Useful Resources for Business Development: Part 2: Public Relations Counsel

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Public Relations' role in a CPA firm is larger than dealing with a crisis and media relations. For a CPA firm, effective Public Relations counsel provides proactive and measurable communication objectives to propel the firm forward and assist in business development.

Whether you currently use a Public Relations strategist or your CPA firm looks forward to incorporating PR into your strategic plan, CPA firms need to know:

  • What to look for in a PR counselor
  • What to expect
  • Who are the target audiences

What to look for in a PR counselor

Work with a Public Relations professional who has achieved the esteemed APR (Accredited in Public Relations) designation. It is the PR industry's equivalent to a CPA, and the APR designation identifies those who demonstrate broad knowledge, experience, and professional judgment in the field of Public Relations. Your Public Relations agency should have at least one APR professional working on your account. If you employ someone in-house to direct communications programs, that person should hold or be pursuing (with the support of your firm) an APR.

What to expect

Expect your APR to be part of your management team and to create a communications plan with firm goals, measurable objectives, and effective strategies. From there, expect to play a role in executing some tactics to accomplish the goals of the plan. While your APR and/or PR agency will play the largest tactical role, firm resources, meeting specific deadlines, consistent messaging and full buy-in is vital to ensuring success. Further, cooperation and full disclosure of information allows a PR professional to accurately evaluate the plan, change strategies if necessary, and produce business development results.

Who are your target audiences?

Be prepared to define your CPA firm's strengths and target audiences. Public Relations is a science of measurable outcomes as communications impact the buying behaviors of your target audience(s). If, for instance, your firm has an expertise in manufacturing and a desire to grow that practice area, your communications plan will include messages targeted specifically to and for manufacturing leaders, trade publications, existing clients, and others in that field who can serve your business development goals. Your PR counselor should probe and play an integral part in defining all your target audiences with you.

Professional Public Relations counsel brings CPA firms a partner in accomplishing business development goals. With a plan to follow and goals to meet, a PR professional serves as the proactive visionary for the firm's long-term growth.

Jill Mercer"Business Development: Resources to Use" is an eight part series written exclusively for AccountingWEB. The series' authors are Jill Mercer, president of Wilson-Mercer Marketing and Vanessa Stiles, president of Victory Sun, Inc. Visit their websites at and

Other articles in this series:

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