For the third year in a row New Jersey-based CPA firm WithumSmith+Brown took to the video format and social media to encourage its staff and promote its firm culture in a three-day video shoot that resulted in communicating its current state of the firm.
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The most recent video was shown last night at the firm’s annual State of the Firm meeting in Somerset, N.J. It initially depicts three audit staffers who phone managing partner and chief executive Bill Hagaman to say they will not meet their deadline. He quickly shows up at the office where they are working to provide some encouragement, ensuing in a series of song and dance numbers, led off by a cover version of the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper's Delight.”
WS+B has been on a similar path, promoting its culture as a part of employee retention and recruitment efforts. The latest incarnation is a seven-minute video on YouTube and the firm’s Web site in which 230 staffers engage in a medley of song and dance numbers from the 60s and 70s to today.
Last year’s state of the firm video showcased a "flash mob" of WS+B dancers in New York, celebrating the firm’s move to the Big Apple with the acquisition of EisnerLupin. The video was a hit among staffers, clients and new recruits alike. Resumes were submitted to the YouTube account where the video was posted and it likely contributed to a high employee retention rate at the firm, which has a current overall turnover rate of just 6.5 percent.
Even after that big success, creating the latest offering was not a simple process, according to senior marketing coordinator Sarah Cirelli.
“We had written a formal proposal, a budget and a timeline, and the managing partner [Hagaman] calls me in to come in and explain it to the board because they didn’t totally get it,” she recalled. “But in the past couple of years with so many firms cutting marketing budgets and not knowing really what to do with social media, it was encouraging to know we have a managing partner and others who are smart enough to know we need to invest in this and eventually they did get it.”
Cirelli and marketing director Rhonda Maraziti were armed with a $20,000 budget for the shoot, much of which went to reproducing songs for which the firm did not have the copyrights. They put together a plan for the video shoots earlier in the year, and within the first day they received over 200 email requests to be a part of this year’s video project. The shoots took place over three days in December in New York and New Jersey. In one instance, they need to involve the mayor of New Brunswick, N.J., to help close down an entire city street and get a crane to facilitate some aerial shots.
“The first year we had a very modest budget and an idea, with 60 people participating, and it more than satisfied our purpose. Last year our budget was a bit bigger, at $9,000 and 150 people,” said Cirelli. "We started taking another look into the year and certain messages that we had. A team member of mine showed me a car commercial from the Super Bowl and we liked it. We are mainly promoting a theme of empowerment, empowering our communities and our people, and this video was born.”
As before, the firm utilized Facebook and Twitter to generate some excitement around the coming of the new video, posting brief “teaser” comments and photos from the shoot, ultimately posting it on YouTube and the firm’s own website.
The current video has only been live for less than 24 hours and has already garnered nearly 1,500 individual views.