Accountants And Blogs

As you all know, I check my statistics on a daily basis and catch any new referring sites pretty quickly.  I am especially interested in the big sites and the international sites.  Every once an a while I see a link from an interesting new site far away from the blustery weather of Chicago.

I’ve recently noticed referrals from a new site based in Indonesia, Audit-Me.    Hardi Cheng, the author, actually has two blogs, this one and one focused on tax issues specifically.  
Take a look!
Hardi describes Audit-Me as such:
“I created this blog particularly to share the knowledge and information regarding accounting and auditing issues with anybody interested. The complexity and rapid growth of international accounting and auditing issues nowadays require us to always stay up-to date with related information. Hopefully,  this blog will be able to fulfill such needs. You can find me at KAP Johan Malonda Astika & Rekan (Indonesia, Medan Branch) an independent member of Baker Tilly International. For anybody interested in taxation matters in conjunction with Indonesian Tax Regulation, you’re welcome to visit my other blog at : 

Thank you for stopping by and I wish you a nice day. 
Regards – Hardi” 

Hardi is an accountant who also works for a firm in Indonesia and, as such, is walking that fine line between self-promotion and building his own brand and loyalty and devotion to his firm.   
Can you have a blog and also work at a public accounting firm?  
Well, there are some models for how it might be done…  One good one is Neil McIntyre, a professional at BDO in Toronto and an avid, devoted, sometimes fairly outspoken blogger about accounting issues on his own, non-firm-sponsored site.  He is careful to never talk about his clients, but he does sometimes talk about his firm.  He also contributes to the official BDO blog on occasion.  He has struck the right balance between his own interests and the interests of his firm. 
I also see many semi-personal,  semi-professional blogs and the bloggers are not always as careful about what they discuss.  Many post pictures from firm events, talk about their gripes and gripe about their colleagues.  This is a dangerous practice. Dangerous in that your firm can see this information, too, and decide you may not understand the word “discretion.”
Then there are the professionals who pen the official blogs at the firms, such as Cordie’s blog at PwC.  This is a blessed, officially edited (and censored) piece of PR and not a true blog from an individual.  It should be no surprise that after her stint as the official audit rookie who blogs, Cordie got a job in PwC recruiting!
Finally there are the actual personal blogs of individuals who happen to also work at an audit firm. They are usually anonymous and may contain both embarrassing personal as well as incriminating professional information. Be careful out there!
If you have a personal blog while you are in college or at another job and you want to continue it after joining an audit firm, you should be very conscious and cautious of the type of personal and professional information you publish.  If there was embarrassing personal info on the blog prior, shut it down and start fresh.  You may be able to restrict access and limit exposure to history.  
Audit firms are notoriously conservative, for a good reason.  They are in the client service business and will avoid anything that will anger or embarrass them in front of clients or anger or embarrass a client.  It’s bad business.
In my case, I am independent, so I do not have a boss, but I do have clients.  I take my obligations  with regard to confidentiality of client information very seriously.

My clients and any other relevant colleagues are made aware of the blog.  I don’t want to surprise anyone.   I hope they they consider it an expression of my interests and expertise. 

They should know that any conversations are considered confidential unless I am told otherwise.  They are also aware that I always ask a lot of questions and am often curious about issues that are not my immediate responsibility.  That’s probably because I am researching a potential post.
I follow a strict policy of not writing about clients, even if what I am posting is publicly available information.  If you do write about current or prior clients, you run the risk of anything you write being viewed as based on confidential information.  
I also run the risk now that someone could say I am not writing about a particular company because I want to do business with them again or that I am protecting them in some way. In that case, I point them to my disclaimer…
A potential new boss should be made aware that you have a blog if it is professionally oriented and discusses topics that are related to your job.  They will probably want to have a say in whether or not you can continue to blog. Many firms would not appreciate it unless they could control it. They run the risk that readers believe you are writing about their firm or their clients.  Even if the blog is anonymous or you don’t mention your employer, your firm still might believe they have a risk.