Believe it or not the IRS is a brand: it has a public mission and vision statement, a prolific identity and image, targeted communications, a plethora products and services and a unique style of operations from any other type of service provider in the category. And in this disconsolate period of scandal, accusation and evidence of “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups by the IRS, it’s not so much about the why it’s about the moment and the IRS needs to respond boldly with precision to reinsert its mission:
“Provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.”
Clearly in light of recent events matters are at a division of deep regret from the top down. Therefore, marshaling a crisis team and a response plan are critical with a unified leadership approach given that the web crawlers are in frenzy over this story that has T1 pipes rattling with all the feeds. This is why in this case the IRS needs to centralize decision-making in light of the voracious appetite of the media and blogosphere. The problem isn’t resources; it’s about managing the crisis with a can-do culture and strong values of trust that the leadership team (at the time) broke and now threatens to exacerbate Washington’s deeply entrenched partisan atmosphere.
When you need to be impactful, strong and rapid to answer the massive sense of anger from the public, hide nothing and tell all is the key lesson. Right now the IRSs reputation is shattered, US media is rabid, the current leadership is in tatters, the country is in rage, politicians are split, and our trust (even if most of us dislike the IRS) has been abused causing a widening sense of despair and desperation.
Therefore, in a crisis that deracinates your heritage it’s essential to know what makes you special, wrap up the past and blast in to the present: People often don’t know what they want until you show it to them. The IRS brand has relied on its authenticity and people are more likely to change perception in response to swift and certain actions rather than waiting for severe ones that likely won’t be peremptory.
In the IRSs advantage, brands who immediately admit they’re not invincible tend to fall lighter or not lose their reputation so dramatically. The IRS has dragged itself into war it created, its recent history needs an injection of tomorrow and that needs to happen today to ratify who they are and what they believe longer term. This is a sinister moment for the IRS to be ambitious, a moment where we will see what they’re made of, and determined leadership is required that has cold contempt for those involved in this debacle and emphasizes that the IRS was led at the time by a Bush administration appointee!
The IRSs leadership team needs to turn the hard into the possible with an ambitious ‘public’ program. Hopefully they have already set up a special group that has no ties or involvement with the case and ‘no comment’ rules whose focus is solely on the publicized efforts of the IRS. To do so the IRS needs to find their True North that will grow new, bold and exciting ways to entice the peoples trust back without all the morass of information and chatter. It’s easy to lose sight of strategy: those involved must be jettisoned and the IRS needs to choose a lane – highway or mountain pass.