Want to make your financial services firm’s marketing engine hum? Ditch the idea that having a blog is an optional thing. Recast the “if I get to it” sidebar project that characterizes most firms’ blogging efforts into the hub of all your outbound media relations and thought leadership efforts.

We’ve come far enough to know that there is no mystery in how to launch a blog. The key is figuring out how to make it successful as a core part of your marketing and communications efforts. With that in mind, here are the five commandments financial services professionals should follow so their blog regularly produces professional, polished and educational content.

I. Thou shall have an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is a well thought-out plan of what you’re going to post and when. The No. 1 error people make when starting a blog is to jump in feet first without fleshing out several months’ worth of content.

Inevitably, those who don’t have an editorial calendar will find themselves without content at some point and will be forced to scramble to come up with something to post. Those thrown-together posts are the beginning of the end for your blog.

At Gregory FCA, we collaborate with our financial services clients to maintain a rolling editorial calendar. We recommend our clients have eight weeks’ worth of planned topics at any given time, though it’s important for the calendar to be fluid so content can address big news internally or externally.

Want some help planning your editorial calendar? Start by thinking about the economic and financial news that is most relevant to your business. Check out this handy calendar from Bloomberg to see when the next Fed meeting is, when jobs data is released, etc. and plan from there.

II. Thou shall not covet thy neighbors’ visuals

Multimedia and visual content go hand-in-hand with a blog. Those who believe a blog simply generates text are the ones who are constantly scratching their heads about why their traffic plateaus.

According to QuickSprout, content that is accompanied by images gets 94 percent more views than content that lacks a visual.

However, visuals require a bit of creativity. Simply regurgitating a photo you found on Google Images or stock photos isn’t going to do the trick. Invest the time and resources to develop visuals – including photos, videos and infographics – in-house.

This is especially relevant as advisors start to turn their eyes toward millennials (their spending power will be $3.39 trillion in 2018 – more than boomers). Statistics show that visual content seriously resonates with this audience and helps engage them.

III. Thy bench should be deep

Chances are your practice is composed of experts in a variety of areas – and that’s exactly how your blog should be structured.

Take a cue from the way the media divvies up responsibilities and assigns each blogger a beat – that is, a topic or area of focus. For example, if you’re an RIA, your CIO could cover macroeconomic topics and market movements, an on-staff CPA could handle tax topics and a planner could handle posts about personal finance tips and retirement planning.

The thinking behind this strategy is twofold: First, one person isn’t responsible for writing all the content. Second, your blog becomes more interesting and applicable to a wider audience. The different personalities and voices of the authors prevent your content from becoming stale.

IV. Honor thy audience

It’s no secret that any successful media outlet knows their audience. BuzzFeed, for example, has figured out the type of content that appeals to millennials and teenagers – and they use it; while baby boomers might find it amusing, it’s definitely not written with them in mind.

When financial services professionals are developing a blog, they can’t simply say it’s geared toward prospects or current clients. The only way to capture and retain that specific audience is to write for that audience. Who is your ideal client/prospect? Where do they live? What do they enjoy in their free time? Are they married? If you’re trying to appeal to businesses and their executives, spend some time brainstorming what their industry demands of them and how your firm can meet their needs.

Once you narrow down your audience, you can tailor the content appropriately. If you’re trying to appeal to pre-retirees in their 50s, it wouldn’t make sense to write a blog post providing financial advice to new college graduates.

V. Thou shall share socially

If your business is going to invest the time, money and resources into creating a blog, it’s critical to start thinking about how you’re going to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Except for a handful of posts that go viral each year, most won’t drive steady traffic unless you’re actively pushing your content out via social media.

In fact, 80 percent of marketers said focusing on social media increased traffic to their websites. With seven in 10 advisors reporting they use social media to help grow their business, extending the same effort to your team’s blog is a natural progression.

Not sure where to start? Some of the biggest drivers of blog traffic are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit. Check out this blog post our team published about the biggest social media mistakes made by advisors.

If you need some extra motivation to devote time to social media, consider that three in five advisors who used LinkedIn to prospect successfully landed a new client, with a third of those increasing their AUM by $1 million or more as a result of LinkedIn.

Certainly, starting a blog is no easy task. However, with the right tools in your arsenal, you will find it’s a great way to boost your firm’s credibility and visibility. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.