PR and the IRS Scandals

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With a blog called "PR Matters," I thought it was time for me to chime in about the most recent IRS scandals, namely the Conference Overspending/Line Dancing and the suspension of two IRS officials for accepting gifts.

I'm not going to comment on the fact that this is just another red flag for the IRS' image; I still DO believe, however, that the IRS is trying to be kinder and gentler. And, if you stop to think about it, all of us attend conferences and team building events that border on the ridiculous. This time, of course, the IRS was front and center with a viral video that served as a black mark against an agency that is supposed to be serving the people.

What's the PR lesson here? Transparency, of course. From what I can tell, the IRS has responded to the news quite well. I am very sure that there are trained media advisors working with the IRS to ensure transparency and answer any and all media inquiries as honest as possible.

Transparency is the key. Let's say your firm or company is investigated for something inappropriate. No matter how bad it may be, never, and I mean NEVER:

  • say "no comment." That implies you have something to hide.
  • avoid taking the media's phone calls or emails. That implies you have something to hide.
  • put the blame on someone else. That implies you have something to hide.

See a pattern here? You want to be responsive, but you also want to be prudent enough to devise a strategy for responding to the media. The best advice is to be prepared with a crisis plan before something bad happens. I guarantee you the IRS has a well-documented plan in place.

For now, let's see how the situation plays itself out.


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Excellent advice about being transparent and forthright from the start. Unfortunately most companies and organizations don't have a strategy in place to deal with these sudden public calamities and end up tripping over themselves trying to figure out what to do, making things worse.

Thanks Steve - I completely agree, of course. Most don't know how to figure this out before it's too late!