Hardly ever have I run across an accounting firm that didn’t want to get its name in the news, unless it’s a firm that’s afraid the phone will ring too much and the firm won’t be able to handle the amount of new business that comes in.
Yes, firms have told me about that fear, but let’s save that thought for another time. . .
What constitutes “news” is unfamiliar territory to most firms, and even for quite a few software and services providers to the accounting profession. Unless there’s a public relations (PR) or marketing professional on staff, I can’t blame a firm or vendor for not knowing what news actually is; it’s not like they’re going to learn this stuff in any CPE class, in a partners meeting, or anywhere else.
Still, I’m a bit surprised when I encounter a company that wants to get its name in the news and really has nothing much to say. Of the following scenarios, which would you consider worthy of a news release?
- Your firm just created a new website.
- Your firm, a provider of tax services, released a new version of its software.
- Your firm named a new managing partner.
This isn’t a trick question. While all three of these might seem like they’re news, they’re really nothing more than simple announcements. I suppose you could write and publish a press release on any of these three scenarios; however, even if you publish the release on a wire service or send it directly to accounting publications, you probably won’t get more than a mere mention under an umbrella news section.
At the end of the day, how much good did sending such a news release actually do for you and your company?
If you can’t measure something in terms of bringing in new customers, most accounting firms and vendors don’t want any part of it. Although such announcements can create an awareness or a “buzz” within the accounting industry about the company, most of the buzz is meaningless unless the announcement can be tied back to recruitment of new clients/customers or, in some cases, retention of clients.
Creating News Releases That Are Relevant
It’s time for firms and providers to think differently about what we consider news. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m an all-out advocate for the news release as an announcement; there’s not much else you can do with a news release besides make an announcement. However, no reporter I know will publish the news release as is, unless you’re in a small community with a weekly paper. If so, chances are you’re probably in Rotary International or Lions Club with the editor of that paper.
The best thing you can do with a news release is use it as a springboard to a larger story about the firm or provider – and that will be what sets you apart from your competition. Here are a few examples of how your firm could do this based on the three news stories above.
Your Firm Just Created a New Website
Hopefully, your firm created an interactive website that’s more than just a calling card, which is what digital marketers still consider the first generation of websites. You’ve included a spot on the home page for short, three-minute videos that spotlight your clients, which you created using a smartphone. This shows you’re progressive in keeping up with technology, you have a mix of clients you’ve helped, and, along the way, you’re having fun. This is a gem of a story for a local business journal or even a daily paper. Why? It shows you’re different from most other accounting firms.
Your Firm, a Provider of Tax Services, Released a New Version of Its Software
You certainly want to provide some background to a reporter in terms of what the new version does over the previous version, but more than that, you want to promote one of your customers whose business increased or became more efficient because that business used the new version. What you’ve done, then, is provide a story idea to a reporter in a neatly wrapped package with a shiny bow. Send the release to the reporter, but include in your email a case example the reporter can review – one that ties back to the news release. If the story is compelling, you might get the reporter to respond.
Your Firm Named a New Managing Partner
Announcements of this type of are big news for your firm and maybe even your firm’s clients, but they won’t matter much to the media. What’s more impressive is to invite a reporter to a live, sit-down discussion to talk about where your firm is headed in the future. You could discuss the impact technology has on the firm and your clients. For example, how do you work in the cloud? How have you gone paperless? Of course, you still want to write the news release because it will have the new managing partner’s background; but again, it only will be good for awareness and little else.
I know there are some professionals at firms who are reading this and probably shaking their heads and thinking, “Wow is he ever behind the times. I already know this stuff.” OK, I agree with you; however, the majority of people reading this are in smaller accounting or service provider firms, not large local or regional firms. I contend that most smaller firms haven’t yet tried any of these news release tactics.
Remember, however, that these efforts take time. I know some old PR dogs who will take on a new client who demands a certain number of media placements per month, but that’s completely backward from the way it ought to be. This client values quantity over quality. It’s better to have one great story in a local business journal than five announcements in the local daily.
Please, by all means, write and publish news releases. They’re great to post on your website, good content for your newsletters, and good for search engine optimization (SEO). But make the effort to expand on the content in the press release by thinking differently about the story itself. You’ll definitely see results.