By: Terri M. Sommella, President, Sommella Market Strategies
Accounting firms have a great opportunity to leverage the media exposure the profession is afforded during Busy Season. Here are 10 events which afford an opportunity to send press releases and a few tips on making the releases more newsworthy:
- Speaking Engagements - Speaking engagements warrant press releases especially if an engagement is open to the public as in a Chamber of Commerce presentation. In public situations, you can also send the release to the Calendar section of targeted business publications for potential inclusion. Publications with Events Calendars usually only include those events that are free, hosted by a non-profit organization or open to the public. The publications usually require that the release be received at least two weeks prior to the event.
For other speaking engagements such as seminars for a fee, it's still worthwhile to send press releases (without photos in this case) since it keeps the partner’s name in front of the reporters. The effectiveness of this strategy can be measured over time by the number of calls the partners receive for editorial comment.
- Board Appointments - Releases on Board and Committee appointments are media opportunities even if the appointments are re-elections.
- Community Service Events - PR events that are orchestrated by the firm can create significant media attention. For example, if the firm were to sponsor a Habitats for Humanity project or if several accountants were involved in a weekend clean up project, etc., the event would qualify for a series of releases. If an event is tied to a "National Week" or other event already in the news, or to a particular industry, the release has a good chance of being picked up.
- National Months and Related Events - What are the important media events within industries your firm is targeting? For example, September is National Healthcare month. What event would your Healthcare clients care about that your firm could support or host that would benefit the community? An event or survey strategically scheduled for September would afford the opportunity for a series of media releases, with each subsequent release offering more details as the date draws closer. The clients and prospects would definitely take notice and perceive that your firm is of their industry. The media would care if the event benefits the audience so community related events work well.
- Industry Events - If a partner or manager attends an annual industry event, a release should be written recapping the event. The release should be posted on the website and sent to reporters, especially those who cover the industry. Send industry specific e-alerts to clients highlighting the key points from the event, even if the client attended the event. End the e-alert granting permission to forward the information to others in the company who may not have attended the event. By doing so, you will help to build bridges with the next generation.
- Accounting Events - If a partner attends an annual accounting event such as those hosted by an accounting firm association, send a press release so reporters and website visitors will know that the accountant is staying on top of the issues. As with all releases, end with a paragraph about the firm and include the firm’s positioning statement.
- Promotions/Hires/Awards/New Credentials - For the best chance of exposure, send the releases with 2” x 3” wallet-size, black and white professional photos. If anyone in the firm receives additional credentials, send releases to reporters in the format preferred (print or electronic), post the event on the website, use the information as a header in an e-alert, include the information in printed newsletters, electronic newsletters, everywhere you can. With the hundreds of thousands of impressions the human brain receives every day, how do you make your firm memorable? Reach and Repetition.
- Mergers & Acquisitions - These types of releases might seem obvious but are rarely leveraged to their full potential. What can you say in the release that would afford your firm a full feature story? How can the event be leveraged?
- News - What new tax laws will affect a certain industry? What about new services your firm is launching or expanding? What kinds of studies or surveys can your firm sponsor or conduct? Our approach to creating media opportunities is to provide something of value.
- Editorial Calendar - Obtain Editorial Calendars of all local business publications. Oftentimes you can leverage the local Top 25 Lists, Special Sections or other planned events by sending releases timed to coincide with the Editorial Calendar.
These 10 ideas and Tips should give you a good start on leveraging Busy Season for positive media exposure.
The more your firm develops its marketing culture, the more events and opportunities will come to light. In my experience, professionals are reluctant to share events with Marketing in the beginning of a PR enhancement process because the professionals do not think the event is newsworthy.
Educate the people at your firm that the accountants and admin staff do not need to make the determination on whether or not an event is newsworthy. Many events that lack luster on the surface, can become media opportunities depending on the marketing spin. It is much better for the individuals to submit too many ideas that can be sifted by Marketing than for the accountants to be modest. Encourage the firm to submit information and reward the effort no matter what the outcome.
That being said, it is important to gauge the effectiveness of press campaigns and determine the types of releases that generate the most coverage for your firm. A tracking mechanism needs to be established for this purpose. The tracking mechanism can be as simple as a spreadsheet that includes the accountants in the firm, publications, radio and TV contacts on your media list, dates and topics of releases that are sent out, calls from reporters and when and where releases are printed or featured on radio or TV. While there are many more sophisticated ways to track PR results, enough data will be collected through this spreadsheet to make some informed decisions and develop more effective media strategies.
As your firm continues to enhance performance on other fronts, you will want to raise the bar on your visibility activities as well. With Busy Season upon us, there is no time like the present to capture a little positive media attention.
About the Author: Terri M. Sommella, President, Sommella Market Strategies, provides Personal Planning for CPAs: individual marketing plans with sales training and coaching.
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