Time is Right For More Creativity in Accounting PR

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Marketing gurus see a silver lining in the cloud of controversy surrounding the accounting profession. To them, the battle to restore confidence in the profession presents an intriguing challenge and a lucrative business opportunity. Describing the Enron fallout as “Arthur Andersen's Radioactivity Problem,” an article published this week by Business 2.0 says the time is right for creative efforts to help differentiate the Big Five firms.

In the past, the author says, the Big Five have worked together so closely on marketing and public relations (PR) campaigns that the group constitutes nothing short of “the closest thing to a cartel that U.S. antitrust law allows.” Today, the Andersen/Enron debate creates opportunities for each of the firms to break away from the group act, go out on their own, and leave the others behind. In effect, it would be the accounting profession's equivalent of Michael Jackson breaking away from the Jackson Five.

Business 2.0 predicts that we will see “one aggressive industry force come out of this.” Apparently, some marketing insiders are betting that whatever marketing strategy is developed for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) will help show the way forward.

The AICPA recently retained a public relations firm, Chicago's Weiser Group, to lead its PR efforts. The chairman of Weiser Group, Michael Weiser, told Business 2.0 the AICPA is actively considering an advertising campaign to repair the damage that the Enron/Andersen debacle has caused the entire profession. Already, he points out, the AICPA has shifted its focus from publicizing the Big Five firms to promoting individual accountants themselves.

“Current accounting-firm marketing and PR needs some new juice,” writes the author of “Arthur Andersen's Radioactivity Problem.” “If I had anything to do with advertising at any one of these companies, I'd put a rush order on new creative that positions my firm as an island of honesty and integrity in a sea of instability. OK, I'm no threat as a copywriter. But you get the drift.”

What are your thoughts?

Do you agree the accounting profession has an image problem? What would you do to fix it? Submit your comments and they'll appear at the bottom of this page.

-Rosemary Schlank

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