I have been thinking about how much I should share here about the issue that my stepmother is facing with H&R Block. And then I realized that this is a live case study of poor public relations by H&R Block; so let’s dive in.

I’ll start off with the fact that the person who did my stepmother’s tax return was inept and clearly not experienced or skilled enough for the job. While this professional incompetence has absolutely nothing to do with PR, it does lead right into the controversy that started because of an ad campaign by Intuit (parent company of TurboTax). The ads showcased how horrified people were when they realized that the person who prepared their tax return also worked as a plumber or a retail sales clerk. Check out the commercial accompanying this blog post. Here’s another.

H&R Block went to court and tried to “block” the ads. That failed. They then attempted a push back with a social media campaign with #IAMHRBLOCK that featured snapshots of its tax-preparing “professionals” holding up signs – many of which said what they did for a living… It’s quite the list: air traffic controller, Zumba instructor, a guy who owns a power washing company… not quite the kinds of people that you would expect to have the skills, education and experience necessary to understand the complex world of tax returns. (I’m not saying that some of them don’t have the necessary skills and knowledge; it’s just that when you hear the words “tax expert” – you don’t think of the guy who power washes your house.)

While there are some with day jobs that are more closely aligned with what we would expect from someone who calls themselves a “tax expert” – what I want to know is when a person like my stepmother sits down to have her taxes prepared at H&R Block, does that person disclose what their real job is? I love my Zumba instructor, but I wouldn’t want her to do my taxes.

Today, I am reaching out to Intuit President and CEO Brad Smith. Perhaps TurboTax will want to launch a new campaign, showcasing people like my stepmother who are the casualties here – the “regular” people that H&R Block swears it serves, but who are completely abandoned by H&R Block once they get their hands on their fees. I can see the hashtag now: #IAMHRBLOCKED.

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