Why aren’t you the tax expert on TV?

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As tax season progresses, you’ll see more and more interviews with tax preparers featured in newspapers and television explaining aspects of the latest legislation or IRS policy. Ever wonder why they spoke to your competitor across town, rather than you?

There’s an art to being selected for a media story, explained Chuck McCabe, CEO of Peoples Tax and The Income Tax School.

“In the world of marketing there are three types of media: owned, paid and earned,” he said. “Owned media consists of branded content created by your company about your company, such as articles, graphics, and posts. Paid media is advertising you pay for to gain reach and recognition, such as Facebook ads, print ads, Google ads, and commercials. Earned media is publicity your company gains, whether it be through an online article written about you, a social media post promoting you, a news story, or other publicity your company gains.”

“All three of these are important pieces to a solid communications plan,” McCabe said. “However, lots of business owners fail to even attempt to gain earned media because they don’t know where to begin. There’s a reason we have public media specialists and an entire field dedicated to the art. While there is an art to gaining PR, you don’t have to have a PR degree to get a little press for your tax business.”

“Especially during tax season, journalists are on the lookout for experts to help them with a tax-related story,“ McCabe said. “There are different services that aid in connecting journalists with experts. Help A Reporter Out — HARO — is one of these. It’s an email digest of journalists looking for comments or advice on particular topics. It’s free to sign up and is easy to scan for topics that relate to tax prep. When you find one, just send an email to the address in the description and boom — you’ve pitched a reporter.”

Once the opportunity is presented, McCabe offered the following tips:

  • Respond quickly. “These opportunities go fast,” he noted. “Don’t wait to scan the email; do it as soon as it comes.”
  • Be thoughtful and concise in your response. “You’re not the only one who wants to be in the story,” he said. “Give them exactly what they’re looking for and make your response easy to read with bullet points.”
  • Include background information — brag about yourself a little. It matters that you’ve been in the business for years or are a CPA or an Enrolled Agent, so if you have credentials, talk about them.
  • Include links to your social media profiles.

Besides those immediate opportunities, there are a number of longer-term strategies practitioners can employ:

1. Develop contacts. The more contacts you have, the better your chances, McCabe indicated. “Create a spreadsheet and start by listing all of your local media outlets — TV, online and print,” he suggested. “Next, research the journalists who work there. You’ll want to get the email address and Twitter handles of the editor, assignment desk and journalists whose beats are business, finance, or something similar.”

“Next, look to regional business media,” he continued. “Is there a business journal or something similar in the area? You could also do some research on bloggers who cover business, tax or finance.”

2. Build relationships. “Once you have even the smallest list of contacts, it’s time to make the pitch,” McCabe said. “PR is more about building relationships than it is about talking someone into promoting your business. You need to give them what they need: a good story and/or valuable insight. ... Do your research to see what news sites are buzzing about and find a good angle. Or just reach out, introduce yourself, offer your expertise and give some bullet points on what taxpayers should know this season. The point is to make contact so you can start building a relationship.”

The fact that you don’t get a response from everyone shouldn’t deter you, according to McCabe: “Reporters are busy. They get hundreds of article pitches and like to be reminded, so follow up, but don’t be a pest. Wait a couple of weeks and reach back out just to check in, and If they don’t respond, let it go.”

3. Community events. Another way to earn PR is to hold a community event or partner with a local nonprofit, McCabe said: “Events are a great way to get people through your door, and a reason to write a press release to alert the media. It could be an information session for taxpayers or a collection drive for a local nonprofit. One thing to keep in mind: TV reporters love a good visual.”

4. Offer free help. “Not everyone can afford tax preparation — and some people desperately need the help,” McCabe observed. “Each year, Peoples Tax offers free tax services to families of local nonprofit Connor’s Heroes. Connor’s Heroes is a support organization for families of children with cancer. It’s a nice thing to do, and it makes a great story,” 

5. Use blogs. “Guest blogging is another form of earned media that can help your [search engine optimization],” McCabe said. “Basically, when your website is linked to from what Google sees are ‘high-authority sites,’ then Google ranks your site higher. Do your research on top blogs and make some pitches. They don’t have to be business- or tax-related — everyone has to pay taxes so your expertise is technically relevant to everyone.”

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