At a recent reseller show, a computer-oriented CPA reported that he planned to recruit two friends to apply for the American Institute of CPAs' technology credential, the Certified Information Technology Professional. And if they tell two friends, and they tell friends? You get the picture.

If everyone tells two friends, then at six generations, there will be more than 16,000 credential holders and we can declare the program a success. Of course, at some point a lot of people are not going to carry through. But so what? Most proponents would settle for 2,000 right now.

Seriously, this kind of grass roots promotion could, in fact, jumpstart the CITP credential, because the AICPA has shown little interest in or ability to promote its own market designation. For example, it has made virtually no effort to promote the credential in the press. So it’s up to CITPers themselves to do the work.

Is the credential necessary? Credentials are as much a matter of market acceptance as they are of competence and necessity. If recognition and demand can be created, then the CITP is necessary, so it’s all a matter of marketing at this point.

If I were promoting it, I’d have a committee of credential holders from each state society who are charged with making sure that everyone tells a friend. I’d ask for names of people who have been contacted and exchange e-mails about progress. (This is hardly an original idea. The Committees of Correspondence in each colony, which spent most of their time writing letters, were key to mobilizing people during the American Revolution.)

I would urge each firm to publish its own “What the CITP credential mean to you” literature, based on a standard design from the central group, of course, in order to ensure message consistency. But this would spread out the marketing cost.

Can this approach work? In the day of the Internet, I think so -- just look at Howard Dean’s campaign.

Besides, just tell people if they break the chain, they’re stuck with what they’ve got now.

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