What Grissom and Caine can teach us about investment writing
Constant innovation has enabled the investment management industry to offer new and novel solutions designed to better serve the investing public. As more sophisticated solutions are introduced in the alternatives space, as well as in other product categories, the challenge of writing to these increasingly complex investment products becomes more pronounced.
While we should always strive to simplify our business communications, just opting to “dumb down” content may do investors a disservice. Is there a middle ground between simplicity and substance? The answer might lie with an old but influential television show.
CSI: Communicating Substance to Investors
It’s been just over three years since the last new episode of the hit CSI television franchise aired, but the footprint of this 16-year-long cultural touchstone is still present. Not only are the various CSI shows still being aired in syndication, they have continued to shape the public’s perception of law enforcement.
While the franchise has been criticized for taking artistic liberties with the real nature of police work and forensic investigation, CSI was never shy about using technical, highly scientific insider jargon.
That’s significant when you consider the CSI shows have been watched by millions, and that forensic science is no less an esoteric subject than yield curves or hedge funds.
Yet these shows, despite their complexities, spawned a generation of laypeople who could proudly discuss contusions, exit wounds and DNA sampling.
So, what can we learn from the exploits of Gil Grissom and Horatio Caine? From an investment communications perspective, we might take away the following:
1. Complexity doesn’t have to be scary; in fact, by its very nature can be compelling for readers.
2. Don’t be afraid of using complex terms, but also add in enough additional information so the reader can follow along, while also feeling educated and empowered by new knowledge.
3. Keep a “CSI toolkit” handy, meaning a spreadsheet of commonly used insider terms relevant to your investment mandate(s), plus their working definitions, for the benefit of investors. This toolkit can be used by you and your team in a variety of investment communications
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