard as investors respond to the perfect storm enveloping emerging markets. On the one hand sovereign funds, asset managers and hedge funds are pulling the plug on their exposure. Meanwhile direct investors are shelving project plans, particularly in the energy sector.

Until recently the appetite of the Chinese economic dragon could not be assuaged. It stoked the commodity super cycle in emerging and resource-rich economies.

Quantitative easing, the developed world’s apparent salvation from the financial crash, unleashed a tsunami of cash boosting asset prices including equities and property at home. But QE’s synthetically depressed interest rates whetted investors’ risk appetite for higher yields among the exotic attractions of emerging markets.

Roll Reversal

But now the slowing rate at which steel is rolling off Chinese steel mills is desiccating the demand for commodities. In a quite unconnected reversal, Saudi Arabia opened the crude oil spigot to grab market share it was losing to US shale oil production and is likely to lose with the imminent re-entry of Iran to international oil sales.

Emerging markets face a quadruple-whammy. Firstly, falling commodity revenues. Secondly, sovereign wealth funds, mostly big commodity producers, facing sharply lower energy and raw material prices, are siphoning their money home to fill the fiscal sink holes appearing in their budgets. To top that low prices have led to the shelving of hundreds of billions of dollars for expanding energy and commodity infrastructure projects in resource-based economies.

The situation has become so precarious that the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) warns the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) face debt service ratios that have traditionally signalled financial crisis.

But just when low interest rates from QE seemed to make debt servicing for emerging markets easy, the US Federal Reserve (perhaps prematurely) hiked interest rates, putting the dollar on steroids despite ambiguous evidence of economic recovery.

Sinking like BRICS, not flying like butterflies

The energy and the promise of emerging markets have ebbed from the high water mark of the “BRICS“ hyperbole.

But what do we call Argentina, Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia, Brazil and South Africa now? Will the clever analysts at global investment banks treat us to a new acronym – but what will they make of the jumble of SAVRNB, AVNRBS or VARBSN economies?

Emerging markets were eggs, full of promise. They developed into larvae but were thwarted in their emergence from the chrysalis as butterflies. Do they retreat, become unborn? They cannot be described by the antonyms for the word “emerging” as they will not “fade”, “disappear” or “go away”.

Instead these countries could emerge as “Chrysalis Economies”: not quite emerging but not fading into obscurity either. They can be dormant, wait, and take sanctuary from the high pressures of fledging until the climate is again right.

The chrysalis is also apposite not only because is it the stage where old larva tissues are broken down, an analogy for the corruption and over regulation in emerging markets; it is where the adult butterflies’ structures are formed that could be an allusion to sound governance, reliable infrastructure, predictable due process and renewed resilience.

Where’s the Story?

Issuing press releases doesn’t guarantee media coverage. A newspaper will always ask, “Where’s the story”?

FinanceWriter was recently approached by a well-financed and highly successful private equity fund. Would we write a press release and have it published in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and on Bloomberg?

The private equity company wanted to demonstrate its credibility to current investors and appeal to new ones. They believed a published “press release” would burnish their reputation through association with the world’s most-respected financial news media.

The investable funds and its impressive portfolio demonstrated the firm’s ability to attract funds and to select a range of diverse and profitable investments.

Parachuting in a Press Release

Yet its request to parachute a press release into leading financial newspapers (that guard their independence jealously), demonstrated a naïve misunderstanding how the media deals with news and its relationship with companies.

FinanceWriter promotes companies by developing their profile, raising their visibility, building their brand and establishing their reputations among the firm’s stakeholders. We do this through copywriting their annual reports and reviews, thought leadership articles, case studies, websites, blogs as well as writing press releases.

“Blunderbuss” press releases, that spray glowing company details a across a wide arc of desired media channels, are, by definition, unfocused and doomed.

“The Media” comprises a complex of interlocking channels of newspapers, magazines, radio, television and social media that target very specific audiences. Some of these channels may be wholly redundant to a particular company’s needs.

The medium truly is the message in this media world. The skill is in identifying the most efficacious channel or combination of channels. And, as importantly, delivering well written copy and consistent verbal branding and messaging across the channels identified as most beneficial.

Story time

There are two fundamental requirements to get a press release read, and used in a busy newsroom: the absolutely non-negotiable prerequisite is that it must be newsworthy!

The daily newspaper in North Korea sings the praises of the country’s illustrious leader and his haircut because it is obliged to. Here there is no compulsion on a news editor to use a press release unless its content is newer, more newsy, interesting, distinctive or unique than the flood of competing information they receive on a second-by-second basis.

Editors select stories their readers want to see, that will move markets or have some impact. They don’t want dreary regurgitation of what the company is or does that anyone can read on the company’s website.

Getting to Know You

Secondly, while editors will choose stories primarily because they are newsworthy (“Man Bites Dog”!), they are far more likely to place, or, even better, follow up a story, if they are familiar with those in the story (“Mr. Smith of Arcadia Place bites dog of Mr. Jones of Long Street”!)

The “Holy Grail” of press releases are those followed up by journalists: and the media will follow up when a company has worked hard to raise its visibility so as to ensure the media are familiar its brand, its profile and its people.

Black-Holes Formula

"So communicate plainly what you are trying to do in science, and who knows, you might even end up understanding it yourself." Professor Stephen Hawking giving advice to young scientists in his BBC Reith lectures

When a man responsible for what must be some of the most complex thoughts in history says, “communicate plainly,” is it time to reconsider how you express yourself?

Hawking adds, tongue in cheek, “…you might even end up understanding it yourself," - advice to ensure one’s communications are not so burdened with technical verbiage or lost in a jungle of jargon that their gravitational pull exceeds that of the black holes about which Professor Hawking writes so eloquently.

Stephen Hawking is a rare: he has a brilliant mind, but does not allow the complexity of his thoughts to create an impenetrable cosmic fog around what he says.

Unhappy New Year

One must have sympathy for those who apparently fall into that trap. Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway recently excoriated the chief executive of Deloitte Global, Punit Renjen, for the gobbledegook she concludes his New Year email to staff contained.

Her headline, “Anyone in possession of even a normal IQ would wonder why they were working there,” impugns intelligence of Mr. Renjen and those who work for him.

What Ms. Kellaway, with her usual zeal, has done is to highlight the impact of writing that is poorly thought through. The examples she quotes from Mr. Renjen’s New Year inspirational message appear not only to have the opacity, but also the ubiquity of dark matter making them inaccessible to the audience aimed for.

Secret Society

All too often sailors, golfers, and indeed lawyers and accountants, not to mention holy men, communicate in code. They preserve their exclusivity or promote their scarcity by delivering pronouncements with the impenetrability of Einstein’s theories.

But obscuring the mysteries of the sea, the golf links, the contract, balance sheet or a holy book, instead of communicating them “plainly”, is counter productive.

Obfuscation does not add value; it does not make the “brand”, accessible to a wider audience.

Professor Hawking suggests it may even end up with the would-be communicator making fools of themselves by not appearing to understand their own field.

Complicity in Complexity

Financial services and capital markets lexicons have mutated from straightforward instruments like equities, bonds and funds to a new and complex nomenclature. New terms have had to evolve to describe the constellation of derivatives of the underlying, galaxies asset-backed securities, risk management tools in the credit and debt markets, as well as a universe of investment vehicles, private equity funds, venture capital funds, hedge funds and investment strategies.

The financial world is complex. The language of bankers, stock brokers, wealth managers, credit analysts and the like has been obliged to embrace new terminologies. But the market specialists are not always the people with the time and the writing skills to communicate to the desired audience.

FinanceWriter is commissioned to write annual reports, annual reviews, thought leadership papers, speeches, new websites or blogs, we demystify complexity through the use of language and tone of how we write.

We don’t take Professor Hawking’s injunction to “communicate plainly” so literally that we use boring prose! We aim to use lively, engaging language in a tone of voice that allows non-specialist to appreciate the import of whatever is being communicated whether they are finance professionals or, retail shareholders.

Secrets of Thought Leadership Articles

FinanceWriter’s clients diverge in their views of what a “Thought Leadership” article is - and what it will do for them

At first firms commissioning “Though Leadership” articles question how someone who doesn’t work for their firm nor specialises in the firm’s activities; someone who, “walks in off the street”, can be sufficiently acquainted with the firm, its products or sector to write intelligently and authoritatively about their firm’s business.

But most often, they are not sure what a Thought Leadership article is - and what it will achieve.

Quick on the Uptake

FinanceWriter writers’ backgrounds in financial journalism have given them the intelligence, experience and capability to quickly turn their minds to all manner of subjects.

Newspaper editors, just like those commissioning Thought Leadership articles, require their correspondents to rapidly appreciate and assimilate highly diverse, as well as, technically or financially complex issues.

Reporters may cover the impact of an annual report on a corporation's share price today, the effect of central bank interest rate changes on bond funds tomorrow, and a new banking regulation of treasury activity the day after tomorrow.

Only using primary sources, reporters transform information into an accurate and authoritative articulation of a subject.

Both reporting and Thought Leadership writing require a clear, consistent and accessible style if they are to meet the needs of the demanding readership of world-leading financial publications like the Wall Street journal or The Banker - or you, your customers, clients or other business stakeholders.

"White Paper" Or "Blue Sky"

But what is a Thought Leadership article and what does it do?

To some Thought Leadership articles are "white papers" - similar to governments floating proposals before they draft new laws. For a company, Thought Leadership papers might propose new thinking, new products, new services and new strategies that will augment shareholder return, improve relationships with clients or enhance services and performance.

To others Thought Leadership papers are "blue sky thinking" - thinking aloud - about the future, the challenges and opportunities open to the firm and its clients and their markets. It is with this type of “clean slate” that the external, independent Thought Leadership writer can make a major contribution as they can genuinely, “think outside the box”!

As You Like It

The purpose of Thought Leadership articles is what you make of them. They can create opportunities for explanation, expansion, exploration and, most importantly, engagement.

While for some they are purely a marketing opportunity: maintaining their firm’s profile in the forefront of clients’ minds.

At FinanceWriter we will discuss your objectives, starting with the readership with whom you want to engage and how you would like to influence them.

Key to Thought Leadership articles is the writing. Does it interest and engage your target readership? Will it encourage a reaction from them? Do you want feedback, a discussion or just to be thought provoking? Do you want to explain technicalities, expand on proposals or explore new opportunities?

But above all, you want someone who has read it to put it down and say, “Now that was interesting”!

Global Symmetry

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Tiger by William Blake

An idealised snapshot of the world economy sees all countries jogging along in unison achieving trend growth. Such symmetry could deliver predictable and consistent investment, jobs, incomes and trade.

It could be characterised by, “No more boom and bust”. It could be the antitheses of the winner-takes-all objective of the mercantilists’ strategy of asymmetry that ensured their country accumulated wealth at the expense of rivals.

The Day the Symmetry Died…or Did it?

The dream of equilibrium in financial markets seemed so close in 2005 – China was booming with commodity economies riding high on its coattails. The US housing market was flying, fuelled by sub-prime mortgages that investment banks were securitising and flogging to buttress investors’ “risk-free” portfolios.

But sweet symmetry was too good to last: the symmetrical global boom turned into a global bust.

Symmetry didn’t die. When everyone confronts falling equity, bond and real estate prices, reversing the gains of the credit boom years; when rising unemployment, deleveraging and contraction are universal, there is Déjà vu all over again with markets finding a new, but malign symmetry.

William Blake asked of the tiger, “What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? As 2008 proved, financial markets could and proved that, like the tiger’s symmetry, market symmetry is a fearful prospect.

Fearful Asymmetry...

So is asymmetry is the answer?

Growth in the United States is teasing the world about the prospect of an interest rate rise; China’s has slowed; Japan is in recession; Europe limps along and Russia remains a basket case.

As the US replaces China to become the locomotive of global growth can world financial markets delink asymmetrically so we don’t all boom or bust at once?

Is it possible, or desirable, that economic leadership is engineered to pass the baton from country to the next to sustain such an asymmetrical pattern?

There goes the Punchbowl again

Corporate annual reports and reviews comprise input from many, diverse parts of a company. Understandably contributions from finance, marketing and production are likely to be asymmetrical in detail, quality, quantity and style.

Contributors’ jobs are in finance, marketing and production: not writing, editing and presentation of information for a readership of, mainly professional fund managers and other investors.

To achieve readable consistency and to present information accessibly requires oversight: financial writing and editing that ensures branding and verbal branding are sustained, uniformly throughout the documents.

Without inflating its own importance FinanceWriter’s role perhaps similar, to that of the central banker who, as the economic party warms up, is the one who has to take away the punchbowl. While a central banker wants to see his or her economy to grow, be innovative and rewarding, seeking to achieve those goals within certain constraints.

Central bankers are relied on to take into account the symmetry and the asymmetry of sectors, industries and trading partners before raising or lowering interest rates.

Similarly, FinanceWriter seeks to bring authority and balance to the interests of the stakeholders in annual reports and to create symmetry among the sections of the report as well as accompanying documents including annual reviews and sustainability reports.

“It's too complicated to explain…”

"No subject is too difficult to communicate to an ordinary well-educated person. They will follow your argument as long as they were never told it is too difficult.” Attributed to academic and TV presenter Professor Jacob Bronowski

Professor Bronowski was not only clever (after all he was an Oxford academic), but also wise. As a teacher he was required to impart complex ideas and theories to students who were indeed well educated. But they were also highly receptive to novel and complicated concepts.

When he presented his famous television series, “The Ascent of Man,” he was not addressing well-educated people, he was reaching out to the man and woman in the street, ordinary people, “the man on the Clapham omnibus”. But they were people who, if their attention could be seized, may be hugely interested in what he was broadcasting.

Which is why, coming from a background in journalism financial writers at FinanceWriter take his dictum a step further: no subject is too difficult to communicate to the ordinarily-interested person.

Clarity and Brevity

Working at leading financial publications like the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times or the Banker journalists are tutored: as they write they must remember readers who may be encountering terms like equity, bond, index, derivative, risk management and so on for the first time.

It is an example of why financial writing should always be accessible to the newcomer. On the other hand, the explanations or language should not patronise the professionals and specialists who are steeped in the subject of the article. It’s a careful balance between clarity and brevity.

When specialists in banking, wealth management, capital markets or commodities and senior executives in corporations communicate, it is not always with their peers – people at their level of education, experience or knowledge of financial markets.

In drafting marketing material or thought leadership paper on, say, derivatives, specialists inevitably lapse into jargon – their speciality is derivatives, not financial writing. Some can’t and some simply won’t use language and tone of voice that will ensure their thoughts are communicated beyond the circle of those “in the know”.

It’s Greek to Me

Of course the professions have for centuries obscured what they are saying with Latin, Greek or complicated words in order to sustain the “mystery” that helped maintain their elevated exclusivity.

But the world has changed with ordinary seeking exposure to and participating in the markets for futures, options, hedge funds, contracts for difference and so on.

Private bank clients requiring wealth management services may have made their money in shipping, semiconductors or software. They may not have a clue about arcane and obscure financial derivatives, but nevertheless want to understand and participate in their wealth management process and the risks inherent in different financial strategies.

Corporations publishing annual reports often produce an “annual review” so information simpler than the flagship document. The question has to be asked whether two documents are necessary and whether the review is a “dumbed down” version of the report.

No concept should be too difficult to explain and there are added costs and stresses maintaining accuracy and consistency not just of information but also of messaging and branding in two documents.

If FinanceWriter’s variation on Professor Bronowski’s dictum is applied, then writing an annual report clearly and consistently should ensure its content is not too complicated to be communicated to the ordinarily-interested person.

Unintended Consequences of QE

A monetarist economists’ mantra is: “Too much money chasing too few goods causes inflation”.

Why then, when central banks have “printed money” by exercising “extraordinary monetary measures” or “quantitative easing (QE)” have prices not soared away?

The hope behind QE was that “loads of money” created by central banks buying bonds would push down interest rates. That in turn was supposed to spur borrowing by businesses; creating a virtuous trajectory of investment, higher employment and higher incomes.

Following the global financial crisis (GFC) economies rapidly retreated from working at capacity. So inflation would only become a risk once this output gap closed and full employment was achieved.

However since QE, instead of inflation, we have been tottering on the cusp of deflation. Or to reverse the monetarist mantra, “There has been too little money chasing too few goods”.

QE Hangover?

Is this a hangover from the GFC with economies not recovering from that debt-fuelled shock or has QE failed to promote “real investment” and create “real jobs”?

But hang on: while consumer prices bumped along the bottom asset prices - the prices of commodities, shares and property - leapt as money unleashed by central banks flowed into banking systems.

Central banks don’t measure asset price inflation. Changes in the prices of Vodafone, Apple and GlaxoSmithKline aren’t included in consumer price Indices, nor are changes in property or commodity prices, so rising asset prices are not seen as inflationary.

Yet, since oil started its decline in mid-2014, followed by other commodities, it is falling commodity prices that have added to the deflationary momentum as their prices feed through to the consumer.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

QE is officially the exercise of “extraordinary monetary measures” so it unsurprising that these should they have unintended consequences.

As the financial world waits with bated breath for the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England to raise interest rates, questions have to be asked as to whether, with QE, central banks have mounted a tiger they dare not dismount.

Talking It Through

FinanceWriter has coined its own mantra to reduce the risk of unintended consequences: “No time is lost in planning”. Clients commissioning financial writing of thought leadership papers, preparing speeches for senior executives to deliver at major events or committing a company to a strategy statement in an annual report may know their subject inside out. Yet they may be too close to it – not able to see the wood for the trees!

Unintended consequences can be malign or benign. Gerald Ratner clearly didn’t think through has famous comparison of his firm’s jewellery with an “M&S prawn sandwich”!

On the other hand, talking and thinking things through with an experienced, intelligent and independent financial writer not only avoids pitfalls, but also create exciting opportunities.

Using FinanceWriter as a resource when commissioning important financial writing broadens and deepens the impact: improving the clarity, reach and language.

By establishing the correct tone of voice and embracing a clients’ brand (particularly their rules on verbal branding) it is possible not only to convey a firm’s messaging effectively and support its reputation, but also to protect it from those, sometimes dire, unintended consequences.

Content Can’t Be Commoditised

Commodities are currently a source of turmoil in financial markets.

Faced by the burgeoning shale oil and gas industry in the US, Saudi Arabia kicked off with a price war to protect their oil market dominance.

Then, the Chinese dragon, whose appetite for coal, oil, copper and iron could not be assuaged, faced falling industrial output, stock market volatility and currency gyrations. With the dragon seriously off its food, the soaring commodity supercycle has been brought to a juddering halt.

Confusion over the timing trajectory of US interest rates has not helped.

For Australia and emerging market commodity suppliers reliant on exporting commodities, the consequences are dire. These countries are not only experiencing plunging incomes but, like falling dominoes, billions of dollars of investment in the development of resources have been shelved.

Commodity trader Glencore, is the miner’s canary struggling for breath: as a commodity price taker its deep immersion in the toxic gasses of commodity price free fall has necessitated panic asset sales.

Value Added

One heap of iron ore is identical to the next heap – in economic terms that is why commodities are commodities. However, some firms, while not immune from collapsing commodity prices, are insulated against the price shocks.

These producers have a value-added marketing strategy: they are price makers, not price takers. By meeting customers’ individual needs for commodity quality and mix, just-in-time delivery and financing, they transform bog standard commodity sales into bespoke services contracts.

Words As Commodities

Words are commodities when they are churned without an appreciation of their underlying values: when they are debased as a means to an end with their intrinsic qualities ignored.

Commodities are simple, but have potential. Words are de-commoditised when a writer embraces a written piece as a coherent whole: value is added to iron ore when it is envisaged of as a car or a ship. It the same with words.

At FinanceWriter we look at the thought leadership articles, annual reports, speeches and case studies that we compose as a cohesive flow of words so as to create articles, documents and reports that are integrated, paced, coherent and consistent.

Commoditised creativity: a contradiction in terms.

By de-commoditising words we take the opportunity to refine the readers' engagement with, and their understanding of, what they are reading. We seek to use words in subtle ways; weighing them up, balancing them, creating a “tone of voice” that reflects the character, the messaging and the brand of those for whom the piece is being written. And while we select words to reinforce the values embodied in our clients’ brands by underwriting their verbal branding strategy, we also seek to provoke thoughtfulness and discernment as well as adding authority to what is being written.

At FinanceWriter we avoid the mistake of adding value by increasing complexity. We seek integrate ideas into a stream to make them clear, logical and accessible. But above all, what we write must make sense.

In financial writing in particular the writer needs to keep it simple. But the writer needs to know their audience, for example whether it is a professional or retail readership, a group of fund managers or of bankers. That way the writer can rely on some assumed knowledge; they don’t have to spell out every minute detail or they risk “talking down” to their readers. After all IKEA self-build instructions don’t spell out what a screwdriver is to their DIY enthusiasts!

In poetry not everything is explicit. Poetry works by implication, by what is suggested in a coherent whole. As a poet might have said, “It’s not what you say, but the way that you say it.”

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