Writing for emotional impact is considered essential in a Hollywood script. But when it comes to investment writing, some marketers might disagree with this quote:
“People don’t ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.” – Robert Keith Leavitt
Money and investing come with all kinds of emotional baggage and people’s attitudes toward money can be highly emotional. This may be less so among institutional and professional buyers (at least that’s what we’re supposed to believe) but for the consumer, hitting the right emotional notes can be critical.
A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled on the topic of investor psychology, so I’m not going to go there. Instead, I want to talk about hitting the right emotional notes when writing to the average investor and professional buyers alike.
Bill Gross of PIMCO does this very well. Although he can be a bit long-winded. His market commentary and books almost always tell a story and are written to evoke emotion.
An example from his most recent investment outlook:
“About six months ago, I only half in jest told Mohamed that my tombstone would read, “Bill Gross, RIP, He didn’t own ‘Treasuries’.” Now, of course, the days are getting longer and as they say in golf, it is better to be above – as opposed to below – the grass. And it is better as well, to be delivering alpha as opposed to delevering in the bond market or global economy. The best way to visualize successful delivering is to recognize that investors are locked up in a financially repressive environment that reduces future returns for all financial assets. Breaking out of that “jail” is what I call the Great Escape, and what I hope to explain in the next few pages.”
Of course, this isn’t for everyone, and maybe I’m a bit of an investment geek, but I don't think you need to be a CFA to want to continue reading.
While his storytelling does a good job of attracting and engaging readers, his writing also has the potential to elicit a number of different emotional responses (all of which are better than boredom, of course):
- Anger and annoyance
- Fear and paralysis
- Acceptance and hope
Perhaps more importantly, Bill understands the potential emotions his writing can evoke and he addresses the first three with the following techniques.
First, he prepares his audience for potential anger, annoyance, fear or shock by letting them know he’s about to tell them something they may not want to hear or agree with.
Second, after he drops a bomb, he let’s readers know that there’s hope – that his research shows there is a way out of this mess. He offers tips and insight to allay fears, annoyance or potential shock.
Finally, he keeps it real. He acknowledges the real challenges we face as investors and lets readers know that he appreciates the complexities, assumptions and undertones of the situations we face. He doesn’t come across as if he has all the answers, but he does come across as someone who understands them and that give us confidence. It helps us get to acceptance and hope.