10 min read

Yes, accounting firms, you can create fun, human content (an intervention)

Yes, accounting firms, you can create fun, human content (an intervention)

 

Guess who's back? It's me, your friendly, neighborhood weekly HubHeroes podcast host and local content strategist! I know, it's been way too long since I took to the keyboard to drop some word nerd know-how on you all. 

But I promise I'm going to make it up to you today — particularly for those of you accounting firms out there (we love you around here!) who are all jazzed up on creating inbound content to move the needle on your traffic, leads, and sales goals. 

Because there's the sticky problem when it comes to creating content for your particular industry. How the heck do you have any sort of fun (or show your humanity) when what you're talking about isn't exactly a party? Or what about all those legal compliance hoops you may need to jump through before anything you publish can see the light of day?

Now, we've talked about the importance of being a human in your marketing and content before. When you create content like a human, you will be more profitable. But today, I'm going to walk you through the critical mindsets and best practices you need to remember if you want to create more humanized content for the accounting industry — and maybe even have a little fun while doing it!

Seriously, honest-to-goodness fun is possible when it comes to creating your content. Are you ready to find out? If so, let's dive in! 

Before I get into tactics, we need to have a clear discussion on why humanity in your content matters (particularly in the accounting space). Because, if you're anything like me, you're not doing anything someone else tells you to do unless you understand (and agree with) the why. Or maybe that's just me?

First, you've got to remember you're creating content for other humans

I don't know what happens when we create content. But something definitely breaks in our brains the moment we have to sit down and create anything we consider to fall under the category of Super Important Business ContentTM.

We arrive at our keyboard as human beings with hopes and dreams and aspirations and weird hobbies and oddly specific obsessions ... and, hopefully, we are aware that we are surrounded by other humans who also possess their own unique mix of those things.

But the moment we flex our fingers and start typing away, all of a sudden we turn a Super Important Business Content RobotTM 🤖 — completely devoid of any personality and absolutely convinced anyone we are putting our content in front considers any trace of humanity to be an unforgivable error.

Neither of those things are true, by the way. 

You are a human being. Yes, you're a representative of your accounting practice, but your organization is just an awesome gang of — you guessed it — human beings. You don't stop being the amazing, unique individuals that you are just because you happen to be talking about tax filings.

The people you're trying to reach (like me and George and, well, tons of other folks out there like us) are also human beings. Yes, we are human beings who want to be darned sure that you (a) know what you are talking about and (b) are professional and good at what you do.

However, we also want to know you are approachable enough for us to feel comfortable talking about our finances with you. This is something every single person who reads your content is looking for, whether they realize it or not. 

We talk about "trust" being so important as a business

But how are you going to expect to build trust with your audience if you're not willing to exhibit your humanity through your content? Especially as consumers are becoming increasingly resistant to talking to you face-to-face until they absolutely have to, when it comes to making a purchasing decision — and that includes your accounting services.

You don't build trust through your content just by being the smartest guy in the room with all the answers — although, yes, your expertise is important. 

You build trust the same way we do in our regular relationships outside of work by showing to your audience:

  • You're a human being just like them
  • You're approachable, warm, and welcoming
  • You're relatable and make it easy to talk to you
  • You're curious about us and what we're going through

And on and on ... 

In fact, if you're relying on your sterilized smarts alone, you're going to be like that guy at the party that no one can stand. The one who has all the answers, shows zero interest in anyone else other than themselves, and seems completely unapproachable because everything about them says, "Go away!" whether they realize it or not.

Then there's the "money" of it all, right?

There are two people who know me better than anyone else on this little blue marble of a planet, and they are:

  • My lawyer
  • My accountant

Now, to be fair, I'm a bit of a cagey person by nature. Like, there was this one time I went on a date and the guy wanted to know what my favorite color was. Without thinking, I volleyed back, "That's a pretty personal question, why do you want to know?" (Yes, I did apologize and answer his question — it's orange. No, there wasn't a second date.)

When it comes to my lawyer and my accountant, however? They know everything.

I am an open book with them. 

I have to be, though, right? If I can't be honest with my accountant and my lawyer, particularly as a business owner, all I'm doing is setting myself up to fail in majestically catastrophic ways. 

But I didn't give my trust away to them for free

To be fair, I didn't charge them a cent for my trust either. What I mean is I didn't just show up one day to the offices of my accountant and my lawyer, totally ready to trust them. 

In fact, I'd say my accountant was the one who initially freaked me out the most. 

I'm a first-time business owner who never had any intent of owning my own business. And even if you're operating with basic financial literacy, the learning curve of what you need to understand about money is terrifying.

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Sure, there's that joke that every entrepreneur is walking around winging it, not really having any idea what they're doing, but it doesn't always feel that way. Particularly when it comes to financial conversations. You never want to seem like you're behind or irresponsible. And somehow it always feels like everyone around you has their act together way more than you do.

We've also been trained since birth that money is a taboo topic

I don't care if we're talking about the finances of a business owner or simply someone who would like to, you know, retire at some point before 92 years old. Understanding money and managing it well is essential to our survival in our society, right?

But we're not supposed to talk about it. 

With anyone. Ever. 

So, my accountant had to, in his own way, earn my trust. And he did that by conveying from the very first moment I read a blog article on his website, to the first time I met him in person, that he will always create the necessary psychological safety for me to feel comfortable telling him:

  • That I don't know what I don't know, and I know, and it scares the crap out of me.
  • That I have lots of questions. So many questions. Questions I probably should have gotten figured out well before 40 years old, but here we are.
  • That I'm worried I've made some mistakes, or that I'm currently making mistakes, and ... oh my gosh, what if I mess something up?

This is why conveying your humanity, your warmth, and (most of all) your ability to create a welcoming sense of nonjudgmental psychological safety with your clients is your key to building trust. And you need to start establishing that foundation in your content.

"That all sounds great, Liz, but how the heck do we actually put that into practice?"

I'm so glad you asked!

Being more human in your content is way easier than you think it is

Seriously, the hardest part is just giving yourself permission to be the human being you already are. You're actually exerting more effort every time you sit down and force yourself to communicate through your content in a way that runs contrary to who you really are as a person.

To show you what I mean, let's take a look at ... 

A couple examples of humanity in content

Are these examples from the accounting space? No, but that's kind of the point, kittens. You've gotten it in your head that you're so extra special different (and, yes, you are in many ways!) that there's no way you can afford to break the content rules the way others can in different industries. 

We'll start with an obvious one:

Screen Shot 2023-06-29 at 12.15.44 PM-1

That's right! Four score and a few paragraphs ago, I threw a little humanity razzle dazzle into this very article. I told a purposeful micro story to illustrate a point in my day-to-day conversational tone. It didn't erode my credibility (fingers crossed!), and I didn't get too scandalous. 

George also does a great job of this in his content. Here's an example from his recent reflection on one year in business:

Screen Shot 2023-06-29 at 12.21.49 PMHere's what I love about this example from George:

  • If you know George, you can literally hear him speaking these words as you read them on the digital page. It's conversational, like you're literally sitting with him while he's sharing his thoughts off the cuff. 
  • It doesn't matter if you love or hate Fast + Furious, he's sharing a bit about himself here in a way that serves as a great reminder that we humans all walk around with our own unique fingerprint of things we're passionate about ... just because! 
  • Most of all, he's not sharing his love of Fast + Furious for no reason — his inclusion of this bit of George trivia is purposeful. He's underscoring a point about his personal values, and how he views the world. 
  • Then there's the 80,000-foot-view of this excerpt, right? He's taking the time to stop and share what his values are. He could have shared these thoughts without everything I mentioned above, and that's still a moment of humanity that brings the audience in and showcases what his values are. 

That last one is probably the most important, and I want to talk about why.

Showing personality in your content doesn't mean you suddenly have to be a stand-up comedian

This is probably the #1 mistake I see folks make in the content marketing space, regardless of what you do or sell. It's also probably the #1 reason why many of you in the accounting and financial spaces avoid even dipping your content toe in the humanity pool, whether you realize it or not.

You see, we naturally like people who make us laugh, right? In fact, there are whole studies about how people who make us laugh can seem more likable. Heck, you might even be more likely to fall in love with them

So, I've noticed this funny little trend that when people try to "show a little personality" in their content, they immediately try to just be funny. They'll insert weirdly placed jokes or puns, or they'll just cram as many GIFs or memes in to be funny and "relatable."

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Look, if you're a naturally funny person with sharp delivery in your day-to-day life, go for the humor in your content. Yes, that includes you dads out there who love a good dad joke; that's part of your schtick, too, so let this cringe-worthy puns fly. 

But if that's not who you are naturally, that's OK!

Don't force humor. Don't force jokes. Seriously, no one is asking you to suddenly become the accounting version of the second coming of Richard Pryor or George Carlin when you sit down to the keyboard to talk about accounting with potential clients. 

Showing your personality in content just means you need to be yourself

And when I say "be yourself," I mean it. If you're dry and low-key, be dry and low-key. If you're big into family and talk about them often when you're on calls with clients and prospects, try sharing some of those same stories. 

If you say "y'all" a lot in person, it's OK to also say "y'all" in your content. 

Your content should mirror what it would be like to sit down over a cup of coffee and ask you questions about what it is that you do and why you do it ... and heck, maybe even why you do this work. 

Yes, why you do what you do matters. 

Recently, I talked to Rich Schwartz 
(a CPA) about his "why"

Rich Schwartz owns Schwartz & Associates, a CPA and business coaching firm for small businesses, based in New Jersey. (Hi, Rich!) 

I ended up working with him on a small content project for a campaign he was running. As part of that project, I wanted to talk to him about his story, so I could better help him shape some of the messaging, voice, and tone. 

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When we started digging into his "why" behind the work he does, I couldn't help but see the depth and genuine caring he has for the clients he serves. Rich isn't here to help the Goliaths of the world crush more Davids. He's here to provide reliable, honest, human accounting and payroll support to the Davids of the world who are too busy to manage that on their own ... and are too often overlooked. 

At one point, when we were talking about his differentiators, he said:

"Well, a big one is we just pick up the damn phone. Like, if you call us, a human is going to answer the phone. And that human is going to help you. No runaround. No chasing people down ... just help when you need it. You'd think that wouldn't be such a huge deal, but you'd be surprised."

By the end of our conversation, I was just head-over-heels (professionally speaking) for Rich and his energy. I could see why the moment potential clients got in front of him, they were immediately at ease. 

He oozes trustworthiness. He's the guy you feel comfortable talking to about life over a beer or three, but you never, ever for a moment doubt his commitment to those he serves or (most importantly) his expertise. So, my advice to him? Don't hide this version of himself behind "polished" language and throwaway website copy that could have been written by anyone. 

Again, this is easier than you think

You just need to show up as you. That's it. And when I say "show up as you," I mean:

  • Show up with your conversational tone
  • Show up with your stories
  • Show up with your specific way of looking at the world
  • Show up with your values and a desire to share them
  • Show up with your dad jokes, if you've got 'em
  • Show up ready to create the psychological safety that says, "It's cool for you to be a human being with us, too."

If you don't like talking about yourself, being a human can also look like:

  • Speaking directly to the reader, e.g., "If you're here, you're likely stressed about your taxes. Who isn't though, right? Taxes can be stressful, etc..."
  • Using examples that pull from pop culture or relatable hypothetical experiences. 
  • Using simple, plain, direct language that transforms your expertise from a barrier between you and the reader to a bridge that connects you.

Not only will this make your content way more engaging and interesting, you'll feel way less stressed as you're writing it, because you don't have to pretend to be someone you're not. And if you've got compliance folks who need to review your work, sounding conversational, sharing purposeful stories and anecdotes, or saying "y'all" once in awhile won't likely land you in compliance jail with a blog article.

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If your clients trust you in person, just as you are, your prospects are likely to do the same. Particularly since so much trust is necessary for us mere mortals to feel comfortable confiding how much we don't know about tax law or what mistakes we may have made along the way. 

Just make sure you give your content a good copy-edit (tools like Grammarly have your back, if you need it!), and you'll be in good shape. 

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