This has to be the hypothetical question of the year – and it’s still only January as I write! Can you name even ONE ‘big’ financial copywriter? Even more to the point – most people would struggle to come up with more than a couple of copywriters who are specialists in the financial field.
Financial copywriting is a fairly esoteric pastime. To be esteemed by your peers would give you little more than a footnote in the copywriters’ history of the 21st century. You’d be akin to a 12th century monk, transcribing the ancient gospels for posterity. And yet financial affairs rule the world – and they probably always did.
The difference is that today we have ‘financial services’. And these have to be marketed, the better to make a fat profit. In that respect, financial copywriting is no different to any other present-day commercial activity. It is of course an essential link in the selling process.
On a global scale, that means there are plenty of people involved in writing financial copy for financial gain. So why shouldn’t there be some kind of hierarchy in this obscure skill?
Is it because ‘financial copywriting’ is an umbrella term that takes in the whole gamut of marketing tools from websites to sales letters to social media and advertising? The circle is particularly hard to square because the financial world is like no other.
It requires a certain ‘insider knowledge’ of economics, the mechanics of business and how money makes the world go round. Try to compare finance with any other sector – retail, automotive, recruitment, property and so on – and you’ll draw a big fat blank.
Could it be that most financial copy is written in-house? No. Is it because financial machinations are shrouded in secrecy? Well, some most definitely are, but this has been well shaken out before it reaches the proverbial financial High Street.
Or is it quite simply that persuasion rests with the decimal point when it comes to ‘interest earned on investments’ – and therefore the need for ‘traditional’ copywriting skills is largely redundant. Given the huge amounts of money at stake, this is also highly improbable and implausible.
It’s only a sector, stupid!
You’ve probably already guessed that this is an unwinnable game. Financial copywriting is just a market sector. Yes, it has its own idiosyncrasies, but it doesn’t demand any outstanding skill-set that isn’t required in any other sector.
Or does it? Wouldn’t a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University give you a head start? Wouldn’t a few years working on the City of London trading floor give you an insight into ‘pure market’ forces? Better still, wouldn’t a spell in front of banks of computers at London’s most illustrious trading houses be the ultimate apprenticeship?
The nearest to all this that an average ‘generalist’ copywriter could hope to come would be working on a financial account at a specialist advertising agency or City PR firm. Without a doubt, a financial copywriter working in this environment would be a relatively lowly mortal where the plaudits would fall most naturally to Account Directors and others involved in the agency management structure.
To this extent, copywriters fall between two stools – anonymity as a freelance, and anonymity working within any agency where a copywriter would otherwise be well-placed to influence outcomes and therefore build a reputation as a top financial copywriter.
As with many other aspects of copywriting – outside the traditional domains of advertising and sales letter writing – it’s all about market forces. Without the opportunity to play a central part in the profit-generating process, financial copywriters will always be condemned to obscurity – no matter how ‘great’ they are.
To find out more about Mike Beeson’s approach to financial copywriting, visit Buzzwords’ Financial Copywriter web page.