Here’s a hypothesis we’ll be testing in the coming months: accountancy firms that had a solid online presence and a body of great content have fared better in the current crisis than digital hold-outs.

With the majority of business going online almost overnight, from Zoom calls to online shopping, accountancy firms with a decent website had an advantage.

In addition, there’s been an astonishing demand for information and advice.

We know from data for our own website, and from our sister businesses in Sift Media such as AccountingWEB and UK Business Forums, that there’s been an insatiable hunger for guidance.

Traffic has been up across all Sift websites with content on coronavirus support schemes, crisis management and planning for the future doing especially well.

People want clear answers, right now – not pages of waffle next Thursday.

But it’s more subtle than that.

With everyone sharing information on Government support schemes and advice on crisis management, what is the deciding factor on whose information surfaces?

Which sources appear at the top of Google searches or rise to the top of social media timelines?

And which sources do people trust?

Content is a long game

The reason our colleagues at AccountingWEB have seen traffic up 80% year-on-year is not only because the content they’re producing is excellent – it’s because it stands on the shoulders of more than 20-years’-worth of online journalism.

Both Google and readers know and trust AccountingWEB so that when AccountingWEB has something to say about COVID-19, it ranks in search engines and with accountants.

Of course you can’t become AccountingWEB overnight but you can learn something from it’s sustained, consistent approach, and carve out space as a trusted information source for clients in your niche or region.

Finding time and resources to keep your accounting firm’s blog updated is like investing for a rainy day.

The same goes for posting regularly on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

Everything you write, every video you produce and every longform guide you publish contributes to:

  • Google’s perception of your website’s value to users.
  • Users’ impressions of the depth and quality of your knowledge.
  • Your visibility with clients and prospects.

But producing content can feel like a chore or a distraction from the core work your firm does.

We know that not only because our clients tell us but also because we’re only human – we feel it too. Maintaining a content strategy takes discipline and determination.

It’s easy for a blog and other content streams to get neglected without someone driving it forward.

PracticeWeb’s marketing manager, Philippa Jordan, keeps us on track. Here’s her process, in brief.

  1. At the end of each year, schedule a content workshop with key players. Get everyone to chip in their thoughts. What questions are clients asking? What messages do we want to get across? What do members of the team have a burning desire to write about?
  2. Turn all of that into a comprehensive calendar, breaking down what needs to be produced, by when, and who will take responsibility for the work. Whether it’s insight reports, marketing guides, blog posts or videos, every single item has an owner – even if we often end up collaborating on the finished product.
  3. Add those items to people’s to-do lists, with strict deadlines. In the case of my team, that’s done via, which makes it easy to track progress and schedule reminders.
  4. Throughout the year, check in to make sure the plan still makes sense, removing and adding items depending on shifting priorities, and nudging everybody to deliver as promised.

Pivoting in a crisis

Now, you might have noticed that 2020 has so far been a year that defies planning, which is why step four in Pip’s process became especially important.

In March, we essentially looked at everything we’d scheduled, ripped up the plan and started again.

Despite the disruption, we not only kept up content production but intensified it. The very last thing we wanted to do when the crisis hit was go dark and disappear from view, even if our tone and message had to change.

In a crisis, people need more reassurance and advice, not less.

Most importantly, we reconfigured our research and insight programme to provide more frequent, live updates on the attitude of SMEs. In a crisis, it’s more important to be prompt than to be perfect.

Although our primary aim was to be helpful – to muck in on the collective industry effort – keeping the content coming raised our profile and helped us make valuable connections.

Those clients for whom we provide content also benefited from this approach.

We helped them translate Government guidance for the businesses they support and worked with them to redraw content plans to acknowledge the reality of COVID-19.

In the past three months, my team has written thousands of words on behalf of clients, covering subjects such as:

  • the temporary relaxation of charity reporting regulations
  • the effect of the crisis on the UK housing market
  • how creative agencies can access Government support schemes
  • cycle-to-work schemes in the post-COVID-19 world.

Are you fit for the next crisis?

None of us wants to see a second phase of lockdown, a recession, a bumpy Brexit or, indeed, another global pandemic.

Nonetheless, it’s almost inevitable that something will come along in the next few years to cause disruption – even if it’s only the long-planned extension of Making Tax Digital or the often-rumoured reform of inheritance tax.

If you want to be at the forefront of the conversation during a crisis, there’s no shortcut: you have to pay your dues when the sun is shining.

If you’re not producing regular content, start now. It doesn’t have to be an ordeal – especially not if you commission PracticeWeb to write it on your behalf.

Aim for at least one blog post per month, of at least 500 words in length, and make it unique. Talk to your ideal clients, in your own voice, about the subjects you know best.

Share those posts on social media, not only once but several times.

If you’ve got the confidence, record videos to go with them. There are lots of people who can coach you through this – or talk to us about our video production service.

All of this will build your profile and authority so that when a crisis comes, your brand and website will be ready to rise to the occasion.

And the more practice you have producing content on a regular basis, the faster and more adept you’ll be when it’s really needed.

We can provide regular content for your blog – talk to us about how it works.