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Should law firms hire journalists to ghostwrite attorney marketing content?

It’s increasingly important in this era of information overload for your wealth management firm to capture the attention of your target client with messaging focused on their particular needs. They’re often searching for content to help them identify the exact nature of their wealth or asset management issue and get that problem solved fast.

In fact, that’s why most people look for content online, because they have a pain they want to be relieved. You want yours to be the wealth management practice they call when they need help, and great content communications produced by your firm and distributed where your target clients live online can make that possible. 

But, you must write your wealth or asset management firm’s content in a way that resonates with wealth industry readers, not that’s focused on your wealth industry firm’s brand. It must be interesting, thoughtful and immediately useful. It must tell your readers quickly how you can solve their problem or meet their needs without being “salesy.” This is particularly challenging for smaller wealth management firms that don’t have an in-house communications marketing staff.

[Tweet “Content messaging writing isn’t the best use of an advisor’s or executive’s time or skills set.”]

Even when yours is an institutional asset management firm with a content communications plan in place, as an advisor or executive, you may not be able to write the content necessary to execute the plan profitably. That’s because, not only is crafting content messaging not the best use of an wealth advisor’s or executive’s skill set but also because if you’re like most in your role, you don’t create brand content communications well. Producing content that can convert target audiences into real leads for your asset management firm is crucial. 

Is hiring a journalist to ghostwrite content the answer?

You know writing content that converts is important, and you want to get the right strategic content writing help. But, should you hire a journalist to ghostwrite your law firm content under an advisor or executive’s name? It sounds like the perfect solution to your problem, especially when you believe you’ve identified the right journalist based on their background and writing samples.  

But, think very carefully before you make that decision. Some marketing tactics used incorrectly to drive credibility with wealth management firm content will kill yours. Hiring a journalist to ghostwrite advisor content may be one of those. 

When used by your wealth management firm to generate marketing collateral under a licensed wealth advisor’s name or byline, this strategy could be considered unethical. An wealth managment advisor representing a journalist’s writing as their words might be considered plagiarism by any definition. While it’s usually fine to have wealth management firm content written by someone other than one of your advisors identified under your wealth or asset management firm’s name, it might be misleading to have it published under a licensed wealth advisor’s name.

[Tweet “Ghostwritten content with a advisor’s byline may violate federal communications regulations rules.”]

Consequently, it’s important for wealth management firms to consider federal guidelines and ruls on advertising and communications when creating content content communications to avoid misleading the public. FINRA carefully outlines many of those rules on their website. But there may be others associated with professional organizations for individuals or institutional rules under organizations like the United Nations’ Principals for Responsible Investing you’ll want to consider.

Not only could it be considered a violation of such rules and regulations to have ghostwritten content represented as an licensed advisor’s writing, but most readers would also feel duped if they learned your wealth or asset management firm employed this tactic in its communications marketing.

They’d probably ask themselves, “If this advisor would use this marketing tactic, what unethical tactics would they try in managing my money or assets that would cost me or my business dearly?” Naturally, you don’t want prospective or current clients to consider your wealth management practice so desperate for attention and revenue, that its leaders are willing to be dishonest.

Besides, who needs their firm to be the focus of activist investors, regulatory complaints or harsh publicity that could put the ruin the firm’s reputation or, worse, put your out of business?

Can we use journalists for this other form of ghostwriting?

There is another type of wealth or asset management firm content communications you should never hire a journalist to write, even on behalf of your practice. It actually could be considered ghostwriting in reverse. The media industry calls this content communications marketing tactic “paid media placement.” Journalists shouldn’t be hired by your firm for this purpose, either. 

What is it, exactly? It’s when you pay a recognized journalist to use their byline to get paid assignments to write stories in your target news outlets about your firm that are favorable or promotional. But, these pieces are not necessarily objective or truthful, and a journalist’s job is to tell the truth in an unbiased fashion. This kind of writing doesn’t represent that journalistic ideal.

[Tweet “Paying a journalist to write a favorable story about your firm under their byline is also unethical.”]

In this case, you’re pretending to the story source, but you’re the “ghostwriter.” Your firm’s advisors or executives are behind the scenes helping create the storyline that will get published under the journalist’s byline. You’re crafting the story to make sure it reads exactly the way you want it run. If any fact-checking gets done by the media outlet, it won’t be a problem because you created “alternative facts” for the story with the journalist’s help. 

As bad as it sounds, it’s much more common than you think. It’s a highly unethical practice in any industry but can have far reaching negative consequences for wealth or asset management firms. If you’re found out, it might not only be bad for your firm’s credibility but a violation of federal regulations. Besides, no ethical journalist will agree to provide the service. 

What should firms do before hiring a journalist to ghostwrite?

Wealth and asset management institutions of all sizes are contracting with editorial professionals to write the most relevant content for their audiences. Smart financial institutions know it can increase reach with well-written content, and it ultimately helps their firm generate targeted leads that can be converted to billable clients.

While hiring journalists as ghostwriters to write communications content for your institution can be an excellent part of your content communications marketing strategy, you must approach it correctly. Your firm should carefully consider how you’ll contract with journalists as strategic content writing consultants to do this work. 

In fact, your firm’s policies for doing so should be formal and in place in advance. By doing this first, your institution can leverage the expertise of a journalist offering strategic content writing services while avoiding violating federal regulations on advertising and maintaining your credibility with your wealth industry audience.

(c) 2016-2018. Dahna M. Chandler for Thrive Content, Inc., a division of Thrive Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express written permission of the author.