CAMPAIGN: AICPA focuses on women investors to build credibility

PR Team: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (New York) and Stanton Crenshaw (New York) Campaign: Women's Financial Health Week Time Frame: January 14-18, 2002 (and January 13-17, 2003) Budget: $250,000

PR Team: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (New York) and Stanton Crenshaw (New York) Campaign: Women's Financial Health Week Time Frame: January 14-18, 2002 (and January 13-17, 2003) Budget: $250,000

These days, there's no shortage of financial experts that consumers can turn to for advice about developing a long-term financial plan. And there are many different credentials clients can look for when selecting a financial planner. Needless to say, all this leads to confusion on the part of consumers. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) - the accounting industry association that represents and helps credential its 340,000 members - wanted consumers to know that its "Personal Financial Specialist" (PFS) was a credential worth seeking out. The PFS is a certification given solely to CPAs who work within the realm of personal financial planning. Strategy The AICPA reached out to PR firm Stanton Crenshaw (SC) to help raise awareness of the PFS credential. Although it had been around for years, the AICPA felt it was lost in the alphabet soup of credentials. "We wanted to raise our profile," says Joel Allegretti, AICPA PR manager. The team's early research into the area of personal finance yielded some interesting findings, the most noteworthy being that many more women are suddenly in the position to seek serious financial counsel. Such findings led the AICPA and SC to focus on female investors. "We noticed that women were in a position to seek advice, and not much attention was being paid to their individual needs," explains Judith Grossman, EVP of SC. SC and the AICPA eventually decided on Women's Financial Health Week, a weeklong program to build brand recognition for the PFS credential. The event would be the centerpiece of the campaign's overall push to raise awareness of the PFS as the most reputable credential in the financial-planner field. The campaign was also aimed at creating a better-informed populace, who may then be more inclined to seek counsel from a PFS-credited planner. Tactics The team determined that January was the ideal month to have such an event because a significant number of New Year's resolutions involve people deciding to take ownership of their financial situation. At the heart of Women's Financial Health Week was www.WomensFinancialHealthWeek.com, a site designed by SC to provide women with financial planning and educational resources, and to showcase experts with the PFS. The site was designed to include a web-chat series with financial experts, opinion polls, and interactive tools and resources to help visitors assess their financial situation. "We wanted the site to be useful," says Grossman. There was also a section of the site dedicated to a database locator for consumers to find a PFS accountant in their area. SC also formed a partnership with Money magazine, allowing the site to utilize tools and resources on the money.cnn. com website. In order to include PFS accountants in the campaign, the firm developed an advisory board for Women's Financial Health Week. In addition, to help generate media attention for the committee members and recognition for their PFS credential, the firm implemented a targeted local-market outreach program at their home cities. The group had them conduct media interviews throughout the week with television, radio, and print reporters in those markets. Results The week's activities reached more than 67 million consumers through media placements secured with outlets including ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliate stations across the US. Some of the campaign's highlights included segments on CNNfn, CNN Radio, AP Radio, the Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and money.cnn.com. By the conclusion of the week, there had been more than 20,000 visitors to the site. The majority of media placements included the PFS credential, and virtually all stories directed consumers to the website. Future The AICPA plans to continue running the weeklong campaign in future years.

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