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"Fido's Tale" - Financial Information Delivered Online

Client: 

Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC)

PR Company: 

Australian Securities & Investments Commission

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2001 E 1

Year: 

2001

Executive Summary: 

This campaign:

  • created new relationships between ASIC and the investors and consumers it protects
  • quadrupled annual visits to ASICs consumer website to 241,000
  • transformed the site into ASICs most visited source of information, excluding company searches
  • saved investors from losing millions of dollars, and
  • created the liveliest consumer protection site operated by a financial regulator in the world.

As we launched the campaign, overseas fraudsters were persuading hundreds of Australians over the phone to part with up to $700,000 each, in the hope of quick profits on foreign shares. Most investors never saw their money again.

ASICs consumer website warned against this menace. It also offered financial tips and safety checks on investments, superannuation and insurance. But it suffered from low traffic.

Through research and on site experience we devised a program of online public relations strategies, and combined them with traditional strategies.

We:

  • made the content more relevant
  • chose a fresh, memorable name, FIDO at www.fido.asic.gov.au
  • created an electronic newsletter
  • sought referrals from other sites
  • made FIDO newsworthy for the media and
  • promoted it in magazines and money expos.

Above all, investors tell us, FIDO saved their money.

 

Situation Analysis: 

A true story

Raids in cooperation with Thai authorities closed down a so-called cold calling investment scheme which could have been stripping millions of dollars from unsuspecting Australians. About 70 people have been arrested, including six Australians.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

AM, ABC Radio, 27 July 2001


O

ut of the blue in June 2000, Kevin Bridges[1]got a phone call at work about an incredible opportunity to make money.

An American was calling from Berkeley Samson, a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Bangkok investment firm, with inside information on a US company. The American seemed to know what he was talking about. So Kevin was persuaded to send Berkeley Samson $20,000 to buy the companys shares.

Three weeks later the American rang again. The shares had gone up 120%. Berkeley Samson seemed smart operators, so Kevin sent them another $20,000 to invest.

In August 2000, Kevin saw Berkeley Samson named in a newspaper story about cold calling. Investors were having trouble getting their money. ASIC had blacklisted Berkeley Samson as an illegal cold calling organisation.

Kevin rang Berkeley Samson straight away to demand his money back. But the American at Berkeley Samson never returned his calls, his emails or his faxes. Kevin rang ASIC to find out if he had any chance of getting his money back.

Kevin lost the lot.

Other Australian investors lost anything between $1,000 to $700,000 to cold calling. They were talked into investing without checking the facts with ASIC.


Opportunity

We knew there were more people like Kevin who were tempted by the golden promises of cold calling and other scams. We knew many Australians wanted independent and accurate information to help them through the financial maze of shares, managed funds, superannuation and insurance. Not only that, since 1998 the Commonwealth Parliament expected ASIC to promote confident and informed participation by investors and consumers in the financial system.[2]

But we were best known to consumers and investors as the corporate watchdog, a regulator and enforcer of laws. And we had no Australia wide shop fronts where we could talk with them and give them warnings and advice.

Our challenge was to become known as an independent source of financial tips and safety checks.

The internet offered our best chance of distributing and updating investor and consumer information. Our ASIC website www.asic.gov.au already attracted hundreds of thousand of visits for free company searches, presenting a great opportunity to refer people to consumer information.

During 1999, we increased investor and consumer information on www.asic.gov.au, but it competed with technical material for companies, lawyers and accountants.

In March 2000 we relaunched this information through a second website devoted to consumers and investors, called www.watchdog.asic.gov.au. However, traffic remained slow with only 58,000 visits in 19992000, and our consumer section ranked last among our website information[3].

We needed a campaign to build and promote the consumer site, so that the wealth of information we had could reach its target audiences. Our task was to attract visitors to the site and keep them coming back. To do this, we would need to draw on:

  • traditional public relations strategies (where most of our experience lay) and
  • internet strategies (a relatively new area for ASIC and a competitive marketplace).


[1] Name changed to maintain confidentiality.

[2] Section 1(2)(b) ASIC Act

[3] We refer to information ASIC posts on our sites, not to information extracted through our website from our company database.

 

Research: 

Market research about consumers at risk and consumer needs for financial information.

Reports about consumer issues from ASICs Consumer Advisory Panel, representing nine consumer groups, including Australian Consumers Association and Australian Shareholders Association.

Analysis of phone calls from investors and consumers to ASIC.

Interviews with ASIC staff about

  • case studies of scams
  • consumer tips on prospectuses, takeovers, trading software and other issues.

Secondary research on website usability, design and marketing.

 

 

Target Policies: 

  • Consumers and investors who use the internet
  • Journalists, broadcasters and personal finance writers
  • Finance professionals and advisers
  • Consumer advocates

 

Communication Strategy: 

Theme and messages

ASICs investor and consumer website offers financial tips and safety checks to help you look after your money, know your rights and avoid scams and pitfalls. The site offers accurate, unbiased information, free of charge.

Action strategies

Through research and on-site experience, we devised a program of online public relations strategies and combined them with traditional public relations strategies.

 

Online public relations strategies

  • Site content - Make the content alive, relevant and inviting
  • Site name and design - Choose a more memorable name, offer clear benefits and link the content together
  • Repeat visits to site - Create an e-newsletter to bring people back
  • Referrals -

    Get other sites to install links

    Collaborate on campaigns by other government agencies and web providers to spread our message to new non-traditional audiences, eg youth, seniors

Traditional public relations strategies

  • Media - Make the site newsworthy and link it to our regular media activities, see Appendix E
  • Newsletters and magazines - Promote the site in newsletters and magazines
  • Expos and seminars - Promote and demonstrate the site

 

Implementation: 

Strategy - Make the content alive, relevant and inviting

What we did -

  • Invited and posted true stories about people's experiences with cold calling
  • Created a list of cold calling organisations, updated regularly
  • Covered topics happening in the market, such HIH, NRMA, flood insurance
  • Reminded visitors about information on popular topics

 

Strategy - Choose a more memorable name for the site, offer clear benefits and link the content together

What we did -

  • Relaunched the site as FIDO (www.fido.asic.gov.au), standing for 'financial information delivered online'
  • To make benefits instantly obvious, created a tagline on the site homepage: 'financial tips and safety checks'
  • Linked pages together to avoid dead ends

 

Strategy - Create an e-newsletter to bring people back

What we did -

  • Launched FIDO News, a monthly
    e-newsletter, in February 2001

 

Strategy - Get other sites to install links

What we did -

  • Installed prominent link from main ASIC website
  • Identified relevant sites and obtained links from suitable pages

 

Strategy - Make the site newsworthy and link it to our regular media activities

What we did -

  • Announced new name for the site and
    e-newsletter
  • Inserted references to FIDO in all relevant ASIC media releases
  • Arranged for ASIC spokespeople to refer to FIDO in interviews

 

Strategy -  Promote the site in newsletters and magazines

What we did -

  • Advertised FIDO each month in our house newsletter ASIC News to 6,000 financial advisers and professionals
  • Wrote 4 articles for Age Pension News, Centrelink's magazine distributed to 3 million people, see Appendix H
  • Wrote 2 articles for ING's quarterly Focus magazine distributed to 250,000 clients
  • Took a paid advertisement in Your Money magazine when favourable rate offered, see Appendix K

 

Strategy - Promote and demonstrate the site

What we did -

  • Handed out promotional flyers and demonstrated FIDO at ASX Share Day, Money expo, ASIC's <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Adelaide investor forum

 

 

Results: 

Another true story

In January 2001, David Moscatt4 was called on the phone from overseas by Dreyfus Securities. They followed up with a glossy brochure, and a few days later David got another call.

This man gave me a half hour or more of heavy sales pitch for a hi-tech Canadian stock, at a discount to the market, with protection against currency losses.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

He ended up by saying he would purchase 2500 shares for me, fax me down the information on the stock and its potential, and call me again next Monday to finalise everything. At no time did I say buy, but when I got home he had sent me a trading invoice and payment instructions.

A friend advised me to visit FIDO. I did, and found out that Dreyfus Securities was one of the ones ASIC warned against. Well done ASIC and thanks very much to my friend the internet has saved me losing $20,000.

Our list of cold calling organisations received 15,000 hits in eight months.

Overall result

This campaign:

  • created new relationships between ASIC and the investors and consumers it protects and
  • created the liveliest consumer protection site operated by a financial regulator in the world.

We far exceeded our primary objective. Visits to FIDO jumped fourfold to 241,000 in the twelve months to 30 June 2001, up from 58,000 in 19992000.

The website was recognised by Personal Investor as its site of the month, and by PC User as best of 2000.

By successfully combining online public relations with traditional public relations strategies, we made this website ASICs most visited information, apart from company searches.




4  Name changed to maintain privacy.

 

1 We achieved a significant increase in the use of FIDO

Objectives

  • Double visits
  • Increase time spent per visit
  • Increase pages viewed

Results: also see Appendix D

  • Four fold jump to 241,000 visits in 2000-2001, up from 58,000 in 1999-2000
  • 22% increase in time per visit
  • 47% increase in page views per visit

  

2 We promoted the identity and contents of the new consumer site

Objectives

  • Get media references to FIDO and what it offers
  • Attract visits and links from search engines and other consumer portals
  • Increase visits FIDO gets on its own merits, not just through referrals from www.asic.gov.au

Results

  • FIDO featured in 37 press reports, nearly all gave web address. 4 radio reports.
    See Appendices A & F
  • Print media always mentioned specific contents
  • Visits always increased following these references
  • Increased search engine referrals to 6% of monthly visits, up from 1%
  • Increased visits referred from major consumer portals to 2%, up from 1%
  • About 113 links installed from other sites5
    See Appendix J for examples
  • Increased unreferred visits to 35%,
    up from 25% during 200001

 

3 We raised ASIC's consumer protection profile

Objectives

  • Make our consumer information more popular than our information for professionals.
  • Positive feedback from users and consumer groups
  • Increase references to our website as a source of consumer protection in the media

Results

  • Now ASIC's most popular information, attracting 33% of all visits, apart from company searches, compared with
    19% in July 2000.
  • User feedback positive. 15,000 hits to cold calling list in 8 months

  • FIDO News subscribers grow from 90 in February 2001 to 1,503 by 31 July 2001

  • Strong support from consumer advisory panel

  • Personal Investor magazine's site of the month in May 2000
  • 46% of 35 print media reports of the website mention ASIC's consumer protection role

 

4 We became effective internet communicators and built ASIC's internet public relations

Objectives

  • Win recognition of the website from industry experts
  • Successfully adapt traditional PR knowledge to web environment

Results

  • PC User best of 2000 business site, see Appendix I
  • Illustrated in Living on the Web for Dummies, see Appendix G
  • Specific online strategies devised and successfully implemented

 

5 We achieved campaign objectives within the staff time
and budget

Results

  • Campaign delivered within budget and within staff time allowed.

5 Estimate based on best available search engine data.

 

 

Evaluation: 

Using website logs, we tracked performance each month, to adjust the way we implemented our strategies.

We evaluated print media coverage outlined in Appendix A.

Site feedback gave us stories, feedback and suggestions.