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Chapters

Chapter Public Relations

Public Relations (PR) is the way in which your Chapter presents itself to its various audiences—members, nonmembers, consumers, media, legislators, and others. Public relations activities give you the opportunity to create a favorable climate for your Chapter and for the profession by communicating a message in the right way, at the right time, to the right audience.

Many different kinds of activities can help you to accomplish this, including a speech before a community group; a Chapter event; a joint meeting with another professional group (bankers, lawyers, etc.); or a radio, television, newspaper, or web interview.

Chapter public relations activities should meet one or more of the Society’s public relations goals:

  • Enhancing the image of the CPA and the profession in the minds of business and professional people, the financial press and the media, the academic community, and the general public.
  • Increasing public understanding of CPA services.
  • Maintaining and protecting the prestige of the title “CPA.”
  • Attracting qualified members to enter the profession.
  • Encouraging members to become involved in community service.
  • Increasing recognition of the profession within New York State.

It is also important not to confuse public relations with advertising. You pay for advertising to create the image you want. With public relations, you are receiving a free, third-party endorsement to enhance your image or services. This is much more valuable publicity. 

Building Relationships

The Society’s Communications Department has media lists available of those reporters right in your geographic area. We subscribe to a service that provides us with regularly updated information, since we cannot be in the Chapters to monitor changing reporters and beats. Lists of media in Chapter areas are provided to the incoming Chapter President. As you make contacts, you will build relationships and add other reporters to your own contact list.

Local newspaper editors will be your most important allies. It is important to get to know them and establish your Chapter as a credible source of information on accounting, audit, and financial issues.

Chapter Contact with Media

Reporters prefer having a local CPA member to contact. This should be the Chapter President or another member who is its Public Relations Liaison. The Chapter President should let the Society’s Communications Department know who will be assuming this role at the Chapter level. Keep in mind that members who talk with the press should feel comfortable in this role, as well as be knowledgeable in the subject area. We provide media training for Chapter leaders who would like to learn tips for working with the press.

The Society’s Communications staff will work with the Chapters to distribute press releases and media advisories about Chapter events. They will work closely with the Chapter President to schedule Chapter members for local media interviews.

Society PR Staff and Programs

The Society’s Communications staff is available to draft press releases, help you connect with reporters in your area, and help you create media events. They can pick up items from your Chapter’s existing calendar and, for example, work with you to publicize a “hot” speaker at a Chapter dinner.

Publicity

What kinds of things can you publicize?

The key to successful media placement is recognizing and using publicity only for those items that will interest others.

Since you are trying to enhance your image to the general public, a notice of an upcoming meeting isn’t news to the general public; it doesn’t affect them.

On the other hand, a CPA’s advice on how to treat a new tax law or some comments on your area’s general business climate provide information that’s of use and of interest to the general public.

Similarly, information on newly elected Chapter officers is news, as it establishes those CPAs as leaders in the community and promotes a favorable image of the profession.

Here are some examples of sources of news:

  • New Chapter officers
  • Awards won or given
  • Chapter milestones
  • Civic events or projects that involve Chapter members
  • Member participation in local or national affairs.

     

    Media Interviews

    Should you ever directly receive a call from the press to comment as an NYSSCPA or Chapter member, being a representative of your organization when being approached in this capacity, we ask you to contact the Communications Department before agreeing to do any interview. Ask for the reporter’s name, the media outlet for whom he or she is reporting for, and the deadline. Reach out to us for the reporter’s background, as well as any talking points we may have developed for the issue.

    Relax and be yourself for all interviews. View the media interview as a presentation of your message to the reporter and his or her audience. This is a chance to tell and sell your story.

    Whether you are handling an interview in person or by telephone, it is important to prepare talking points about the issues being addressed with the reporter. Talking points are key messages you wish to cover during the interview. Many interviewers, especially television producers, like to have these points before an interview is established. These talking points, or sound bites, maximize your quotability. They also provide an opportunity for you to present a targeted message.

    In creating talking points, you are building a bridge of words from the reporter’s questions to your messages. During the interview, listen to the question being asked. Find a word or phrase in the question that you can use on which to build a bridge of words to your message. Answer by touching on the question but going on to what you want to say in the talking points.

    Never say anything to the reporter that you would not want to see in print, televised, posted on the Internet, and attributed to you by name.

    Press Releases

    Contact the Society’s Communications Department to draft a press release for you on chapter events that you may want to publicize. This release can then be distributed to your media list.

    Pitch Letters

    If you have a topic that you would like to suggest to the media for a print, radio, or television interview, contact the Society’s Communications Department, and its staff will create a pitch letter or e-mail for you. This can then be sent to contacts on your media list.

    Communicating with the Media

    Special Events—If your chapter is planning an unusual, informative event or one that features a “hot” speaker, the Society’s Communications Department can work with you to send a press invitation or advisory to announce the event.

    Excellence in Financial Journalism Awards—The Society celebrates the year’s best and most distinguished reporting that cultivates, promotes, and disseminates an understanding of accounting, finance, and business topics. There are nine categories of annual awards for print, television, radio, and digital media. Articles and books printed or programs broadcast between January 1 and December 31 are eligible for the annual competition. NYSSCPA members and various members of the business press judge entries, and awards are presented at a luncheon held over the summer. Contact the Society’s Communications Department for directions on how your local journalists can submit their work.

    Media Opportunities—If you are interested in participating in media interviews (television, radio, print, and online), inform the Society’s Communications Department of your availability, areas of accounting expertise, and contact information. We’ll enter your information into our media relations database and will contact you if the right media opportunity surfaces that matches that expertise.

    How to Begin

    Each Chapter President creates a Calendar of Events for his or her administration. Invite interesting speakers to one of your meetings. For example, the Society’s Suffolk Chapter invited Lynn E. Turner, former Chief Accountant of the SEC, to address its membership. The Communications Department pitched the event to the media. Newsday, Long Island Business News and NY1 News covered the event.

    Here are other examples of how other Chapters created successful publicity:

  • Tax Panel Hotlines—These highly successful annual events have been held statewide with various media outlets during tax season to provide area consumers with an opportunity to ask local CPA members questions about their tax forms. This service is an excellent opportunity to build relationships with the local media and is much appreciated by the public. Members who participate express their enjoyment at giving back to the community, and all Chapters are encouraged to participate.
  • World of Accounting/Student Outreach—The Rochester and Syracuse Chapters host “World of Accounting” days for high school students, attended by about 100 students. CPAs discuss careers in public accountancy, with lunch provided. The Westchester Chapter hosts an event to make college students aware of careers in accounting. Media have covered the events.

  • Scholarships/Student Awards—Buffalo, Westchester, and Rockland chapters are among those that give Chapter scholarships. Awards nights make for good photo opportunities, and photos can be submitted to newspapers.

  • Bowl-A-Thon Fundraiser for Local Charity—The Staten Island Chapter distributed a press release to announce the date and invited media to the event. The Bowl-A-Thon was covered by local press before the actual event took place. Photographs were included in the Staten Island Advance after the event was held, as well.

  • Toys for Tots—The Nassau and Suffolk Chapters collected toys for various local charities during the holiday season. This was covered by Newsday, Long Island Business News, and local radio and television stations. The Westchester Chapter’s Young CPAs Committee hosted a Toy Drive and Staff Appreciation Pizza Party at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.

  • Charity Fun Run—The Nassau Chapter hosts the Ellen Gordon CPAs 4(a) Cause 5K Walk/Run to benefit Island Harvest, a food pantry.

  • If you have an idea for an event in your Chapter area, contact the Society’s Membership Department. We’ll help you establish a plan for its implementation and pitch the event to local media for coverage.

    Communications Department Contacts

    Colleen Lutolf
    Communications Director
    212 719-8392
    clutolf@nysscpa.org

    Michael P. Moi
    PR Manager
    212-719-8433
    mmoi@nysscpa.org

    Maya Lindsay
    PR Associate
    212-719-8350
    mlindsay@nysscpa.org