11.53.2  SB/SE CSO Communications

Manual Transmittal

April 23, 2013


(1) This transmits a revision to IRM 11.53.2, Communications & Liaison, Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE), Communications and Stakeholder Outreach (CSO), Communications - Internal, External & Web Communications.

Material Changes

(1) Editorial changes were made throughout to update organizational references, clarify guidance, and to make the text easier to follow and use electronically.

(2) This IRM contains the activities of the CSO Communications Office and should be used in conjunction with other program/management documents.

Effect on Other Documents

This material supersedes IRM 11.53.2, SB/SE Communications dated December 20, 2011.


Small Business/Self Employed Employees

Effective Date


Phyllis T. Grimes
Acting Director, Communications and Stakeholder Outreach  (04-23-2013)
Mission of the SB/SE Communications Office

  1. The mission of SB/SE Communications is to help the SB/SE Operating Division fulfill the strategic plan and the mission of the IRS. The role of SB/SE Communications is to advance the division in meeting its business objectives through expert communication planning, support for all SB/SE functions, and support and delivery of servicewide IRS initiatives. In consultation with the business owners, SB/SE Communications designs, develops and implements communication strategies and plans, and delivers communications for internal and external stakeholders.

  2. To accomplish the mission, the Director, Communications and staff will:

    1. Consult with SB/SE functions to develop and implement integrated strategic communication plans that encompass ongoing and emerging issues.

    2. Provide communication planning and support to the SB/SE functions.

    3. Work with SB/SE business owners to enhance program understanding and taxpayer compliance.

    4. Identify objectives and key messages along with the appropriate communication products and delivery channels that leverage relationships with stakeholder groups to deliver SB/SE and IRS messages.

    5. Establish and maintain effective collaborative relationships with key internal and external stakeholders.

    6. Support marketing efforts to the practitioner and small business communities by implementing communication plans.

    7. Ensure appropriate communication linkages exist across SB/SE operating units and with other IRS business operating divisions and functions.

    8. Support servicewide realignment issues, as applicable.

  3. The Director, Communications reports to the Director, Communications and Stakeholder Outreach (CSO).

  4. The following managers report to the Director, Communications:

    • Chief, Planning and Support Branch 1

    • Chief, Planning and Support Branch 2

    • Chief, Web Communications Branch

  5. Two branches have an embedded subgroup with a front-line manager:

    • Product Development Group is in Planning and Support Branch 1.

    • Visual Communications Group is in the Web Branch.  (04-23-2013)
Communication Resources and Tools

  1. The SB/SE Outreach Initiatives Database or OID (search Outreach Initiatives Database on MySB/SE) contains a consolidated summary of current SB/SE outreach initiatives, delivery schedules and related products. SB/SE employees use the OID to retrieve information about SB/SE programs for external outreach. Servicewide initiatives that require SB/SE outreach delivery are also included on the database. The database also features an internal section visible only to SB/SE Communications staff for communication plans and internal initiatives, communication vehicles and products. Analysts are responsible for uploading communication plans and products for their respective programs and keeping the information current during delivery time frames. Products on the OID that are not to be printed and distributed as handouts, such as talking points, should include an "internal reference" watermark.

  2. Each quarter SB/SE Communications develops an updated list of outreach priorities and shares it with liaisons conducting education and outreach. A designated analyst requests updates through the team leads of each branch within SB/SE Communications. Other sources for suggested topics are CSO Headquarters and Stakeholder Liaison Field and other IRS business operating divisions. Team leads review the OID views for which their branch or group is responsible and, in consultation with the managers, work with analysts assigned OID views to determine which topics and views should be updated, added, or deleted from the priority listing. Topics for the priority list must have at least one product (e.g. talking points, PowerPoint). Then, the designated analyst:

    • Consolidates the list of items received from the team leads.

    • Compares the list with existing content.

    • Sends a preliminary list to CSO Headquarters and Stakeholder Liaison (SL) points of contact (POCs) for comment.

    • Edits pages for outreach priorities, outreach messages/OID and Stakeholder Liaison on MySB/SE with the updated content after comments have been reviewed and considered.

    • Informs Stakeholder Liaison Field and CSO Headquarters personnel that outreach priorities are updated and asks them to share the priorities with their teams.  (04-23-2013)
Communication and Planning

  1. The outcome of thorough communication planning is a comprehensive communication strategy. The process begins with the initial contact between the analyst and a client, proceeds through consultation, and concludes with development and implementation of the strategic and/or tactical communication plan.

  2. This section describes how to prepare and deliver a communication plan.  (04-23-2013)
Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Integrated strategic communication in SB/SE supports and helps deliver the IRS strategic plan. Strategic communication should:

    1. Communicate the goals of the IRS and SB/SE.

    2. Change behavior, and/or inform, educate and increase awareness about the organization through accurate content and actionable key messages to internal and external audiences.

    3. Influence voluntary compliance of tax laws.

  2. Communication analysts in the Communication Planning and Support Branches, the Web Communications Branch and the groups that report to these branches fulfill specific program responsibilities listed in the contacts directory on MySB/SE.  (04-23-2013)
Communication Planning - Stages

  1. The communication analyst assigned to a client, program, or initiative gathers information through research and by conducting an initial client interview. The analyst engages in an ongoing consulting relationship with the executive client or their staff to aid in accurately identifying business and communication objectives.

  2. Analysts should use templates available on SharePoint to guide the discussion during the initial contact and to draft a jointly-owned strategic and/or tactical communication plan, as appropriate.

  3. A strategic communication plan is a comprehensive document that includes:

    • SB/SE and/or servicewide strategy that the communication strategy supports.

    • Identified business and communication objectives.

    • Target audience(s).

    • Key messages for each audience.

    • Environmental scan to determine .conditions that might help or hinder communications.

    • Communication strategy that will be employed.

    • Tactical section that identifies:
      • Communication products
      • Vehicles
      • Responsible persons

  4. The plan is a working document subject to change; therefore, it should be marked "DRAFT" until approved by the client and the Director, Communications or his/her designee.

  5. Not all assigned projects require full strategic communication plans. For communication actions not requiring strategies, use only the tactical plan (product grid).

  6. Both strategic and tactical communication plans require clearance, including:

    1. Technical review by client.

    2. Sign-off by Manager, Communications.

    3. Final review by client.

    Provide copy to client, manager, and project backup. The communication analyst will provide final, approved copies to the client, communication manager, project backup (Communications), and post the plan to the OID.

  7. Communication plans are working documents, subject to change throughout their implementation. The communication analyst and business owner share responsibility to deliver the plans, and the communication analyst is responsible for keeping them current.  (04-23-2013)
Working With Other Functional and Operating Divisions

  1. SB/SE communication analysts develop and maintain relationships and share information with their counterparts in other IRS functions and operating divisions (i.e., W&I, LB&I, TAS) using appropriate channels. Analysts in field and campus PODs must maintain regular contact in their geographic areas and in other campuses as appropriate.

  2. When exchanging information with analysts outside SB/SE Communications, communication analysts must observe the chain of command and protocol for all divisions and functions. They should also use discretion in matters of policy to avoid requesting or disclosing sensitive or proprietary information.

  3. Analysts assigned to a cross-functional project team that includes communicators from other divisions or functions may discuss matters pertaining to the project. Analysts should use discretion in discussing or exchanging information that exceeds the project's scope. When in doubt, the analyst should consult with the manager, team leader or other designated contact who may elevate the issue to the Director, Communications or designated official in the pertinent operating division or function.

  4. This section does not apply to media contacts or queries.  (04-23-2013)
Communication Standards

  1. SB/SE Communications strives to achieve clear, concise, and active communications. Writing style conforms to Associated Press standards. The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is the designated writing style guide, supplemented by the IRS Communicators' Style Guide. Resources for writers are on MySB/SE.  (04-23-2013)
Communication Vehicles

  1. SB/SE Communications owns several vehicles that reach internal and external audiences and has access to vehicles owned by non-SB/SE communications organizations. Communication analysts select the most appropriate vehicle(s) to distribute key messages and other information and coordinate with non-SB/SE communicators to reach audiences outside SB/SE. A chart with detailed information on communication vehicles is available on SharePoint.

    1. Push communications alert readers to news, such as via e-mail. Push is two-way, customized and sender accountable. Users receive communications without actively seeking them.

    2. Pull communications offer readers the opportunity to seek information through the intranet. Pull is one-way, mass and receiver accountable. In the virtual world, pull communications include blogs, wikis, and websites. Users elect if, when, and how they will act on the messages in the pull model of communications.

  2. The Plain Writing Act interim guidance as set forth by the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), can also be accessed at www.plainlanguage.gov.

  3. SB/SE-owned communication tools and/or vehicles that reach internal audiences:

    1. SB/SE Outreach Initiatives database is a consolidated summary of all SB/SE external communication activities and related products. This application is primarily designed for SB/SE Stakeholder Liaison (SL) employees involved in conducting outreach, but it may also be useful to other SB/SE employees and managers to ensure consistent messages about SB/SE programs are used with all external audiences (pull).

    2. SB/SE WebConnection is an online newsletter for SB/SE employees (pull). On a biweekly basis, a push e-mail is sent to all SB/SE employees directing them to the newsletter and the current articles (push).

    3. SB/SE Collection News, SB/SE Exam News and SB/SE Specialty News are function-specific e-newsletters sent to those functions' business unit employees (push).

    4. SB/SE Headline News contains issues of interest to SB/SE employees. Weekly highlights sent by e-mail to SB/SE employees link to intranet content (push).

    5. SB/SE Managers' Messages contains issues of interest to SB/SE managers. Weekly highlights sent by e-mail to SB/SE managers link to intranet content (push).

    6. SB/SE Commissioner's Messages contains topical weekly e-mails for all SB/SE employees (push). These messages are linked on the MySB/SE home page under Commissioner's Focus.

    7. MySB/SE Reader Poll contains recurring questions and answers on a variety of topics, posted on MySB/SE for all SB/SE employees (pull). The Reader Poll is located on the MySB/SE home page in the bottom left corner.

    8. SB/SE's Business Unit News (BUN) is a link from IRWeb to content posted on MySB/SE of interest to all IRS employees (pull). The BUN is located on IRWeb in the "News From the Business Units" section.

  4. SB/SE communication analysts should consult with servicewide Internal Communications on using the following communication vehicles to reach all IRS employees with information of interest to a servicewide audience:

    1. IRWebbies - Headline items posted at the top of IRWeb (pull)

    2. IRS Headlines - Weekly e-mail to all IRS employees linking to intranet content (push)

    3. Leaders' Alert - Weekly e-mail to all IRS managers (push)

    4. What Do You Think?- Poll questions on IRWeb (pull)

    5. The Source - Newsletter for all IRS communicators (pull)

  5. SB/SE owns several communication vehicles that reach external audiences, including:

    1. IRS e-News for Small Businesses, e-mails linking to content on IRS.gov (push to subscribers; subscription option available on IRS.gov).

    2. IRS e-News for Payroll Professionals, e-mails linking to content on IRS.gov (push to subscribers; subscription option available on IRS.gov).

    3. Stakeholder Headliners, e-articles posted on IRS.gov, cascaded electronically by Stakeholder Liaison (SL) to stakeholders, and linked from e-News for Small Businesses or e-News for Tax Professionals (pull and push).

    4. SSA/IRS Reporter, a quarterly newsletter posted on IRS.gov for employers, payroll professionals, and others who deal with payroll taxes and employee issues (pull).

    5. Webinars, Webcasts, and IRS Live, online training opportunities streamed live and/or archived for later viewing.

    6. Practitioner/Small Business Forums/Meetings, face-to-face events hosted nationally and locally by SL to provide updates on SB/SE programs and policies to stakeholder organizations (pull).

    7. Congressional Update is a newsletter issued at least three times each year that provides information on IRS programs and initiatives to Congressional members and staff. The newsletter is produced as a joint effort among Governmental Liaison, Taxpayer Advocate's Office, Legislative Affairs, and SB/SE Communications (push).

    8. Video Portal is SB/SE's resource for video and audio files for external communications (pull; push when a video is linked from a Headliner or SB/SE page on IRS.gov).

    9. IRS YouTube channel, Small Business playlist (pull; push when a video is linked from a Headliner or SB/SE page on IRS.gov).

  6. IRS Communications and Liaison Office offers several communication vehicles that reach external audiences. SB/SE communication analysts should coordinate placement through the SB/SE communication analyst or branch chief who serves as the liaison with the C&L program owner for each of the following vehicles:

    1. IRS News Releases - Announcements dropped to the tax services and issued to the media by IRS Media Relations (push)

    2. IRS Fact Sheets - Topical information issued to the media by IRS Media Relations (push)

    3. IRS Tax Tips - Issued to the media by IRS Media Relations daily during filing season (push)

    4. IRS e-News for Tax Professionals and e-News for Fed-State- e-mails linking to content on IRS.gov (push to subscribers; option available on IRS.gov)

    5. Nationwide Tax Forums - IRS events for tax professionals held in six locations each summer (push)

    6. IRS YouTube channel - (pull; push when linked from news releases)  (04-23-2013)
Planning and Support Branches 1 and 2

  1. The role of the SB/SE Planning and Support Branches is to develop and manage communications for targeted SB/SE employee audiences and to collaborate with others in delivering key messages to internal and external audiences. Internal audiences may include all IRS employees and subsets such as SB/SE employees, SB/SE managers, etc. External audiences include the public and subsets such as tax professionals, small businesses, stakeholder groups, etc.

  2. Chiefs, Planning and Support Branches 1 and 2 report to the Director, Communications.

  3. Chiefs, Planning and Support Branches 1 and 2 and staff:

    1. Consult with SB/SE business owners to plan strategic communications for SB/SE initiatives.

    2. Develop and deliver strategic and/or tactical communication plans.

    3. Support SB/SE functions by developing and delivering communications for targeted internal and external audiences, as appropriate.

    4. Identify key messages and deliver them using appropriate communication products and delivery channels, with a focus on electronic channels.

    5. Collaborate with the Web Communications branch and other IRS communications functions to reach targeted internal and external groups.

    6. Establish and maintain effective relationships with key internal and external stakeholders.

    7. Support marketing efforts to the practitioner and small business communities by implementing communication plans.

    8. Support communications with external stakeholder groups by developing educational products and programs that support outreach.

    9. Meet SB/SE executives' communication needs through messaging development and distribution.

  4. One Product Development Group manager reports to the Chief, Planning and Support Branch 1.  (04-23-2013)
Communications for External Audiences

  1. The Planning and Support Branches are responsible for developing, finalizing, and distributing communications that reach targeted external audiences, including small businesses, industry groups, employers and tax professionals, using specific communication vehicles. Distributions are made directly to the target audience and/or through SB/SE functions with stakeholder relationships, such as Stakeholder Liaison, Media Relations, and others.  (04-23-2013)
Communications for Internal Audiences

  1. The Planning and Support Branches are responsible for developing, finalizing, and distributing communications that reach targeted internal audiences. Distributions are made directly to the target audience through SB/SE internal communication channels or distributed using appropriate non-SB/SE IRS communication channels.

  2. Designated coordinators send story ideas, photographs, completed stories, and their accompanying links as well as other submissions to the assigned SB/SE communications analyst or designated co-analyst.  (04-23-2013)
SB/SE Commissioner's Executive Messages

  1. The Planning and Support Branch 1 is responsible for coordination and clearance for the SB/SE Commissioner's messages to employees.  (04-23-2013)
Process for Executive Messages

  1. The SB/SE Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner provide topics generated by cadre for weekly messages.

  2. Messages are drafted by the members of the Writers’ Cadre.

  3. Weekly conference calls are held with the Writers’ Cadre to discuss topics, share ideas and solicit volunteers for future messages.

  4. When appropriate, the assigned analyst will consult with the business owner to ensure accuracy of the message.

  5. The analyst forwards the final draft message to the Communications Technical Advisor, who coordinates the review and edit of content through the CSO director's office and sends it to the SB/SE Commissioner's staff for final approval. If any edits significantly affect content at any point in the clearance process, it is returned to the analyst to secure the client's concurrence.

  6. The final approved weekly message from the SB/SE Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner is usually delivered via an all SB/SE employee e-mail on Fridays and posted to My SB/SE in the Executive Message section and any comments from employees are monitored and approved.  (04-23-2013)
International Visitors Program

  1. SB/SE Communications serves as SB/SE's liaison with the Large Business and International Operating Division, that coordinates requests under the IRS International Visitors Program (IVP).

  2. The IVP provides foreign officials with opportunities to discuss tax administration matters with IRS officials and observe IRS operations. LB&I's IVP office uses specific guidelines for approving visits and briefings and generally works through a network of contacts in IRS operating divisions, including SB/SE, to facilitate these requests. The IVP office reviews each request to ensure it is from a proper government taxing authority from that country. Private citizens generally are not approved for visits or briefings and are referred to other sources (i.e., a student studying in the U.S. working on an advanced degree, or research paper on U.S. taxation policy).

  3. All requests for SB/SE participation in the IVP should be directed to the Communications project manager.  (04-23-2013)
Liaison with HQ Media Relations

  1. The Planning and Support Branches (PSB) are responsible for coordinating with servicewide Communications and Liaison on communications that are nationwide in scope and appropriate for distribution to the general public through the news media. Communication products may include news releases, fact sheets, tax tips, and other vehicles owned by Headquarters Media Relations.  (04-23-2013)
Responsibilities and Process

  1. A PSB Chief or an SB/SE communication analyst serves as liaison with HQ Media Relations on all national news issues. All contacts between HQ Media Relations and SB/SE employees, managers or executives will normally be coordinated through the designated PSB liaison.

  2. Before developing communications for release to the news media, the SB/SE communication analyst with program responsibility for the content must obtain confirmation from HQ Media Relations (through the PSB liaison) that the subject matter is appropriate for news outlets and confirm the timing. The analyst should also allow at least a six-week window prior to the intended date of issuance. This analyst may be from any SB/SE Communications branch, depending on the program.

  3. The communication analyst works with the program owner to obtain subject matter information.

  4. Either Media Relations or the SB/SE communication analyst drafts the content to ensure proper format and clarity.

  5. The analyst secures all appropriate reviews, which may include review for style by an SB/SE Communications Branch Chief or delegate and review for accuracy by subject matter experts, IRS Counsel, and other technical reviewers. The program owner should provide final review and approval, with the understanding that the content remains subject to edits by Media Relations.

  6. The PSB liaison forwards the product to Media Relations, for finalizing and issuing the communication to the media. Media Relations may also coordinate with IRS Counsel and Treasury on final reviews and approvals.

  7. When the IRS news release, fact sheet, or tax tip is issued electronically to media and posted to IRS.gov and the intranet, the analyst may coordinate with other PSB analysts and/or the Web Communications Branch on additional internal communications, including links from MySB/SE. The analyst is responsible for posting Web links to the documents on the SB/SE Outreach Initiatives Database as appropriate.

  8. The directory listing SB/SE communication analysts' program assignments is on MySB/SE.  (04-23-2013)
Media Queries

  1. A media query is a request by the news media for information they may need for a news story. Inquiries include requests for official comments, interviews, and fact checking.

  2. Due to the sensitive nature of media queries, timely and accurate action is essential.  (04-23-2013)
Roles and Responsibilities

  1. HQ Media Relations receives and responds to inquiries from national media such as:

    • The Wall Street Journal

    • New York Times

    • Washington Post

    • USA Today

    • Nationally circulated magazines and the tax press

  2. Requests are coordinated through the IRS Headquarters Media Relations office. The HQ Media Relations office will contact the SB/SE CSO or Communications director or a PSB Branch Chief or liaison for assistance as appropriate with SB/SE related inquiries.

  3. The PSB liaison contacts the analyst(s) assigned to the appropriate program(s) (i.e., Exam, Specialty) requesting either answers to questions or the name of a subject matter expert or executive to respond directly to the reporter. The assigned analyst contacts the appropriate business owner to obtain the information and forwards the response to the PSB liaison. In certain cases, the liaison may contact the business owner directly. The Director, Communications must approve responses to sensitive inquiries and requests for executive interviews.

  4. Inquiries from local media and niche media, such as industry specific magazines, may be coordinated through the IRS Field Media Relations (FMR) offices. FMR specialists will contact the PSB liaison as appropriate with SB/SE related inquiries. Field or campus SB/SE communication analysts contacted by FMR specialists regarding media queries should refer them to the PSB media liaison.  (04-23-2013)
Mailbox Approvals

  1. All requests originating in SB/SE for an organization mailbox with an @irs.gov e-mail address are subject to approval by SB/SE Communications.

  2. The originator submitting the OS GetServices request should select the assigned analyst in PSB 2 as the approver and provide the following information:

    1. Justification for the mailbox

    2. Whether the requested mailbox is for internal and/or external use

    3. Proposed name of the mailbox (Note: all SB/SE mailboxes must begin with *SBSE)

    4. Designated mailbox owner, authorized users and their SEIDs

    5. Whether the mailbox requires secure messaging  (04-23-2013)
IRS e-News for Small Businesses and IRS e-News for Payroll Professionals

  1. An SB/SE communication analyst in a PSB has primary responsibility as editor for e-News for Small Businesses and e-News for Payroll Professionals. The editor will collect and edit articles, format the newsletters and prepare them for electronic distribution. Before release, the editor should confirm content, timing and any substantive changes to draft articles with the analyst who has program responsibility for the subject matter.

  2. Other SB/SE communication analysts will contribute articles containing content supporting their assigned programs, as appropriate, for these two IRS e-newsletters.

  3. The e-News editor also serves as SB/SE's liaison for other IRS newsletters listed on the IRS.gov Subscription Services page. Analysts with content for those newsletters should contact the editor.

  4. The directory listing SB/SE communication analysts' program assignments is on MySB/SE. The Subscription Services page is on IRS.gov (search under Subscription Services).  (04-23-2013)
SB/SE Headliners

  1. A Stakeholder Partners' Headliner is a short article that highlights new information on IRS.gov or serves as a reminder of important posted information. Its content should be brief and nontechnical and will generally link to an IRS.gov page with detailed information.

  2. Communication analysts generally propose topics for Stakeholder Partners' Headliner articles in response to requests surfaced through the Issue Management Resolution System or at a business owner's request.

  3. The communication analyst assigned to the article works with the business owner to ensure it is topic-specific and conveys appropriate key messages. The analyst may draft the communication for the business owner's approval. If the business owner or designee drafts the Headliner article, the analyst should review and edit the article.

  4. The business owner should provide the communication analyst with a subject matter expert to provide background information, supporting documentation, and review Headliner drafts.

  5. After the analyst completes the article and secures the business owner's approval, the analyst forwards the draft along with a document clearance form to the appropriate branch chief for approval.

  6. The branch chief reviews and approves the article and forwards it and the clearance form to the communication analyst assigned to coordinate Headliners.

  7. The communication analyst assigned to Headliners reviews the article, makes any required style edits, and prepares a content publishing request to post the Headliner, usually within three business days.

  8. The directory listing SB/SE communication analysts' program assignments is on MySB/SE.  (04-23-2013)
Product Development

  1. Requests for products such as talking points, fact sheets, PowerPoint presentations, drop-in articles, videos, brochures, etc. will generally originate from the following:

    1. Business owner request for outreach (via the communication analyst who supports the business unit): SB/SE Communications support analysts should continue to develop their own outreach materials to support their communication plans.

    2. Employees in outreach-conducting organizations: Stakeholder Liaison should use the IMRS process to request products. The focus of the request should be on the desired outcome, i.e., education or awareness for a targeted audience, and not the product itself. More information about IMRS outreach product requests and guidance is available at IRM (3) c).

    3. Proactive determination by SB/SE Communications: Multiple products may be developed to support an issue or initiative, or to facilitate outreach in various ways to varied audiences.

  2. Primary responsibility for product development continues to reside with the support analyst.

  3. The support analyst will determine whether any additional business owner and/or Counsel review(s) and approval(s) is/are necessary. If additional review is required, the support analyst will secure approvals.


    If Counsel review is required, the support analyst will use the established process for requesting review through the Communications director, and highlight the change(s) so Counsel can readily identify the portion(s) needing review.  (04-23-2013)
Commissioner's Talking Points

  1. SB/SE Communications is responsible for creating talking points for the SB/SE Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner for external events and employee organization events. The SB/SE commissioner's staff creates their talking points for continuing professional education events. The designated communication analyst will take the following steps to create talking points:

    1. Secure background information on the event from designated contacts within CSO Headquarters (CSO HQ) for external events and from Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for employee organization events. Background information includes:
      • Event name
      • Event theme
      • External event point of contact
      • Length of speech
      • Topics for speech
      • Presentation format
      • Audience description and size
      • Other participants if a panel discussion
      • Any other pertinent information, including issues or concerns specific to the particular group

    2. Stakeholder Liaison Field (SLF), CSO HQ, and EDI are responsible for expeditiously providing background information to the designated communication analyst to begin drafting talking points and to meet planning and preparation deadlines for the executives. If any additional information is needed for external events, SLF or CSO HQ will coordinate a conference call with the designated communications analyst, SLF, CSO HQ, and the external stakeholder.

    3. Refer to points of contact designated for each SB/SE function for timely, accurate and relevant talking points on requested topics. Some other sources of information for talking points are:
      • PSB 2 SharePoint site, which contains folders with final speeches and content
      • Outreach Initiatives Database

    4. Forward draft talking points to the SB/SE Commissioner's Office for review no later than two weeks prior to the event date.

    5. Share final talking points with SLF, CSO HQ, and EDI when received from the SB/SE Commissioner's Office.

    6. Add final talking points and content to appropriate folders on the PSB 2 SharePoint site

  2. If requested, designated communication analyst will participate at meetings scheduled by SLF, CSO HQ, or EDI to brief the SB/SE Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner about the presentation.  (04-23-2013)
Web Communications Branch

  1. The Web Communications Branch Chief and staff are responsible for the SB/SE intranet, MySB/SE infrastructures and operating environments, and the SB/SE content portions of IRS.gov.

  2. Submit all requests for SB/SE intranet sites to the Web Communications Branch Chief for consideration of appropriateness and business purpose. The Web Communications Branch Chief makes the final decision on all requests for SB/SE intranet sites.

  3. All SB/SE intranet sites must fall under the SB/SE URL structure.

  4. MySB/SE is the intranet site for the Small Business/Self-Employed Division. MySB/SE is a user-focused, task-based site that gives SB/SE employees easy access to tools and resources needed to meet job requirements.

  5. IRS.gov is the IRS's Internet website and is a major strategic tool that allows the Service more efficiency in fulfilling its mission to help taxpayers understand and meet their tax responsibilities. Use the content management application (CMA) for additional content uploads to IRS.gov. All requests for updates or additions to SB/SE content on IRS.gov should be submitted to the Web Communications team using this link http://sbse.web.irs.gov/CL2/sl/cmd/cpr/cpr_main.asp.

  6. This section of the Web Communications Branch IRM contains a collection of Web standards and guidelines. These standards establish rules and parameters and provide guidance for everyone who develops and maintains content on MySB/SE.  (04-23-2013)
Roles and Responsibilities

  1. The Web Communications Branch develops and maintains the MySB/SE structure and environment. In addition, the branch establishes and maintains policies and the Web Standards and Guidelines for publishing content.

  2. The Visual Communications Group (VCG) manager reports to the Chief, Web Communications Branch. The SB/SE VCG is responsible for SB/SE video production. The following is detailed guidance about megataping, YouTube, webinars, and posting a video.

    1. The use of videos and webinars across the Service serve as important tools in our efforts to reduce travel costs for training and face-to-face meetings. Our video and webinar efforts are a great resource as we produce a variety of internal and external communications that provide training and information for employees, taxpayers and practitioners. However, based on the current budget situation, the Service needs to closely evaluate all expenditures to ensure they are critical to advancing the Service's mission.
      • Starting February 21, 2013, all video and webinar requests must be reviewed by the Servicewide Video Editorial Board (SVEB) and receive approval prior to starting production. See Deputy Commissioner, Operations Support, memos dated February 21, 2013 and March 7, 2013.
      • In addition to the SVEB, the business unit head of office, a business unit executive and ultimately the Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support must review and approve any video and webinar projects prior to starting production.
      • Video covered by this policy include training and education videos, webinars, vignettes, videos for external placement on YouTube, IRS.gov and related web sites, and any other ad hoc taping or photography projects done by either IRS or contractors.
      • A commissioner's video must also be shared with the commissioner's office for approval.

    2. An IRS YouTube video must be short, compelling, simple, helpful and professional. Good topics for YouTube video will have wide appeal among the general public and be simnple enough to explain in about one minute.
      • YouTube videos are shot at the IRS TV studio in New Carrollton.
      • When considering a YouTube video topic, review the IRS YouTube channel to make sure the topic has not already been covered. Also, VCG can do a quick check with Communications & Liaison to ensure the topic is acceptable. An online VCG project request form must be completed and approved.
      • All YouTube scripts begin by saying"HERE'S A TIP FROM THE IRS. (one second pause) HI… I’M (FIRST NAME) AND I WORK FOR THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE." Do not deviate from this. And most YouTube scripts will end with, "FOR MORE INFORMATION. GO TO WWW.IRS.GOV."
      • In addition, text should be in all caps and double-spaced; each sentence must be its own paragraph -- each paragraph must be indented five spaces; commas are expressed as ellipses; acronyms are expressed in broadcast style with hyphens separating the letters, i.e. (A-C-A or O-I-C); the title can be no more than 60 characters, including spaces; the tags can be no more than 120 characters, including spaces -- in the tags section, take out the spaces after commas.
      • The VCG has a talent cadre -- people who are good on camera -- who tape YouTube spots. The VCG will schedule the taping.
      • After the video is shot and edited, the YouTube client and C&L reviews it again before it is captioned and posted. Post-production takes two to three weeks. The IRS has its own YouTube channel. On the IRS YouTube channel is a Small Business playlist where most SB/SE YouTube videos are posted.

    3. A webinar is a presentation or classroom-type lecture transmitted over the Web. Webinars are not used for internal training. In SB/SE, webinars are used to reach tax practitioners or small businesses with important outreach topics.
      • All webinar topics must be submitted through the CSO Webinar Planning Team for approval. An online VCG project request form must be completed 12 weeks prior to the event and approved by the VCG manager. Most webinars are pre-recorded at the National Press Club in Washington, DC then streamed at a later date, while the IRS Live webinar is broadcast live.
      • The webinar interface is a dual screen with a video (talking head and perhaps b-roll) on the left and a PowerPoint presentation on the right. A script and PowerPoint presentation need to be submitted to the program manager. The PowerPoint needs to help reinforce key items that are mentioned in the script. The PowerPoint needs to be 508 compliant and very simple. Also, a short description of the webinar topic and a picture with a short bio of the presenter(s) needs to be provided with the script.
      • The length of a webinar script can be anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour, which can include the Q&A session. The Q&A session is not recorded at the National Press Club. The Q&A session is conducted live on the same day the webinar airs. The Q&A session is an online process that can be done remotely. The recording session for a webinar takes about three to five hours to complete.
      • Webinars are archived on the IRS Video Portal website for later viewing. This process takes approximately three weeks from the original broadcast date.

    4. Posting a video on an external or internal web site is completed only after VCG receives an e-mail with the client’s approval for the video. Internal videos are posted on very specific locations on MySB/SE under each operating division. External videos are posted on the IRS YouTube channel or the IRS video portal.
      • All videos posted on MySB/SE and/or IRS.gov must be in a high resolution (as high as 1920 x 1200 pixels) format and provided to VCG in one of the following file types: Flash (FLV); MPEG-4 (MP4); QuickTime (MOV); or Windows Media Video (WMV). This will provide adequate resources to create a quality Flash video after encoding for Web deployment. A Flash-compatible XML caption file must also be provided for all videos.
      • If the video file is too large to be sent as an attachment in an e-mail, contact VCG.
      • A text transcript of the video is required and must be submitted as a Word document (DOC) or Text file (TXT). All submitted transcripts must be edited, reviewed, and technically correct before posting. Unedited transcripts will be returned to the submitter.

    5. Visual communications projects place employees in a number of different roles to coordinate the process of creating a multimedia product. The following is a brief description of key roles:
      Functional coordinator - The person or function requesting multimedia services through the communication analyst. The functional coordinator is the communication analyst's client. For example, a Disclosure or Exam analyst would be a functional coordinator.
      Communication analyst - The SB/SE Communications employee providing communications support to a particular function. The communication analyst is the production manager's client.
      Production manager - The person the VCG manager assigns to provide overall coordination of the multimedia project. The production manager is the TV producer's client.
      TV producer - The person IRS Corporate TV assigns to coordinate the technical aspects of the production.

  3. The Web Communications Branch assigns contributor and editor rights based on information provided by the MySB/SE content board members, program managers, or program executives. Anyone granted authoring rights on MySB/SE must attend a Community Startup Kit (CSK) training session and must self-certify they have reviewed and understand all policies covered in the MySB/SE Web Standards and Guidelines before access privileges are granted. Contributors and editors self-certify by sending an e-mail to the managing editor of MySB/SE.

  4. SB/SE Web Communications Branch will remove the access rights of anyone who consistently ignores or circumvents the MySB/SE Web Standards and Guidelines, templates, or established architecture.

  5. Content providers must attend "Writing for the Web" training prior to posting content on MySB/SE. It is highly recommended that content providers attend other Web publishing training as well.

  6. Web Communications provides Contracting Officer's Technical Representative (COTR) support for Web Communications contract.  (04-23-2013)
SB/SE Multimedia Production

  1. The SB/SE Communications Division is responsible for supporting the multimedia needs of SB/SE functions. Support includes developing videos for training and executive messages, other audio-visual needs, and webinars for outreach that further SB/SE's mission and goals.

  2. Communications staff works with SB/SE functional staff to develop a concept, script, and production schedule for each project. Most video projects require coordination with IRS Corporate Television.

  3. There is a centralized fund for audio-visual production within CSO to pay for videos, IVTs, and audio projects for all SB/SE components. (Webinars are funded by a separate contract and their topics are subject to approval from the CSO Webinar Planning Team.)

  4. Video projects require sufficient time to allow for planning, scripting, shooting, and post-production work. Therefore, it is important that clients meet with Communications staff early in the project to allow enough time for a quality production. Acceptable planning times range from about two months to five months, depending on the complexity of the project.  (04-23-2013)
Printing and Publishing Process

  1. The VCG is the liaison with Publishing Services for all CSO printing requests including outreach products.

  2. Publishing Services manages the Service's printing, design and publishing requirements. Publishing assists in the planning, producing, and procuring of all print and media products used by the public.

  3. A communication analyst whose client expresses a need for a printed product should contact the VCG to discuss the product, design services, cost estimates, due dates, and distribution patterns. Before taking any publishing action, the client must complete Form 1767, Publishing Services Requisition.

  4. The analyst or client should e-mail Form 1767 to the assigned Visual Communications analyst for approval and signatures.

  5. The VCG analyst will forward the Form 1767 to the printing specialist in Publishing Services assigned to CSO for action.  (04-23-2013)
Design and Printing

  1. Design and printing is the transformation of written, photographic or digital communications into artistic, creative, and graphic/pictorial communication vehicles. The communication vehicle is reproduced to help convey the information to a target audience(s)

  2. The IRS Design Office supports the graphic and design needs for CSO.  (04-23-2013)
New Carrollton Copy Center

  1. The New Carrollton Copy Center can handle most low to moderate volume copying and duplicating needs.

  2. For photocopying requests, complete Section C of Form 1767 and e-mail along with the file to the VCG analyst for action.  (04-23-2013)
Branch Chief and MySB/SE Managing Editor

  1. Role: The Web Communications Branch Chief and the MySB/SE managing editor make final determinations on content appropriateness, format issues, style, grammar, picture/graphic layouts, and more for the entire SB/SE intranet site. The Web Communications Branch Chief and the MySB/SE managing editor may make changes to any content on the SB/SE intranet as needed, and will consult with content owners about such revisions or changes

  2. Responsibilities:

    • Providing the technology that allows Communications and others to publish Web content related to news events, information, guidance, and procedures for SB/SE employees

    • Processing requests for Web services

    • Determining the overall look and feel of the SB/SE intranet

    • Developing and maintaining the SB/SE intranet structure, technology and environment, new functional development and Web site enhancement

    • Establishing and maintaining policies and the standards and guidelines for publishing content to MySB/SE

    • Working closely with communications analysts and Content Board members to promote effective and efficient use of MySB/SE and SharePoint

    • Monitoring content on MySB/SE to help ensure its quality and integrity

    • Taking appropriate actions to resolve content issues that can reflect negatively on the SB/SE intranet

    • Ensuring content providers develop accessible subjects and provide resources and links to IRS-level 508 compliance resources

    • Creating, maintaining, and developing Web applications

    • Establishing procedures, policies, and processes for publishing SB/SE content on IRS.gov in the assigned areas. See IRS.gov Content Management Guidelines IRM 2.25.101, Web Services - IRS.gov Content Management Guidelines for additional information

    • Coordinating with the Privacy Office to ensure privacy provisions are incorporated into IRS.gov and SB/SE intranet content management and operations  (04-23-2013)
Contributors, Editors, and Copy Editors

  1. Roles:

    • Contributors add and edit content and can put content into pending status for review by editors. They also act as "copy editors" by reviewing the content and ensuring correct spelling, proper grammar, MySB/SE layout and format, and checking for errors of facts.

    • Editors add, edit, review, and approve (or decline) content and can put content into approved (live) status.

    • Copy editors ensure the copy is clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. Typically, copy editing involves correcting spelling, terminology, punctuation, grammatical, and semantic errors. The copy editor also ensures the text adheres to the Web standards and guidelines, AP Style, etc. The copy editor is expected to ensure the flow of text is sensible, fair, and accurate. The copy editor may abridge text, by "cutting" and "trimming" it to help the article fit publishing limits or to improve its meaning. The copy editor will discuss proposed changes with the content owners before making edits.

  2. Responsibilities:

    • Adding their content directly to MySB/SE

    • Maintaining (edit, revise, and delete) their MySB/SE content throughout its lifecycle

    • Understanding and applying MySB/SE standards and guidelines

    • Determining whether content is still relevant or should be archived as content approaches its expiration date. Publishing appropriate content using established MySB/SE templates, structures, and processes

    • Serving as point of contact for requests to have content published within their respective content sections

    • Ensuring that content published within their respective word sections is accurate, current and approved for release

    • Maintaining a working knowledge of Section 508 guidelines and accessibility resources available such as Information Resources Accessibility Program (IRAP)

    • Responding to content questions or comments submitted through any MySB/SE feedback channel  (04-23-2013)
Content Board

  1. Roles:

    • The Content Board maintains division-wide coordination on content management, message presentation, and infrastructure enhancement so that the SB/SE intranet is managed as a unified site aligned with the division's priorities

    • The Content Board provides the division's functions with a forum for interaction and coordination for Web-related business. It is a mechanism for communicating with SB/SE Web Communications Branch and Communications on cross-organizational issues. The Board also encourages an exchange of ideas and concepts so the best methods and practices are shared throughout the organization. Members champion the effective use of the SB/SE intranet and IRS.gov throughout their business units

  2. Responsibilities:

    • Working with contributors and editors to formalize processes, roles, and workflows used by their business units for publishing content on MySB/SE

    • Promoting the integrity of the content management structure and enforcing its processes, standards and guidelines throughout their organization's Web page.

    • Providing feedback to Web Communications relative to content management and message presentation processes, policies, and procedures on MySB/SE

    • Working with their MySB/SE contributors and editors to market their services within their organizational unit

    • Certifying their business unit's content is reviewed and validated as current and relevant

    • Communicating key intranet and Internet-related information to their executives and representing their executives' interest to the board

    • Working with their content contributors and editors to ensure their business unit is adhering to the My SB/SE Standards and Guidelines as well as any internally developed procedures

    • Providing leadership and resolving any issues or needs pertaining to their business unit's content  (04-23-2013)
MySB/SE Standards and Guidelines

  1. The MySB/SE Standards and Guidelines is a collection of basic Web principles gathered from expert sources and compiled and edited by the SB/SE Web Communications Branch. These standards establish rules and parameters and provide guidance for everyone who develops and maintains content on MySB/SE. The following tips for content publishing success are offered as a means to quickly find the standards and guidelines contributors and editors will encounter frequently.

  2. Content Parameters: To ensure that MySB/SE word sections are concise, effective, and avoid duplication, adhere to the following:

    1. Content must be presented in a professional format that reflects well on the IRS if requested or viewed inside or outside the agency

    2. Content must be accurate, relevant, and current

    3. Pages must not provide links to Internet sites whose content is inappropriate or prohibited by the IRS policy on limited personal use of IRS resources

    4. SB/SE programs should post content only within their organizational purview, unless the content is cross-functional. Cross-functional content must be approved by all appropriate functions before posting

    5. Do not duplicate content that can be found elsewhere on the intranet or Internet

    6. Information and services including local information that can come from national systems must come from those systems if possible

    7. Local versions of national content are appropriate only to highlight local exceptions

    8. MySB/SE sections consisting entirely of links to existing content or other sites are not useful and are to be avoided

    9. Style and Usage - The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is the designated writing style guide for MySB/SE content, supplemented by the IRS Communicator's Style Guide.

  3. Writing for the Web - Writing for the Web is very different from writing for a hardcopy print medium. Reading from a computer screen is 25 percent slower than reading from hardcopy. When writing for the Web, make sure of the following:

    1. Target audience is clear and unambiguous

    2. Purpose of the page is clear and unambiguous

    3. Words and terminology are appropriate to the target audience

    4. Content is written and organized efficiently

    5. Content is consistent

    6. Spelling and punctuation are accurate

    7. Content anticipates obvious questions

    8. Meaning is clear and unambiguous

  4. 508 Compliance - The content owner is responsible for ensuring 508 compliance. For information on how to create 508-compliant documents, consult MySB/SE Guide to Creating Accessible Documents (Appendix B) and the IRAP 508 Central Web site. You can also submit documents for a 508-compliance review by sending them to IRAP's *508 e-mail box.

  5. Non-HTML - PDF and MS PowerPoint files may be classified "508 compliant" because the content/text of the document can be physically read by assistive technology, Job Access With Speech (JAWS). JAWS, however, may not read the text in the same logical order. For example, paragraph three is read first, paragraph one is read second, paragraph two is read third, and so on.

  6. Content Limitations - Do not link to Outlook files and folders as it poses significant problems. If e-mail information is appropriate for the Web then rewrite the content and post it as a MySB/SE article page.

  7. Access Databases - The MySB/SE servers do not support Access ".MDB" files so the Web team cannot post them.

  8. Publishing Guidelines - A communication analyst should review all MySB/SE content prior to posting. This allows the communication analyst to verify the content contains the same message as any existing postings or any messages in development. The directory listing SB/SE communication analysts' program assignments is on MySB/SE.

  9. Photos and Graphics - Be judicious in the use of photos and graphics'

    1. Make sure photos and graphics add value to the content

    2. Every image and graphic should have a reason to be on the page

    3. Keep graphics simple

    4. All non-text content must have alternative text (Alt-Text) assigned

    5. Images must be consistent in image quality and should focus on approachable people either at rest or in motion within a setting relevant to the content

    6. Images should seem as though they are part of the page

    7. Photos and graphics can only be placed in a newsletter articles module

    8. Be aware that there is a file size limitation on each newsletter article module. Photos are limited to 640x480 or 480x640 and 75K in size

  10. Defining a Link - The words that are underlined leading to a link should describe what the reader would find at the linked page.

    1. Do not use the words "click here" for hyperlinks

    2. Software that "reads" the link to a person with visual problems literally reads the words that are underlined.


      Correct: SB/SE home page; Wrong: View the SB/SE home page

    3. When setting links to supporting information, use an "Additional Resources" section at the bottom of the page or a "side bar" in lieu of setting multiple links within the body text of a content item. This provides the related information, but does not distract the reader or divert their attention until after reading and fully understanding the meaning of the content.


      Correct: SB/SE home page; Wrong:http://mysbse.web.irs.gov/default.aspx.

  11. Adding download files to MySB/SE - The Web team is severely limiting the use of download files on MySB/SE. Editors must make every effort to convert content to a Web page before the Web team will add a download file. When necessary, content posted on MySB/SE in its original non-HTML format must be uploaded into a "document downloads" section.

  12. Formatting Links to Documents - If a link to a document is included within the body of a page, it must be formatted as a link attachment and accompanied by the following information:

    1. File name

    2. Brief description of content

    3. File type

    4. File size

    5. Content owner name and phone number


      For documents that cannot be made 508 compliant, the content owner's name and number will be posted adjacent to the attachment for anyone requiring accessibility assistance.


      Office of Employee Protection Org. Chart. This organization chart lists Collection groups, managers and employees and their phone numbers. (Jane Doe 202- 555-1212).

  13. Forms and Publications Links - Do not copy files from the Electronic Publishing Catalog (i.e., forms, instructions, publications, etc.). Instead, link to the Electronic Publishing Catalog version of the file. When linking to a specific online publication or instruction, use the Electronic Publishing Catalog link feature that allows you to define your link so it automatically opens the latest revision of the specified catalog item.


    Correct - IRM 4.4 Table of Contents: http://publish.no.irs.gov/pubsys/irm/indp04.htm#Chapter4.
    Wrong - Top of IRM Section 4: http://publish.no.irs.gov/pubsys/irm/indp04.htm.

    Do not link to specific content within an Electronic Publishing document as these files are updated frequently and hard-coded internal link references can break.


    Correct - See Exhibit 4.4.1-16 at the top of page two of IRM 4.4.1: http://publish.no.irs.gov/getpdf.cgi?catnum=30311Y. Wrong - Direct link to IRM 4.4.1 PDF, page 2: http://publish.no.irs.gov/ IRM/P04/PDF/30311D05.PDF#page=2.

  14. Avoid Creating Complex Link Navigation - Make it easy as possible for readers to go from general content to the more specific content they want. Avoid creating complex webs of navigation links, e.g., linking every page in your content sections to every other page.

  15. Content and Communication Plans - Content added to any section of MySB/SE must be accompanied by a communication plan and tie into a SB/SE or IRS strategic priority, unless there is a legal requirement to post the content. All legal requirements must be posted along with the content.

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