A Tricky Stock Photo Trap: Beware of “Editorial Use”

© Can Stock Photo / Smit

Especially for those of us who are artistically challenged, stock photos are the bomb. I use them in just about every post I publish, to help make my communications pop.

But there’s a trap to beware of, lest those photo bombs backfire on you. I’ll explain more in a moment, but watch out for stock photos marked “editorial use.”

First, congratulations if you’re using stock photography to begin with. That already puts you miles ahead of anyone who assumes that, just because you can download an image from the Internet, you may. By and large, you may not. If you don’t believe me, enter “photo copyright infringement penalties” into your favorite search engine and feast your eyes on the results.

Is a Blogger a Journalist? (No)

One way to avoid infringing on others’ photo rights is to use stock photos. But remember: When you download a stock photo or illustration, you haven’t purchased the image itself. You’ve purchased license to use it under specific terms and conditions.

Most people never bother to read those terms. Most of the time, that may be okay. You probably already know not to re-sell the image as your own, use it in an act of terrorism, or otherwise violate basic “do unto other” principles.

But have you ever noticed that some stock photos are marked “editorial use”?  For example, navigate over to Shutterstock, search on “Warren Buffett,” and open any of the resulting hits. To the right of the image, not very prominently, it says: “Editorial use only.” Hovering over the teensy question mark to the right offers this not-so-clear guidance: “Editorial content, such as news and celebrity images, are not cleared for commercial use. Learn more on our Support Center.”

I encourage you to go ahead and learn more. But I’ll tell you what it boils down to: It means you cannot use the image unless you’re a journalist. And, no, your firm’s blog or e-newsletter, doesn’t count.

So Close, So Far Away

There are two reasons this is frustrating. First, it eliminates almost any stock photos that depict well-known people (such as Buffett, actors, political figures and sports heroes) as well as many identifiable places (like the New York Stock Exchange or the Empire State Building, which are trademarked properties).

In other words, many of the images you’d most love to use are the least available. Worse, many stock photo services that offer editorial use images will let you download it anyway, no problem. But if you then use it as you please, you risk violating the terms you’ve agreed to.

A Lawyer Confirms My Hunch

Personally, I’ve been avoiding editorial use images for years. I’ve seen plenty of others blissfully playing with photographic fire, but after reading the fine print for myself I decided to err on the side of caution. That said, I was never sure I was correct. I never could find a definitive answer out on the Internet, and the legal disclosures were always enigmatic.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Intellectual Property/Trademark Attorney Donna Schmitt of Armstrong Teasdale for her opinion on the subject. Better yet, she generously agreed to let me share her comments with you (emphases are mine):

The Question: Many companies publish monthly informational newsletters that are posted on their websites and/or on their blogs. Is use of stock photos marked for “editorial use” in these forums appropriate, without getting a permission?

Donna’s Answer: “While company newsletters/blogs are informative, they may not fall under the editorial exception for fair use of copyrighted works. Newsletters put out by for-profit companies are usually viewed as a form of advertisement/marketing and not news-reporting. You should secure proper permissions for any photos you use in your newsletter to avoid risks of infringement. Many stock photo providers scan the internet for misuse of their photos and send demand letters to bad actors, seeking monetary compensation for use.”

By the way, this same advice likely applies to those of you who hail from abroad. I asked Donna about that too, and she explained: “Many countries have signed onto the Berne Convention treaty, which recognizes copyrights across borders and gives reciprocal rights to copyright owners from one country to another.”

So there you have it. In many respects, I would have loved to have been proven wrong so I could start decorating my posts with images of my favorite hot celebrities. (Photos of people also raise rights of privacy and publicity issues, by the way.) Instead, I now know I’ve been right to be cautious. I recommend the same to you.

Watching Others, Watching You, Watching Out

© Can Stock Photo / Bepsimage

You know the classic Catch-22 pun: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” Here are a few items I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on lately. As an evidence-based investment advisor, you may want to take a look at them too.

Say Hello To the SEC’s SALI

Given the usual deluge of headline-grabbing alerts, you may not have noticed this May 2nd SEC press release, introducing its SEC Action Lookup for Individuals (SALI). SALI is super easy to use, and reports on “individuals” (typically, advisors) who have SEC actions against them “against whom a court has entered a judgment or the Commission has issued an order.” For now, the database covers October 2014 through March 2018, but it’s expected to expand in both directions over time.

SALI could come in handy for your own general research or due diligence on, say, a prospective hire or anyone whose credentials seem suspect. Depending on how you feel about SALI, you may also want to share the link with your investor network. Plus, try entering your own surname and make sure nothing too surprising comes up – especially if you’ve got a common name like Smith or Jones.

Boondoggle Brigade Busted

Admittedly, I’m pretty naïve. Having worked for reputable advisors and fund managers for as long as I have, I sometimes forget that outlandish fees, conflicts of interest and unprincipled practices persist among the wider financial community.

Thankfully, there are columnists like The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig to remind me. Did you catch his recent “Intelligent Investor” exposé, “The Free Trips Your Financial Advisor Takes Could Cost You”? As Zweig observes of advisors who accept free trips from others, “Wining and dining with money managers for free under tropical skies could cloud his or her judgment.”

To say the least! Personally, I can’t even imagine a universe in which any reputable financial advisor would let someone else foot the bill for an all-expense-paid “due diligence conference” held at the Ritz Carlton at Marina Del Ray or the Four Seasons in Mexico City. I love that Zweig includes direct links to these and a couple of other actual, upcoming events, to show that he’s not just making this stuff up.

GDPR … It’s Growing on Me

GD-what? It’s not your fault if you’ve not even heard of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Set to go live May 25th, it’s a big deal in Europe, but I might not have heard of it either if I didn’t have a number of colleagues and clients based there. Even then, it only dawned on me a few weeks ago that I may need to comply with portions of it too, as described in this Forbes article.

If you are not collecting, processing or storing any personal information on anyone in the EU, you can probably remain blissfully ignorant about the details. But, I wanted to bring it to your attention anyway because I’m intrigued by its parallels to our would-be fiduciary standards. Think of the GDPR as having a similar mission, but it’s meant to protect people’s personal data instead of their financial well-being.

Both seem well worth protecting, and the GDPR seems to be authentically leading the charge on this important front. If it works as hoped for, we may have the opportunity to learn from and emulate its successes as we seek to advance universal fiduciary standards of care and improve on financial best practices around the globe.

I think I’ll hit pause for now, to keep this post short and sweet. But I hope to revisit the subject soon … so keep a watchful eye on my blog. Or subscribe below to receive these straight to your inbox.

Are You Ever Asking for It: Ideas on Client Referrals

© Can Stock Photo / Pixelbliss

Note: If you’ve been reading my blog for years, this post may sound familiar. I originally posted a version in 2012. The subject came up again recently, so I decided a redux was in order …

“I know I probably should but …”

What’s your favorite excuse if you don’t routinely ask clients for referrals?

It feels pushy. It’s not my style. This isn’t the right time/place. I forgot. What if it isn’t a good fit? I’m not currently seeking new clients. I’m just no good at it. … Do I have to?

If any or all of these sound familiar, I challenge you to shift your mindset: Asking for referrals doesn’t have to be a chore or an embarrassment, and trust me, the more you do it, the easier and more natural it will become. Once you become comfortable with it, it can become a three-way win for you, your clients and those being referred to you. Here’s how:

It feels good.

Advisors who routinely make referral requests know a big secret: Happy clients actually appreciate being asked something like, “If you’re aware of others we can help, please know we’re always happy to meet with them,” or “Is there anyone else who might benefit from a conversation with us? We’d love to see if we can help.”

I know happy clients appreciate being asked, because I am a happy client myself. Remember, we love you. We are grateful for your help and flattered when you ask for our advice for a change. We love having the opportunity to give back, and to show off how smart we were to have identified such a great advisor. Everything about referring others to you makes us feel good.

It makes things stick.

In contrast to any fear you may have of annoying your clients, I believe asking for referrals actually further cements your relationship. After pointing some of my friends to my advisor and hearing that they, too, are happy and grateful, it makes me feel even more certain that I’ve made the right choice. It also creates another bond between me and my advisor, making it less likely I’d walk away on a technicality. I now feel vested in my advisor’s success.

It highlights the sticking points.

I recognize that some clients may take it the wrong way anyway. But think about it. Might this not be a blessing in disguise? If someone is regularly suspicious of your motives or routinely misinterprets your intents, you may ultimately be grateful if they choose to move on.

It works when it works … and even when it doesn’t.

What about referrals that aren’t a good fit, from your perspective or theirs? They can still be worthwhile:

  • If you are forthright about your services and respectful of others’ needs, even if someone is not a perfect match, they’re likely to respect your integrity and bear you no ill will – especially if you have additional resources to recommend when you are not the best solution.
  • An imperfect possibility may become a better fit later on. They also may be able to refer you to others who could turn out to be your best clients ever.
  • If you’re introducing someone to evidence-based investing for the first time, think about how important that is. Even if they’re not ready to embrace the message today, you’ve planted the seed. One way or another, the good deed will likely come back to you further down the road.

Low-hanging fruit is still the sweetest.

Time and again I hear that, for most advisors, the vast majority of new business comes via word of mouth, especially the mouths of your clients. So, why fester over fancy strategies, spin increasingly complex tactics, or build ever-more-elaborate business development schemes? This easy-as-pie solution costs almost nothing but a smile. That, and one simple question, routinely slipped into your writing and casual conversations: “Who else might we help?”

Go ahead, ask for it!

News Glut

News glut
© Can Stock Photo / deserttrends

Have you ever ended up with so many subjects to write about that you seize up and skip writing anything at all? It happens. Time to get caught up on some of my blogging backlog …

Calling All Pacific Northwest Advisors

If you missed the news, Dimensional Fund Advisors is holding a three-day regional event this summer, June 19-21, at the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon. I took particular interest in its June 20th communications workshop. Sandwiched between a development conference and investor symposium on the 19th and 21st, the workshop is designed to help advisors “structure a more effective communication strategy with clients and prospects.” Rumor has it, the brainchild behind the event is one of Dimensional’s own communicator extraordinaires, Apollo Lupescu, PhD.

If all that isn’t enticing enough for you to attend, I’ll be there too! Let me know if you’re planning to join us. Maybe we can schedule an informal get-together before or after the program proper.

Twenty Over Ten Offers Content Assist

A few weeks ago, I attended one of Twenty Over Ten’s webinars, introducing Content Assist. The new offering struck me as one more reason to consider turning to this firm for your next website build. I especially liked the fact that it provides you with “starter” content, but you can edit it as much or as little as you please to personalize it for your own use. That’s not unlike my own Content-Sharing Library, except theirs is integrated tightly into their website service.

Will there be a content creation alliance between us at some point? Hey, stranger things have happened. No promises, but let me know if that’s of interest to you. Either way, I’d like to think Twenty Over Ten and I go together like Forrest Gump’s peas and carrots. Way to go, Twenty Over Ten!

Are You “Conflict-Free”? (Hint: No, You’re Not)

I’ll wrap with a communications tip of my own. Too often, I run across fee-only advisor websites (or in Canada, fee-based), assuring the visitor that the firm’s advice is “conflict free,” “completely unbiased,” or similar variations on these themes.

I hate to break it to you … Wait, scratch that. I’m happy to break it to you, since it’s in your best interest. Unless you’re a non-profit charitable organization, you’ve got pricing-related conflicts of interest. And if you’ve got brainwaves, they’re generating behavioral biases, whether you know it or not.

Worse, if you’re exaggerating your firm’s advantages, everyone essentially knows it, at least at a gut level. The strategy may not only strike a sour note in your communication efforts, it could be out of tune with best compliance practices. So, sing it proud, but say it accurately: Fee-only (Canadian fee-based) advice helps minimize biases, and better aligns your clients’ best interests with your own.

Or something like that. Need more help keeping your communications humming along? Keep me in mind.

New Year, New(ish) Content-Sharing Library

© Can Stock Photo/homestudio

Good news! This April, the Content-Sharing Library will be five years old. We’re just under 140 worldwide subscribers, with approximately 140 pieces available for download … and growing. Here’s a quick take on some recent updates I’ve made to celebrate and liven up the Library. (ALSO, don’t miss the UPDATED CONTENT announcement bundled into this post.)

Preview the Library Before You Join

Non-members can now preview the Library before subscribing. In preview mode, you’ll be able to browse everything that’s available for members to download. Click on Free Samples, to see how the download process works. When you’re ready to gain full access to the Library, Become a Member, and you’re on your way.

NEW: Updated Material from the Archives

Some of the material in the Library is now several years old, and yet still useful. To make best use of still-relevant material, I’ll be refreshing and re-releasing key content in updated form. You’ll find these updated materials featured in a new category, UPDATED Content.

To launch this initiative, I’ve just loaded an updated version of “The Vital Role of Rebalancing.” Originally released in June 2013, it’s still a timely discussion today.

Easier Access After You Join

Library members can now download content straight from “new content” email announcements or blog posts:

  • If you’re already logged into the Library, clicking on an email or blog post link (like this updated “Vital Role of Rebalancing” link) – will instantly download the referenced content.
  • If you’re not yet logged in when you click on a new content link, you’ll be prompted to log in, and then the material will immediately download.

When viewing the Library, members can now also click on the title of the content to download a single piece, or check multiple selection boxes to download several pieces at once.

More Good Content to Come

It’s been a fun ride so far building the Content-Sharing Library. I look forward to adding new materials and continued updates for many more years to come!

Evidence-Based Advisors: Here’s to Our “Do Unto Others” Community

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

As we mad-dash toward another new year, it’s a good time to reflect on fitting friends, old and new.

Take Joe Goldberg, for example, who I met when we both worked at BAM Advisor Services. I went independent back in 2009, while he remained on board as director of retirement plan services until earlier this year. Like me, Joe became his own boss … with a much wider break from past job descriptions. Joe is now in charge of trimming bodies instead of 401(k) accounts at his new fitness studio, TruFusion St. Louis.

I could not be happier for Joe; even back in the day, health & fitness were core to him, as he cajoled BAM conference attendees to get up in the wee hours of the morning to join him for a morning spin. The more sweat, the wider his grin got.

One thing we both took from our years at BAM was a deep appreciation for the “do unto others” mindset you get when you combine dedicated fiduciary advice with rational evidence-based investing. Pair the two together, and you inherently end up with a powerful perspective you can’t ever fully legislate or regulate into being – and that we may too often take for granted.

I realized that when Joe recently posted as follows on Facebook:

Isn’t that just such an “evidence-based advisor” thing to say?

Continue reading “Evidence-Based Advisors: Here’s to Our “Do Unto Others” Community”

Grease Isn’t the Word After All

© Can Stock Photo / Leaf

On the threshold of Thanksgiving (here in the U.S. anyway), I pause from my regularly scheduled project list to post some ponderings on the power of a single word.

What’s the Word?

Recently, I was privileged to attend the BAM ALLIANCE 2017 National Conference. Returning to my roots is always part educational, part sentimental, and entirely inspirational; this year was no exception.

I could blather on for pages about some of the insights gained by networking with my peeps. Maybe I will in a future post. But if I were tasked with condensing the entire event into one word, it would be this:

It’s Empathy.

Events ranged from deep dives into academic financial theory, to business development workshops, to helping the local food bank with an outreach program, to pondering the true meaning of happiness. Throughout, I couldn’t help but notice a silver thread of empathy connecting all of us attendees, fund managers, financial service providers and keynote speakers alike.

Continue reading “Grease Isn’t the Word After All”

Color Me Communicative

© Can Stock Photo / roxanabalint

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Did you catch Jason Zweig’s recent post, “It’s the Little Things That Can Color an Investor’s Outlook”? In it, he shared the results of a recent study on how strongly we behaviorally biased humanoids can be swayed simply by the color in which our investment choices are displayed. When participants saw financial losses in fire-alarm red instead of benign black and white, their responses were more frequently stained with the telltale fingerprints of fear and risk aversion … unless, unsurprisingly, they were colorblind.

So that’s one interesting data point suggesting that the colors in your communications may matter more than you realize, and not always as you might expect from a financial accounting point of view.

This important message, often overlooked, reminds me of an article I stumbled across recently by software developer Nick Babich, entitled “Red, White, and Blue.” Babich is a self-described “UI/UX lover,” which may sound nefarious but it means he concentrates on how to improve websites’ user interface (UI) and user experience (UE).

In other words, colors are his bag, baby. He offers several other reasons you should be more in touch with your and your clients’ inner rainbow than you may currently be.

Continue reading “Color Me Communicative”

Oddly Appropriate Bedfellows: “Sex That Works” and Evidence-Based Investing

© Can Stock Photo / olandsfokus

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

One of the reasons I launched my Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy series was so I could mostly write about best practices for evidence-based investment advisors … but sometimes strike off on a lark when I felt like it.

This week, let’s talk about sex.

This may seem like a wild lark indeed but, in a moment, I’ll explain how it’s actually more parallel than you might think to my usual flights of fancy.

Last March, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. If you do the math, let’s just say we’re a touch (or more like a body block) older than 32, and it’s sometimes harder than it used to be to reignite the spark that united us more than a quarter century ago.

So along came a recommended book newly published by another Wendy who lives here in Eugene, Oregon: “Sex That Works,” by Wendy Strgar. On a whimsy, I decided to support a local Wendy, and loaded it to my Kindle.

Continue reading “Oddly Appropriate Bedfellows: “Sex That Works” and Evidence-Based Investing”

Evidence-Based Investing Around the World: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Yet another nifty quality of evidence-based investing is that it requires global participation (to provide essential out-of-sample observations), and contributes to it too. As the compelling logic of evidence-based investing goes global, we independent providers – advisors, fund managers and support services alike – have been joining forces as well, to convert elegant, evidence-based theory into practical investor-applicable reality.

Supporting and supported by a global community, I’d like to think we’re coming about as close as we can to building that fabled perpetual motion machine.

I’ve especially enjoyed collaborating with Mineral on our Evidence-Based Investing Infographic/Poster. Our brainchild has been experiencing quite the intercontinental ride of late, in no small part thanks to several overseas colleagues. In particular, my fellow EBI communicator Robin Powell of Regis Media helped spread the word about it recently on his Evidence-Based Investor blog. Also, Robert Van Beek, CFP®, Founder/Director of About Life & Finance, reached out to us and kindly offered to help us create a Dutch-translated version of the poster. That’s now available for custom branding at the same attractive price of free (in any currency), simply by selecting “Dutch” on the order form.

This gave me and Mineral a brilliant idea. Why don’t we produce our infographic/poster in several languages?

Continue reading “Evidence-Based Investing Around the World: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”