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How to write about finance so women listen

Annabel Hargreaves

Fathomry

PRO

Have you noticed how hot women and money are right now?  From money magazines entreating us to be ‘financially fabulous’ to investment firms eyeing up our market potential, the female financial star is definitely rising.

It’s about time, of course.  Half the population, just saying.

But the way some financial firms are writing for women makes me wonder – is it as simple as feeding our shopping habit, softening the language or stoking up ra-ra feminist fist-raising?

Maybe it is for some.  But I reckon there’s more to the job of getting women interested and engaged in making their money work harder.   So here are my top 6 tips for writing about finance so women listen, along with some examples of organisations I think are getting it right.

Tip 1: Banish lazy stereotypes

Starling Bank’s Make Money Equal campaign highlights astounding bias in how the media talks to men and women when it comes to money.

Credit: Starling Bank

It’s an easy trap to fall into, from language to images to underlying messages and stories that propagate unnuanced views on what women think, feel and do.

“You’re young? Great, let’s see how you can cut back so you have more to shop with!

Middle aged?  Ah, well we can help you save for the kids and manage your household budget.

Older?  Just give me your husband’s number.”

As for pensions, insurance and investing, well, those are just too complicated, too boring or too risky for women at any age.

While there may be kernels of truth in some of the stereotypes, if you’re going to build your message around attitudes, needs or behaviours specific to women, my advice is to be careful.

Build your narrative around ideas that empower and recognise positive female experiences or traits rather than a generic stereotype.  Even better, turn stereotypes on their head like Sport England’s brilliant ‘This Girl Can’ campaign is doing for women getting active.

 

Credit: Sport England www.sportengland.org

Research as much as you can afford to so your profiles are evidence-based rather than relying on received wisdom or views of women in your team who may not be your target audience.   And finally, give your writing a good kick to loosen any false generalisations or assumptions, preferably with the help of women like those you want to reach.

Tip 2: Keep it simple

Not simple as in finance for dummies, but simple as in straightforward.  Stick it to jargon big time – we really don’t have time to translate meaningless words into something to care about (I’m fairly sure most men don’t either).

Being more human is an excellent place for many finance firms to start.  Do the work to simplify your message so it’s relatable and understandable.  Then write it as if you were talking to them in person, only better.

Legal & General’s beginner guide to investing gets this right for me.  Simple, straightforward language in a conversational tone that isn’t annoyingly casual or patronising, it just tells it like it is.  Great for everyone, no gender excluded.

Financial opinion and advice website Boringmoney.com also does this well, as do challenger banks such as Monzo.  To be fair, most of our high street banks aren’t bad either – even the letters have started to make sense most of the time.

Credit: Legal & General

Tip 3: Assume we’re capable

Just because we don’t spend much time investing doesn’t mean we can’t.  We’re just not choosing to.  If your tone implies we’re fully capable of making sound financial decisions when firms like yours work with us and for us, I think you’ll find many more women listening, from millennials to baby boomers.

I like the Savvywoman website for this.  It covers every aspect of money with informative wide-ranging articles.   There’s no sense that some topics are for women and others not – it covers topics from types of investment to pet insurance, all written in a straightforward, factual tone that neither dumbs down nor overcomplicates.  This brings me to tip 4.

Tip 4: Beware the perilous trio: the Shoulds, the Judgy and the Patronising

Who honestly needs more shoulds in their life? It’s exhausting to be told constantly what you should or shouldn’t be doing – with money as with anything else.  To avoid it think carefully before using dictatorial-sounding commands like ‘do this’, ‘think that’, or ‘feel this way’.

Instead, try a softer tone (‘many women feel’), lead with evidence (‘21% of women tell us that’) and generally focus on what getting more engaged with my money will do for me – make me want the good stuff and help me see what I’m missing out on (see tip 5).

As for being judgy, it’s easy to sound like you’re judging what women do or how they feel.

“If women worried less about risk, they’d have more income for the long-term.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being cautious about risk, which more women are than men according to research, nor indeed about asking questions to feel informed before making important decisions.  In fact, a more cautious approach can be more successful, as George Soros puts so well.

“If investing is entertaining, if you’re having fun, you’re probably not making any money. Good investing is boring.” George Soros

The key, then, is to acknowledge behaviours and the likely reasons behind them in a neutral tone before offering explanations or solutions.  The above example on risk could be more like this:

“Women tell us they don’t invest because it feels too risky.  It’s true that all investments carry risk that their value goes down as well as up, but there are many investment options with lower risk that will still grow your savings more than keeping them as cash.”

Legal and General’s investing guide is an example of covering risk well – it informs the reader in a balanced, neutral way and guides them through possible solutions.

Now we get to the big-ticket hackle-raiser: talking down to us.  Well, I say try it and let the she-verse show you what we think.  Ellevest founder, Sallie Krawchek, covers this one brilliantly in this great piece on Fast Company.

Avoiding a patronising tone is something even good work can struggle with.  Take Visa’s excellent multi-year Money is Changing campaign to break the last taboo of talking about money.

Credit: Visa

The messaging and ‘we’re in it with you’ tone work well in general, but phrases in the research report such as ‘view some survey tidbits below’ jarred with me.  Do findings have to be ‘tidbits’ for women to want to engage?    How about just ‘see some survey highlights below’ or ‘see what our survey uncovered below’?

Tip 5: Fire us up with facts

Particularly ones that make us think.  Like more of us living to 100 with more chance we have less put away for that longer retirement than our lovely man-friends.  And how we’re missing out on loads of extra savings by not investing, even if we don’t have loads of money in the first place.  Oh, and how about that we’re actually pretty good at investing when we do have a go?

A great example of doing this well is Ellevest, an online investing platform for women in the U.S..  Their pitch on why they’re ‘for women’ is built on facts that show simply and clearly why women taking ownership of their financial future matters.  Boringmoney.com gets this right too, with facts prominent on the page and within the copy.

Credit: Ellevest.com

Tip 6:  Men are not the enemy

Avoiding man-bashing can be a tricky one to pull off, as talk of gender pay gaps, investing gaps and all the other gaps inevitably pits women against men.  Yes, we’re still breaking centuries of patriarchy to create a world where women and men have equal financial access and agency.

But there are many men who believe that is wrong, and many who are just as put off by alpha male stereotyping in financial services as women.  I don’t believe men are the enemy – we need men and women to work on this together so it’s better for all of us.

For me, this is where facts and evidence are crucial, coupled with a positive, balanced tone that explains the gaps but doesn’t come off as anti-men.  In my experience working on campaigns for women, this one sits alongside talking down and shoulds: all three need to be robustly tested every step of the way.

So, there you have it – 6 tips I’d love a future me not to need.  Here’s hoping that future isn’t science-fiction.

First published on fathomry.co.uk

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