Ketchum beats out four firms for H&R Block account

The renewed contract with Ketchum is for one year.

KANSAS CITY, MO: Tax-service company H&R Block has retained Ketchum as its PR agency partner following a competitive review.

H&R Block, which has worked with Ketchum since 2009, issued an RFP in July to consider available options in the marketplace, explained Tom Collins, head of external relations at the company.

"It wasn’t in any way a reconsideration of our relationship with Ketchum, but we wanted to see if there were other companies that could offer certain things, and we wanted to look at a wide array of opportunities," he said.

H&R Block looked at five "top-flight, well-known" PR agencies during the review, Collins said. He declined to name the other firms that competed for the business.

"We settled on Ketchum ultimately because they met our needs best," he said. "[The agency] knows our business exceptionally well, and we felt very confident in continuing the relationship going forward."

The renewed contract with Ketchum is for one year. While H&R Block CMO Kathy Collins declined to disclose the budget, she said the brand is investing more than it has in previous years on PR and communications.

One of the reasons for the budget increase is major tax implications related to the Affordable Care Act that consumers need to learn about, she explained.

The firm’s creativity "was very much alive and the partnership was very strong," said Kathy Collins. Ketchum also has people on the ground in New York and Washington, DC who can help with the government relations side of the business, she added.

Ketchum handles consumer and corporate PR for the brand, as well as helping with social media strategy.

Earlier this week, H&R Block kicked off its annual financial literacy program for teenagers called Dollars & Sense. This year, the company is introducing the initiative to 2,000 high schools across the country, where students will receive lesson plans that simulate real-life financial situations, such as a salary and bills. The program will also allow students to compete for $3 million in grants, scholarships, and cash prizes.

In the first quarter of its fiscal year, which ended July 31, H&R Block reported a 5% revenue jump, year-over-year, to $133.6 million. Despite the revenue increase, the company reported a loss of $116.2 million in the quarter, compared with a loss of $115.2 during the same time last year.

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