IRS Public Relations, Wednesday Waste?

Wednesday Waste | February 22, 2012

We can all agree that good publicity is expensive. We have Hollywood, sports and big business to show us that spending $3.5 million dollars on a super bowl ad can make a difference, but how much is it worth to government agencies? What about publicity for the IRS?

Public relations firm Porter Novelli has held a contract with the Internal Revenue Service for the past 4 years totaling $17.5 million dollars in revenue for the PR firm. According to the Wall Street Journal the firm has reached the maximum allowable amount to be billed by law, leaving the IRS looking for a new firm. The agency is offering a maximum of $15 million dollars over a 5 year contract, to firms willing to bid. With the IRS ranking just above Congress and the Department of Education in a 2010 Pew Research Survey measuring favorability, it begs the question if the money could not be spent elsewhere.

The solicitation lists different communications priorities for the agency. Designing national informational campaigns, notifying the public about new tax provisions and market research are at the top of the list for the IRS. Though the first two priorities seem in line with objectives for the agency, how could market research be of benefit? According the same Pew Research Survey, the agency receives a near split of 40% saying the agency does a good job or better, 54% saying a fair or poor job and 6% without an opinion.

While we can expect firms to bid on the contract during the year, the whole idea of public relations for the IRS has David Bauman, the PR consultant representing Metta World Peace, saying, ”For the IRS, the first thing to do would be to change your name.” What do you think? Should the IRS spend $15 million dollars on public relations? Let us know in the comments.

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