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Need a Challenge? The IRS Needs PR
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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As the apple fell into 2012 and resolutions were already beginning to break, people were thinking about two things: 1. Who in the hell are these Mayan people? and 2. Oh crap, I need to get ready for taxes. It's not like people enjoy collecting the past year's receipts and imagining how much they will owe to that drunk, crusty curmudgeon known as "Uncle Sam."

Quite the opposite, actually. People like the IRS about as much as a root canal, losing a job, or anyone with the last name "Kardashian." 

From the IRS tax code to the lovely customer service you receive when you call said customer service, people have an angst for this federal agency unlike many others. Yet, here they are, according this blog post in the Wall Street Journal, looking for an agency of record...and willing to pay $15 million over four years for battle dues and war wounds...er, agency fees to do it. 

The nation's tax collector wants a "full service communications marketing company" to help convey its "corporate vision and goals," according to a 49-page solicitation sent to 12 agencies. The winner's duties could include market research, educating the public about new tax provisions, and designing national information campaigns. 

Sorry? A 49-page solicitation?! That's our government in action, ladies and gents. I'm sure that was double-sided, so good on them, right? Can you name one person that likes the IRS? And if they say that they do, would you honestly say that they exude a peculiar 180-proof scent? Sure, this would be appealing for most PR professionals, but talk about a thankless job. 

"Hey Mom and Dad. Guess what? I made the IRS look good today." 
[crickets]
"Guys? You hear me. I represent the IRS and a national story I secured really presented them in a positive light. Aren't you proud?" 
[dial tone] 

There's not much more to that conversation. Don't believe me? Just ask these esteemed guys who were quoted in the blog post: 

"Advancing the interests of the North Korean leadership at the moment would be harder than the IRS," suggested Matthew Harrington, chief executive officer of public relations powerhouse Edelman U.S.  "The U.S. prison in Guantanamo could prove a harder sell," said Mr. [Grover] Norquist [president of Americans for Tax Reform]. "It's just a little less scary than that." 

I would just as soon ask to be Bobby Brown's publicist than have this gig. At least with Mr. "Don't Be Cruel" there would be comic relief. Then again, the $15 million price tag made me laugh. A little.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is G.M. and PR Director at Bolt PR in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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