Serious financial crimes rob communities of millions of dollars each year that could otherwise fund vital government services like health and education. This often comes with devastating impact on individuals as well.
Australia’s Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) is a joint-agency taskforce led by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that protects the community from serious financial crimes, including money laundering, tax evasion and cybercrime. Research commissioned by the ATO found that 49% of Australians were unaware of the term “serious financial crime” and 60% were unaware of its meaning.
Boxing Clever, a strategic communication agency based in Sydney that specializes in engaging audiences through behavioral economics, was engaged to help. The goal was to increase community awareness and understanding of serious financial crime, the key warning signs and the role of the SFCT in bringing offenders to account.
Boxing Clever led strategy, research and content development, media and stakeholder engagement across the SFCT. The ATO’s in-house communication specialists developed social media posts, LinkedIn articles and newsletter content to amplify campaign reach.
The campaign’s primary target audiences were people who are more likely to consider tax minimization strategies and professional intermediaries (such as accountants, lawyers and bankers) who have skills and networks that could help enable serious financial crime. Secondary audiences were Australian taxpayers, the public and industry associations.
Success was measured against specific targets related to increased media coverage and web traffic, content sharing by third party influencers who directly reach target audiences and future survey results about awareness.
Understanding the Key Communication Challenge
When Boxing Clever interviewed experts from SFCT agencies to inform their strategy, they learned:
- Serious financial crimes are complex and usually described using legal language. They aren’t perceived by the public as serious, even though they impact the whole community and the proceeds often fund other crimes such as drug and human trafficking and terrorism.
- Prosecutions typically take years. Cases often have incredible backstories, but the details can’t be released for legal reasons.
- Financial crimes involve networks of criminals who play different roles, ranging from full-time criminals to suburban accountants with ‘day jobs’, for example.
Boxing Clever realized that the SFCT needed to communicate in new ways and via new channels, beyond financial media. They developed a strategy to increase reach and impact by tapping into audiences’ natural interest in true crime.
A New Serious Financial Crime Identikit
The backbone of the strategy was a serious financial crime identikit, featuring 10 criminal personas to demystify and pique interest in serious financial crime via its criminals.
With names like The Fixer, The Launderer and The Enabler, the personas explained financial crime in terms of the behaviors and warning signs to look for and how to report something suspicious, all in a striking film noir aesthetic.
In addition to the identikit, all SFCT members received digital content they could use in their own digital channels. This included:
- A series of fact sheets and a printable checklist of serious financial crime warning signs.
- Digital assets, including articles and social media tiles.
- A podcast housed on the ATO’s own channel (Tax inVoice) featuring Will Day, campaign spokesperson and SFCT chief, and Dr. Rick Brown, deputy director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. It was hosted by Emily Webb, crime author and co-host of the Australian True Crime Podcast.
Source: Boxing Clever Gold Quill submission materials
A High-Impact Launch That Delivered Immediate Results
Boxing Clever began the campaign by securing a media story in The Daily Telegraph that included an interview with Day, an interactive graphic featuring the personas and a call-to-action urging Aussies to join the fight against serious financial crime. A media release and tailored pitches were then distributed to national, regional and small business media. Pre-recorded MP3 audio grabs with Day was distributed to radio newsrooms nationally.
Content focusing on The Enabler persona was pitched to industry associations and trade media targeting financially astute audiences. The campaign was also amplified using ATO channels (podcast, social and newsrooms) and via SFCT member agency channels, utilizing the flexible suite of digital and social content developed.
Source: Boxing Clever Gold Quill submission materials
The strategy and campaign delivered on all objectives, with a measurable increase in awareness of the signs of serious financial crime and the SFCT’s role. In particular:
- An estimated audience reach of 7.8 million Australians via 153 pieces of media coverage for the launch (560% increase on the media coverage benchmark).
- 31 industry organizations shared Identikit content in their own digital channels
- 1,500 unique page views in the week following launch, a 154% increase on the monthly web view benchmark and an average time of 6.5 minutes on the page.
- A 5% improvement in awareness of the term serious financial crime (between January 2020 and August 2021).
- One of the ATO’s highest performing Facebook posts of 2021 with 59,143 impressions, plus 1,395 downloads of the SFCT Identikit (10 times more than similar content).
Persona-Powered Campaign Leaves a Lasting Impression
Two years later, the serious financial crime identikit continues to be used by SFCT members for ongoing community outreach and awareness raising. By shedding light on the behaviors, red flags and reporting procedures associated with serious financial crimes through personas like The Launderer and The Enabler, the campaign has had a far-reaching impact across all channels.
Catch up on a selection of additional Gold Quill award-winning campaigns on Catalyst and learn more about the prestigious Gold Quill Awards here.
Anne is a stakeholder engagement and communication strategist with more than 20 years of experience consulting clients in virtually every industry sector. As Director of Boxing Clever in Sydney, she has helped drive the success of more than 50 projects for Australian Government agencies, while her work with listed and large companies and not-for-profits has supported financial transactions, transformations, issues management, proactive PR, executive training and narrative and messaging development.