It’s long been a marketing staple that you always go for “free ink.” In other words, it’s a good thing if you can get your name in the paper, on TV or in a publication.
There are obvious exceptions. I think it was a Hollywood publicist that long ago said that he didn’t really care what (the newspaper) said about his client, just so long as they spelled her name correctly. That may be true for actresses, but not so for accountants. For an accounting practice we’re looking for something positive.
The goal of any media exposure you garner is to position you as a high profile expert.
Media articles or stories can be leveraged far beyond their immediate impact. For example, excerpts from an article can be used to promote your practice by inclusion in your brochure (or blog, Facebook, website, etc., but we’ll look at that in Section 2).
One accountant who is regularly interviewed by the local newspaper’s business editor about changes in the tax codes makes copies neatly encased in plastic that are placed in the firm’s reception area. The receptionist reports that people regularly read them. It can never be bad when clients and prospects believe they are dealing with a firm which is considered to be a recognized source of accurate, up to the minute technical knowledge.
Darryl, a law school classmate of mine in Sacramento, CA, was just as clueless as I when we passed the bar and began to practice. However, he brilliantly turned a casual friendship with a local late-night radio host into regular appearances on the show offering practical legal advice to people who called in. He stuck to generalities and rapidly built his practice with every day folks with garden-variety problems, e.g. simple bankruptcies, debt collection, landlord – tenant situations, etc. He was perceived by prospective clients as an expert when, as Darryl would quickly explain, he wasn’t. It didn’t matter; they flocked to him.
Patty, a CPA in San Francisco, is on the speed dial of one of the local TV channels. She gets an occasional phone call from a reporter to comment upon various taxation issues that might impact local viewers. It works nicely because they call a few hours in advance of recording her comments, so she has some time to bone up and think about her response. She is surprised by how many people have noticed and commented.
A number of accountants I have worked with deliberately make efforts to network (who do I know who knows …?) with local TV, radio and newspaper personnel. As a general statement these efforts have been fairly successful. Is this an opportunity for you?
There are activities you can undertake which will attract media attention. Getting involved in charitable work is both a networking strategy and also has the potential to attract media attention. You can chair a committee, act as a judge in a pie-eating contest, appear in a local little theatre production, etc. The possibilities for getting noticed are endless.
Ned, who practices near Baltimore, “ran” for local office. Well, he didn’t actually run. What he did was get on the ballot so he could put signs up all over the place and be interviewed on TV and by the local newspaper. The signs noted he was an “experienced accountant and business advisor,” and he reinforced this during his interviews. Beyond that, he didn’t do any other campaigning and, as planned, wasn’t elected. But, Ned tells me he got a lot of positive feedback from existing clients and members of his network. Most importantly, he had a surge of new clients … many of them small business. All of them “found” him during his, ahem, run for office. Total cost: $2,000 for materials, a couple of tanks of gas and a “thank you” dinner out for his wife and two daughters (aka his “election staff”). New revenue: approximately $100,000. Now, that’s a ROI!
However you acquire it, the best media coverage is that which presents your image as a prominent, involved, knowledgeable accountant who has a local private practice.
What can you do to be noticed by the media?
This will be my last posting until after April 15th. Good luck with tax season.