There’s usually one person at an accounting firm responsible for making sure the blog is kept up to date – and it can be a pretty thankless task.
Whether they’re a marketing manager, a partner with an interest in marketing, or just someone who drew the short straw, they’ve got to find a way to coordinate and chase busy colleagues for whom the blog is, let’s be honest, probably not a priority.
In recent months, I’ve spoken to a few people who are struggling with this and wanted to give some clear, direct advice based on my own experience over the years.
I think the most important to acknowledge is that this is difficult – you’re not imagining it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, if you employ a few techniques for managing upwards and sideways, and work with what you’ve got.
Build a long-term plan
The best way to engage colleagues in blogging and content production is to treat it like any other project:
- Set clear objectives.
- Establish how you’ll measure success.
- Draw up a 12-month content plan.
- Provide regular updates to management.
Other people will take it seriously if you take it seriously. Resist the urge to be self-deprecating – “I know you’re busy, it’s not that important, but…”
When it comes to setting objectives, of course it’s likely to be focused on generating leads or profit, but it might also be about:
- Brand image – a dusty, neglected blog makes your firm look rubbish.
- Engaging existing clients – produce content with their questions in mind.
- Efficiency – if you can explain it once in a blog post, you won’t have to keep it explaining it on the phone.
- Saving money – the more you do in-house, the less you have to spend on advertising and outreach.
A long-term content plan needn’t be restrictive – it should be a safety net, preventing those moments of panic when a post is due but nobody knows what to actually write about. Think about key points in the year – self-assessment, year-end, the Budget – and start there, before fleshing out the other weeks and months.
Sharing data in a regular report or, ideally, face to face in team meetings is a great way to get people excited. If you post twice a month for six months and there’s a clear increase in website traffic, or your search engine rankings improve – and they probably will – that helps to make a compelling case.
If partners or managers at your accounting firm tell you they’re not interested in blogging and probably won’t have time to help, it’s probably best to believe them.
The chances are they’ll get less enthusiastic and have less time, not the other way round, whatever wishful thinking might lead you to believe.
Build your plan around those who are keen and engaged and hopefully, in the long run, the hold-outs will start to see the benefits.
Also, make sure you leave the door open – make clear that if there is something they get the urge to write (or talk about in a short video) you’d be happy to help and to make room for it in the schedule.
What’s in it for me?
Sell the concrete, personal benefits of contributing to the company blog.
Bylined blog posts that demonstrate your colleagues’ expertise are perfect fuel for their LinkedIn profiles and other social media.
They can also help raise the profile of individuals within the firm and, let’s be frank, earn serious brownie points – especially when they contribute demonstrably to lead generation.
It’s also an opportunity for personal development. Nobody ever did their prospects any harm by developing their writing chops: accountants who also ‘do words’ have a distinct advantage in the market.
Be assertive: it’s important to you
If at your end of year review it’s likely someone is going to dock you points for failing to meet an objective around keeping the blog up to date, then you need to force the issue with your colleagues.
I’m not going to teach you how to be assertive – that’s a whole different game of cricket – but, in short, state clearly what you need, when you need it by and make clear that if you don’t have it, it will put you in a difficult position.
In extreme cases, don’t be afraid to say, “When you commit to deliver a blog post and don’t it makes me feel as if you don’t respect me or my work.”
Be prepared to step up
If the blog is your responsibility don’t try to fit it in around everything else – make sure you allow time in your schedule to give it the focus it deserves.
You might need that time to write blog posts your colleagues fail to deliver, or to finish up pieces they’ve half-written, or to polish things that aren’t quite on brand or up to snuff.
Sometimes, it’s about coaching people through the process.
If I can generalise (my partner and my brother are both accountants) people in this line of work tend to perfectionism and to focus on details.
This is a great asset professionally but can make it a challenge to switch into creative mode, to write concisely or to let a piece of work go when it’s good enough.
Strategies and tactics
If you get the sense someone wants to deliver a piece of writing but is struggling, there are some practical things you can do to help.
First, ask if they’d like to talk it through. Sometimes, just putting down the pen and switching into verbal mode can remove the blockage – people can say what they want to write even if they can’t write it.
Secondly, get them to produce a set of bullet points explaining:
- What point they want to get across, e.g. it’s never too early to start planning for your retirement.
- Two or three important facts the reader might not already know.
- What they want the reader to do with this information.
If they’re still stuck, that should give you what you need to produce a first draft which they can then fix, fill out and finesse.
Finally, something a bit different: try interviewing them. Some people are more comfortable responding to questions than they are filling a blank page. And, in fact, this format sometimes produces really interesting, more spontaneous-feeling copy. You can then either present this as an interview, or cut out the questions, allowing the answers to form their own argument.
The other option is to set aside some of your marketing budget to buy in professional copy from an agency like PracticeWeb, or from freelance writers.
A long-term relationship is best. Writers who know you and your firm are more likely to turn in copy that’s right the first time. But even commissioning the odd piece to fill in gaps in the schedule can relieve the pressure of delivering week in, week out.
How we can help
PracticeWeb offers a range of content services from in-depth strategy workshops that will set you up with ideas and objectives for a year, to a bespoke blog writing service.
Get in touch to find out more, or check out our Complete Guide to Content Marketing for Accountants for more advice in the meantime.