December 11, 2017
    Website success: Good information, but also know your audience's vibe

    Each year, a Publisher’s Choice Award is given to a winning entry in the TRENDS All Media Contest that exemplifies excellence in association communications. The 2012 Publisher’s Choice Award went to, gold-winning website of the American Institute of CPAs, New York. Here is what the judges had to say:

    “This website is simply fantastic. Its audience (the person studying for their CPA) is very clearly defined and the value they will get from the site very obvious and immediate. There’s an instant call to action for the viewer (“tell us where you are, get handpicked stuff”) to self identify as being at a specific stage of their CPA professional development; and once they identify themselves, the site becomes tailored to what content they need. There are other calls to action related to member recruitment, which are constantly showing the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) value to the viewer of becoming a member. The entire site is designed to be about the viewer, not about the association, which is rare and refreshing to see. The site also has a fresh, informal, even humorous tone that is engaging and draws the viewer in deeper, and fun design elements that reflect that personality.... This site makes you want to go become a CPA. Truly awesome.”

    AICPA college and university initiatives senior manager Rebecca Mahler discussed

    How long has the ThisWayToCPA website been in this latest iteration?

    In 2010 we created and launched ThisWayToCPA, a brand that’s all about helping students along the journey to becoming a CPA. Concurrently, we launched, a website aimed at engaging college students, educating them about the profession and helping them along the path to CPA-hood.
    By exposing students to the resources on the site and attracting new visitors, we sought to increase the pipeline of informed, engaged students and encourage them to become CPAs – and ultimately members of the AICPA.

    What did you do to create the site? (Reader surveys, feedback, etc.) Among the judges’ comments is that the site can be humorous. Why did you go in that direction in some instances?

    To understand the audience, we performed research in the form of surveys and focus groups and consolidated that information into the look and feel of ThisWayToCPA. CPAs-to-be aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of group. What we found was that they vary in ambitions, in concerns, in school colors.

    However, they do share some common challenges: deciphering between accountants and CPAs, being labeled a bean counter, finding others like them, stepping into the real world with their first jobs, and conquering the difficult CPA Exam. Equally important, they wanted a resource that was both honest and entertaining. To leave out the business speak and give them real advice. To give them something with ego and inside jokes. Something a friend could stumble upon and be a bit jealous of.

    Besides the homepage, what is the feature of the site that is most frequented by visitors? Is that by design?

    The Exam & Licensure section is consistently one of the most visited sections of ThisWayToCPA. We knew before we launched that one of the most challenging parts of becoming a CPA is making it through the CPA Exam. We examined the structure and organization of the four sections of the Exam, and the answer became obvious: we had to position as the go-to resource to help students plan for the exam, stay on track and make it through the licensure process.

    We developed the Exam & Licensure section on the site as a way to help exam takers throughout that process. There are several interactive and heavily trafficked features that support exam takers at every step, such as State Requirements, CPA Exam Aid mobile app, and CPA Exam Diaries.

    How did you all feel upon winning the All Media Publisher’s Choice Award?

    We could not be more excited! It is such an honor to receive the All Media Publisher’s Choice Award. We’d like to thank Association TRENDS for presenting us with the award and look forward to bringing our latest innovations to the contest in 2013.

    To enter the TRENDS 2013 All Media Contest, click here.

    Association TRENDS