* CSCPA Media Relations: �Advancing the Prestige of the Profession in the Eyes of the Public�

 

 


 

CSCPA Media Relations: ‘Advancing the Prestige of the Profession in the Eyes of the Public’

By Mark Zampino, CSCPA Public Affairs Director

As we near the end of the Centennial Year of the Connecticut Society of CPAs, I am reminded that one of the goals the founding fathers of the CSCPA set for their organization back in 1908 was “…to advance the prestige of the profession in the eyes of the public ...”

Securing proper recognition from the general and business publics for the CPA and the services he and she provides remains a top priority for today’s CSCPA.

As the profession grew in size and stature, the CSCPA quickly recognized the need to attend to this goal, from the work done by long-time volunteer secretary Fred Fischer, to the public relations standards set by long-time former executive director Jack Brooks, to the many interviews given by present-day Executive Director Art Renner, who, as a CPA and the organization’s chief administrative officer, provides a unique, blended perspective of both policy and technical expertise.

Members in the Media

But it’s not just the figureheads who figure into our communication campaign.

I went back through the “Members in the Media” listings in the last six issues of Connecticut CPA and counted 27 individuals who represented CSCPA in the media at least once in the past year, with many of them making multiple appearances. I know there are many others who have also appeared in the press and in the electronic media.

And therein lies the strength of the CSCPA media relations program: the reputation of the individual Connecticut CPA as the source for timely and expert information.

Proactively and Reactively

The CSCPA communications department creates many of these media opportunities. We all work together – Kirsten Piechota, Caitlin Bailey, Alicia McCain, Jill Brightman, and myself – to proactively create events, issue news releases, and arrange interviews to showcase the expertise and public service of the Connecticut CPA.

I’ve seen firsthand how the long-term relationships we’ve built with the media have paid dividends; take the Enron debacle, for instance. The media were more than willing to not only hear but listen to our side of the story.

In my opinion, the Connecticut CPA fared pretty well in the local press, despite everything that unfolded in Houston.

We found that Art Renner provided as much education as information during the multiple interviews he granted, helping reporters gain a broader perspective of the scenario.

What are they saying?

For the remainder of this look at the CSCPA media relations program, I thought I’d let you read what some of the direct participants have to say. I’ve asked CSCPA members and editors, reporters, and on-air talent for a quick quote on their experiences working with one another.

First, members of the media:

“I have found the Connecticut Society of CPAs to be an invaluable resource in developing my weekly consumer program, ‘3 On Your Side.’ The Society sends me monthly newsletters on various topics, many of which I have adapted for program segments. The staff has been most helpful in securing interview guests, members who have the kind of expertise and communication skills that make for good television and provide our viewers with important information and advice.”
- Al Terzi, News Anchor, Eyewitness News at Noon and 5:00 Anchor, WFSB TV-3 “3 On Your Side”

 

“It’s always a pleasure working with Mark Zampino. Smaller newspapers such as The Herald often need subject matter experts. Whenever I’m writing about a topic that calls for an accountant or financial planner’s knowledge and insight, I call Mark. The sources he suggests are erudite and articulate and provide information in a manner that makes what I write understandable to the general reader.”
- Scott Whipple, Business Editor, The New Britain Herald

 

“Journalists often need a news source quickly, and Mark Zampino and the CSCPA are always willing to help out. Mark understands our deadline issues, especially in our increasing 24/7 news cycle, and our need to find a knowledgeable source for a few quotes or perhaps a more detailed explanation.

Here at The Day, we’ve also worked with the CSCPA over the years for our online interactive 'chats' about tax issues in April – which our readers always appreciate. In fact, we’re already working with Mark and the CSCPA for this year’s online web chat about taxes.” 
- Tony Cronin, Business Editor, The Day

 

“The Connecticut Society of CPAs has been extremely helpful during my several years at the [New Haven] Register. I call on them frequently, most often for our weekly 'Money Monday' personal finance stories. The group continually generates and pitches story ideas that interest and provide valuable information for our readers.

The Society is definitely one of my most reliable resources, always willing to help, providing multiple New Haven-area CPAs willing to be interviewed for articles – often on short notice, which is key.

Whether it’s providing tax tips during the annual filing season, offering advice on how to shop around for the best mortgage, or giving input on succession planning for a family business, I can count on the CPA society to provide local experts on a broad range of business and finance-related topics.”
- Cara Baruzzi, Business Editor, New Haven Register

 

“The Connecticut Society of CPAs has always been available when I have questions about the state of accounting in Connecticut. Recently, when the state legislature’s finance committee proposed a law that would require a five- percent tax on professional services, the CSCPA clearly articulated their views on how it would negatively impact the profession.

The CPA [Author’s Note: Art Renner] helped me add depth to my story that gave readers a clear understanding of how the tax increase would negatively impact the industry. When I first started at the Hartford Business Journal and was assigned the financial services beat, members of the CSCPA were eager to meet with me and give me an overview of the industry in Connecticut.”
- Greg Bordonaro, Reporter, Hartford Business Journal

 

“When I need their help, I’ve always been able to count on the people at the CSCPA. A lot of the stories I write are on a daily deadline, and the media relations team at the CSCPA gets me the information, contacts, and the interviews I need within my deadline.”
- Pam Dawkins, “Your Money” Editor, Connecticut Post

 

And now, observations from some of our CSCPA “Members in the Media”:

“I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Al Terzi [on WFSB TV-3’s '3 On Your Side']. Al and I spoke beforehand to go over the topic in general. I sent him some highlighted items we had discussed that I thought should be listed as bullet points during the interview. These were the items that I wanted to stress upon the viewers.

It was fascinating to see how a TV show is actually taped – I enjoyed the time I was there before taping my interview.

A large number of friends and family were able to watch the interview from all over the country since it also played on their website. I even heard from a college friend I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years – he tracked me down through the CSCPA.

I always enjoy helping to get financial information out to the public – I think it’s a very important service we provide to the community. I always hear very positive comments about it.”
- Brad Kronstat, CPA

 

“Given the nature of the work I do [forensic accounting], communicating through the media is an excellent way of helping to prevent fraud. Explaining to others what I do helps me understand it better myself ... and it helps the public better understand the nature of some of the specialized niches in our profession.

I would definitely recommend other CSCPA members get involved with media-related activities. Don’t expect it to lead to new business. That’s not the point. If your appearance in the media has helped even one person you’ll probably never meet, you’ve achieved something.

We depend on the profession for our livelihood; in turn, public awareness of the profession depends on our active participation.”
- Rick Royston, CPA, ABV, FCA, CVA, CFE, CFF Roystons, LLC

 

“I definitely think that we CPAs help ‘break down’ sometimes complex topics that people are extremely interested in understanding, especially during these fiscally challenging times. People are hungry for fair, honest information that helps them – information that they can trust.

I am continually surprised to see how many people read or listen to what we say in the various media sources. People always comment, especially clients (and neighbors!). One time, the plumber was at my house fixing something and commented about an interview I gave about teenagers and money that his 15-year-old son quoted to him!

I absolutely recommend that more of us participate in media opportunities; they are good for our businesses and our profession as a whole, and it feels really good to ‘share the knowledge.’”
- Camille Murphy, CPA Murphy, Sloman & Company, CPAs

 

“I enjoy participating in media events and strongly believe that it’s a win-win-win situation. It benefits the media to have access to expert advice: the CSCPA is a recognized source for the expertise and the individual participant (as well as his/her firm) is considered a recognized expert. So, of course, I believe it’s important that the CSCPA work as closely as possible with the media.

Four members of my firm noted that they and/or their New Haven-area clients saw the [most recent] reference to our firm in the Register. Definitely a plus.

My only caution is that if you participate, remember that you are not talking to tax experts. Especially with respect to print media (web included), the fact is that in simplifying and paraphrasing your comments, minor word changes can change the meaning or completeness of what you said.” 
- Larry Bilansky, CPA T. M. Byxbee Company, P.C.

 

“[Participating in] media relations for the CSCPA has been a pleasure. Background information is usually provided, and topics have been timely and relevant. Members of the media have been pleasant to deal with and accommodating to our schedules. In addition, the time commitment has been very manageable whenever our participation has been requested. We look forward to more opportunities.”
- Randy L. Harrison, CPA, CITP Meyers, Harrison & Pia, LLC

 

“I have really enjoyed the media interviews Mark [Zampino] has asked me to handle on behalf of the Society. I’ve participated in a number of stories with the New Britain Herald, typically on issues related to personal finance. I’ve also done a number of the short interviews the CSCPA does with Al Terzi on WFSB-TV’s ‘3 On Your Side’ consumer show, which I probably like doing best.”
- Marc Austin, CPA Private Capital Group

 

“[The CSCPA] makes it very easy to get us the publicity by lining up the interviews. The business editor has already been prepped on the topic and we get from [CSCPA] ahead of time what the editor was previously given. The depth of the topic generally does not take any time for us to prepare for the interview. It is a painless process. Thank you for your support.”
- Paul Caiafa, CPA, MST Solakian, Caiafa & Company, CPAs, LLC

 

“The primary issue is the perception of CPAs by the public at large. Anytime CPAs can project [themselves] as knowledgeable, helpful, and reliable advisors to both families and businesses, it’s a good thing. Especially during trying economic times, the CPA needs to be looked at as a “good guy” that the public can count on.

It usually only takes a few brief minutes to speak with the media, as they have their own time constraints and deadlines to deal with. They appreciate a different slant on the subject they are working on, and the CPA typically has experience on issues the media may have only surface knowledge of ... Overall, if you feel you have a comfortable level of expertise in the subject, the media experience can be enjoyable.”
- Larry Handler, CPA Adjunct Professor of Accounting, University of Connecticut

[Author’s Note: In December of 2008, seven CSCPA members, including several members of the Board of Directors, participated in a media interview training program offered occasionally by the AICPA entitled “The CPA Ambassador Program.” Our final comments are from two individuals who participated in the CPA Ambassador Program.]

“I thought the media training was excellent. One of the great advantages of the program was that it gave us a taste of the different types of interviews we might experience – print, radio, television, etc.

Gaining an understanding of how each might be conducted, and how the interviewer might use what we shared, really took the ‘unknown’ out of the process. Almost immediately after the training I was asked to do an interview with a Connecticut-based newspaper ... and then a TV segment. Both worked out great. I couldn’t have been more comfortable, and felt like I was able to communicate my core message very effectively.”
- John Turgeon, CPA, CSCPA President, Kostin, Ruffkess & Company



“I am honored that I was able to attend the CPA Ambassador Program. The program helped me better understand the media’s role and their process for getting a story out. In speaking with a reporter, I felt very relaxed and proud to be speaking as a member of the CSCPA. I could easily sense that the reporter respected our profession and trusted everything I said ...

Overall, my experiences were great and I would encourage everyone to participate when the opportunity presents itself. Furthermore, getting quoted in the media also helps you gain respect and confidence within your peer group.”
- Ken Kron, CPA Mahoney Sabol & Company, LLP

Taking Tax Season Tips Online

On March 31, 2009 (right in the thick of tax season!), Mike Goldblatt, CPA of Goldblatt Bokoff LLC in Norwich spent two hours answering online questions from The Day readers.

Readers submitted questions in advance and between noon and 2 p.m. on March 31 to theday.com. Goldblatt fielded questions on everything from job search expenses, IRA interest, and first-time home purchases with humor, ease, and straightforward answers.

This is the third year in a row The Day has joined with CSCPA members for the interactive online discussion. Tom Marien, CPA of Marien & Company, LLC in Norwich manned the keyboard for the first two tax-season chats.

“Mike did an excellent job this year, and Tom has done an excellent job in the past,” The Day's business editor Tony Cronin said.

When it comes to advice from the financial experts, Cronin knows where to turn.

“[This has] worked great ... CSCPA is the go-to organization to work with,” added Cronin, who’s used CSCPA as a resource for columns and for quotes about industry matters in addition to the weekly “Money Management” financial advice columns (found online at www.ctcpas.org/moneymanagement).