Jason Bourne in pinstripes?

Being a financial person in a company predominantly consisting of PR people has proven to be an interesting career dynamic for me. Not too dissimilar, I suppose, from my experience of being a musician, yet making a living as an accountant. I do enjoy the whole left-brain, right-brain dichotomy.

One observation I’ve made over the years is how people in PR tend to be early adopters of technology and of trends like social media, while the accounting profession can seem to lag behind a bit. It is getting better, however; and before I’m accused of being too critical of my chosen profession, I will say that there have been instances where the bean-counters initially led the charge.

As a young lad fresh out of college in the eighties, the first job I held was as a staff auditor at a national CPA firm – which issued each of us a brand new Compaq “portable” computer. Oh, the pride I felt as I walked the streets of Seattle with my sewing machine-sized case containing the then Holy Grail of technology – complete with its dual floppy drives, monochrome display and flashing C:/ prompt. Bean counter? Heck no!! I was Jason Bourne in pin-stripes!

My years as a CPA were great training. Discipline, caution, attention to detail and heightened scrutiny were useful by-products of those nascent years. The accounting profession has a very measured and adroit way of distilling down best practices; cautiously taking on new technologies; and then, once proven, deploying them efficiently and effectively into its universe.

Recently, OnPR has been helping some of its clients enter the world of social media. Whether it is a company needing a meaningful Twitter presence or perhaps an executive needing a Facebook page and LinkedIn profile, we’re here to help them navigate the myriad dynamics. It’s great to see social media adoption moving from just the hip and media-savvy types to more traditional professions. It is interesting to see how lawyers and bankers – and, yes, even accountants are embracing social media.

Not all who jump on board use social media properly.  Recently, one of our vendors (who shall remain unnamed) experienced an outage which caused some disruption to us.  Not wanting to be put on-hold listening to bad music in order to find out what was happening, I turned to social media in order to learn if this company (a) had a presence on Twitter or Facebook and (b) if so, would there be an explanation for the service disruption?  Bingo! I was in luck. They did in fact have a Twitter account, but get this:  every single update (stretching back for many, many months) was nothing more than apologies for the current outage du jour and “we’re working on it” -type language.  Oh my….  If I were shopping vendors and happened to find this company on Twitter, I would probably be deterred from using their service after seeing how often (or so it appeared when highlighted in this convenient, chronological fashion) they were experiencing down time.  Good idea using Twitter to report an outage to your customers.  Bad idea having no other content (besides negative news) coming from this source.

On my desk, next to a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine, sits an issue of the Journal of Accountancy (a publication of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). I smiled as I read the cover: “Get the Word Out!” *State Society Puts Social Media to Work; *All A-Twitter: the Latest Way to Connect; *Blogging Can Boost Your Tax Practice.” Yep, they get it.  And good for them!  Social media can be a powerful tool to attract, retain, communicate with and educate clients if used properly.  In fact, the law firm we use does an excellent job with their Twitter feed and blog posts.

We’re all moving along the same technological arc – albeit some faster than others. As a bean-counter myself, I tend to be more cautious and measured in my approach; yet the artistic side of me loves to see (and play with) new tools, toys and gadgets.

So here’s a toast to those who blaze trails and to those who pave them and make them easier to walk.

~ Dave Wilson, CFO – OnPR

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