Whether it’s creating and executing internal or external communications, advising clients on the COVID-19 topic of the day, finding new ways to market your services, catching up on long-range planning or projects you’ve been doing, assisting in office-related admin duties such as remote meetings, stuffing envelopes and even sanitizing, our Association for Accounting Marketing members are tackling COVID-19 head-on.
The head of Rea & Associates’ human resources consulting practice reached out to Becca Davis, Rea’s director of practice growth, last week to coordinate a webinar focused on what employers need to know during the rapidly unfolding COVID-19 situation.
“With under a week to promote, the attendance goal was 30 people, and we figured we’d get most of our traffic from promoting the recording,” Davis said. “The webinar is today [8:42 a.m. March 19, 2020] and as of last count, we had 942 registered. So that sparked us to develop a webinar series because clearly clients want this information.”
In addition to the HR compliance webinar, Rea is planning another webinar on cybersecurity (what to know if your workforce is remote, what new threats are out there as a result of this situation, etc.), a joint webinar with the firm’s wealth advisory division about remaining calm during economic uncertainty/how this may affect retirement plans and another about unemployment. They also are exploring yet another webinar with their law firm partner about the legal issues related to COVID-19.
“Right now, our cadence is about two webinars per week as long as the interest is there, but we also don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with planning the topics and content since everything is changing so quickly,” Davis said.
BDO, meanwhile, is taking a step back so the team can review and re-evaluate the content and messaging, said Irma Zaldivar, digital marketing manager.
“We asked all of marketing to pause and review all current and planned content and campaigns and determine what we believe is appropriate and essential,” Zaldivar said. “We are taking this time to assess all external messaging for content timeliness, tone, and sensitivity.”
Internally, the team created a page on its business development and marketing portal where everyone firmwide can access COVID-19 related insights, alerts, webinars, etc. the accounting marketing team is working on. BDO’s CEO recorded a webinar for all professionals, providing an update on the firm’s novel coronavirus response, while its Crisis Management and Business Continuity practice discussed the steps BDO is taking for the safety and well-being of its professionals.
Joe Kovacs APR, director of marketing and business development at Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell, P.C. CPAs & Business Advisors, has been conflicted with communicating accounting and advisory updates to clients as COVID-19 updates come out every few hours, it seems, but he recognizes any communication is better than none.
“The PR person in me is both having a field day and also dealing with the jittery sensation of having to be constantly on alert for some new news about tax payment extensions, Families First Coronavirus Relief legislation or some related topic we need to publish and get to clients ASAP,” he said. “I know our clients will appreciate our vigilance in keeping them informed. We’re not a news agency, but nowadays service providers must provide current information about issues that could impact their clients and right now the accounting profession is in the middle of it.”
As for working from home, he’s learned a lot.
“It can be challenging (especially when you also have a nine-year-old son!); I’m a somewhat solitary person by nature but even the lack of casual connection at the office or on the streets is taking a psychological toll,” he said. “I know my colleagues are experiencing it, too.”
They have combatted that by building out their Yammer social network and sharing lighter news about their lives and remote workspaces to make things pass a little easier.
“Even our managing partner is getting involved!” he said.
The Most Basic Communications
Maine was one of the last states to report a COVID-19 case, and while its numbers are still low, Austin Associates, P.A., and their accounting marketing team were preparing in February. This included ensuring all staff had access to equipment to work remotely.
“Within 24 hours of the first outbreak in Maine, our partners made the decision to close our doors to clients and outside vendors,” said Erica L. Dostie, client relations and marketing manager at Austin Associates. “Our team had already compiled all scheduled face-to-face appointments and personal calls were made to each client within two days (by myself and our director of first impressions). We offered alternative ways to get their tax information to us, including a safe secure drop-off station at our office.”
Dostie said the support and understanding of the firm’s clients was overwhelmingly positive.
“They were thrilled we were leading the way in protecting our community, clients and our staff,” she said. “Tax season isn’t over, but it certainly looks different.
While being proactive and leveraging this time to advise clients and even prospects, the basic steps are still crucial in the early phase of the COVID-19 situation.
Veronica Harman, marketing coordinator with Haynie & Company, said the firm is supporting and promoting all necessary precautions that help them protect the health and safety of their employees, clients, and communities. That includes social distancing, working remotely, not traveling to risk areas, sanitizing and self-quarantine.
Haynie & Company has asked their clients to submit tax documents and e-file authorization forms by mail or electronically via Sharefile and sign e-file authorization forms electronically via Right Signature/DocuSign.
Affiliate Members See Uptick in Requests
As for those working in an outsourced consulting capacity, business appears to be booming.
Dana Bottorff at Anadon Marketing has found her clients are doing their own eblasts to staff and clients about the measures they’re taking, such as work from home, closing offices to clients, changing in-person meetings to videoconferences, but they are reaching out to her to write content related to their key client groups focused on what companies can do to weather the storm.
bbr companies President Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk has seen an uptick in requests from clients for internal and external messaging, blog posts, newsletters, to inform their clients about IRS updates. Much of the content she is providing, though is to simply let clients know their firm and professionals are there to take care of their needs.
What are you, your marketing team, and your accounting firm doing during the COVID-19 situation? We want to know! Send your anecdotes to Christian Moises at [email protected].
About Christian Moises
Christian Moises APR is practice growth specialist for Ericksen Krentel CPAs and Consultants in New Orleans, where he is a one-man shop doing it all. He spent the first 10 years of his career in journalism, serving as an editor with New Orleans CityBusiness, the business journal of New Orleans, before transitioning to marketing and communications, with stops in death care communications, community hospital public relations and marketing/communications for an AM Law 200 regional law firm. He also serves as editor and committee chairman for AAM’s quarterly thought leadership publication Growth Strategies.