I’d be thanking Starbucks if I did PR for an accounting firm…

Starbucks logoStarbucks announced last weekend that it has voluntarily paid £5m in UK corporation tax despite the company reporting no taxable profit in the UK in the last year. A Starbucks spokesperson said the company made the decision after listening to its customers’ angry reactions to the revelation that the company hadn’t paid any UK corporation tax since 2009.

This got me thinking that if I had a business accounting firm as a client, the Starbucks story would have provided a great opportunity for a PR and digital marketing campaign! Let’s imagine for a second that my fictional client’s core message is that your accountant should do more than just ensure that businesses comply with the letter of the law. The client hired a PR agency in the hope of promoting this messaging through a strategic public relations and digital marketing campaign targeted at its large potential client base of UK SMEs.

I would recommend that the client use the Starbucks story to establish its managing director / CEO as an expert spokesperson on accounting issues as well as further refine its core messaging through thought leadership around the idea that accounting firms should offer more than just advice on how to pay as little tax as possible, but also advise on accounting policies that will be respected by the company’s stakeholders.

My PR and digital marketing campaign would be broken down into the following categories:

Expert spokesperson

Upon the story breaking, the most immediate opportunity would be to offer national newspapers and broadcast outlets comment from or an interview with the client’s managing director about the accounting technicalities of the story. They would also be able to offer an opinion about what Starbucks’ move means for corporations and how they pay tax going forward.

Thought leadership

Next I would look to place opinion articles or guest blog posts in industry publications and blogs, authored to the client’s managing director and argue that the Starbucks story is a perfect example of how accounting firms should act as trusted advisors, meaning that in addition to offering tips on how to pay as little tax as possible, they must also provide counsel on how companies can pursue accounting policies that will be respected by their stakeholders. In addition, I would look for letter opportunities to respond to editorial pieces published in national newspapers about Starbucks’ corporate tax issues.

Social media

As the story developed, I would build a campaign across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that shared Starbucks-related stories, commenting in a manner that supported the ideas being shared through the thought leadership activity. I would publish a post on the company blog that covers the story from a similar angle. In addition, I would promote any of the PR coverage received through Facebook and LinkedIn ads targeted directly at my client’s core target market.

Content marketing

Finally, I would ensure our full content marketing strategy aligned behind these messages. That would include using this popular news story as a hook to increase marketing email opens (such as ‘Do you take a Starbucks or a Whole Foods approach to accounting?”) and use it as a case study in any upcoming ebooks.

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