In June 2006, Aussiepay was looking to boost the profile of its software, a unique offering in the Australian market. The company thought this product had news value and engaged Taurus to get the message out to its small to medium enterprise (SME) target audience through media relations.
Taurus quickly recognised a lack of media interest in so created a communication campaign that leveraged the Federal Government's controversial WorkChoices legislation. This allowed Aussiepay to:
· Communicate effectively with its target publics through the media channel
· Position the company as SME advisors, and
· Position as the product solution for WorkChoices compliance.
Aussiepay quickly became the media's payroll authority with the company's Managing Director Dean
interviewed and extensively quoted by Australia's enterprise and business media. After the campaign, Dean commented, "Through Taurus, I instantly became The Australian Financial Review's payroll expert commentator!"
Aussiepay is Australia's largest privately owned payroll outsourcing company, handling more than
AUD 1 billion in payroll annually. Following development of ePayroll technology, Australia's 'first genuine online payroll solution, the company engaged Taurus Marketing to build the product's profile with the goal of boosting sales and simultaneously increasing awareness of the Aussiepay brand generally.
To overcome a general lack of interest in the topic of payroll in both Aussiepay's target market and the media, Taurus devised a communication strategy around the topical industrial relations reform, WorkChoices.
WorkChoices was the most comprehensive reform to industrial relations in Australia for almost a century. The legislation came into effect in March 2006 with a six month window for businesses to comply, that was later extended to 12 months. It has been widely supported by employer groups and business councils but opposed by the Australian labour movement. WorkChoices meant a raft of changes to laws, compliance and accountability that employers and employees had to understand and comply with quickly or risk being fined.
A key feature of ePayroll was its ability to automatically ensure businesses were compliant with the payroll-related elements of WorkChoices. Through its SME client base, Aussiepay knew that most businesses were unaware of their requirements to comply with WorkChoices. So as the controversy surrounding WorkChoices heated up it became clear that this issue was the perfect platform for Aussiepay to demonstrate thought leadership and promote ePayroll.
In addition to background research into past media coverage of the payroll and human resources space, Taurus conducted a test campaign for Aussiepay that attempted to engage the business and IT media about ePayroll as a standalone product. Through this media audit Taurus discovered:
· Payroll is a topic of low interest to the media
· The media wasn't receptive to the product as newsworthy in its own right
· The media hadn't ever heard of so it lacked credibility to them
This initial research led to the formulation of the Aussiepay WorkChoices campaign, the strategy behind which was to leverage the controversy surrounding the legislation and the fact that ePayroll was a product that helped businesses comply with it , to broadly increase awareness of Aussiepay.
Research was also vital to the formulation of the campaign tactics. Aussiepay, in consultation with Taurus, conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research on its customer database of some 400+ companies and 6,844 full time employees. The research questions were:
1) What are the top three aspects of WorkChoices that Australian businesses aren't prepared for?
2) What is the cost to Australian businesses of ensuring accurate employee time keeping?
3) How many employees would potentially be able to cash out their personal leave if the Government legislated that employees with more than 15 days could do so?
4) What would then be the cost to Australian business of paying out that leave?
The answers to these questions and the statistical information they yielded, together with the opinions of Dean MOrelli, formed the basic content of the pitches used to engage the media.
Groups identified as Aussiepay's target publics (which in this case were its target
1) Australian SME owners
2) Australian SME managers
3) Payroll professionals
4) In-house financial controllers
In order to reach these target publics and communicate effectively with them, the Aussiepay campaign targeted a key influencer public -the media. Specifically:
Tier one- Enterprise/SME media:
· The Australian Financial Review -Enterprise
· The Australian -Small Business
· The Sydney Morning Herald -Business Network
· Dynamic Business
· My Business
· Country Biz
· CEO Online
· Management Today
Tier two -Payroll industry media:
· Human Resources
Tier three – Vertical/Information Technology media:
· Retail Technology
· Retail Biz
Tier four -Government media:
· The Australian Financial Review -Industrial Relations
· Government News
Because of both the media's and Aussiepay's target audience's general lack of interest in payroll as a standalone topic, we chose to drive the communication strategy around how WorkChoices was affecting or going to affect Australian SME space. This strategy was designed to position Aussiepay as the WorkChoices payroll expert in the SME space.
Critical to campaign success was the combination of:
· Utilising primary research to gather interesting statistics and facts about the impacts of the legislation, and
· Using them as a means to Aussiepay entering the WorkChoices debate (that had already captured the media's attention) as independent commentators and providers of advice to the SME community.
The subsequent goal of the campaign was to gain media coverage for Aussiepay and Dean Morelli in their specified target publications.
The campaign begam in July 2006 and was planned to peak at 27th September 2006- the deadling for Australian businesses to be Workchoices compliant. Because of our initial successes and the fact that the Federal Government extended the compliance deadline, the campaign actually continued until 30th November 2006.
It consisted of a combination of media releases and targeted pitches offering Dean Morelli as a WorkChoices spokesperson on the back of information uncovered by Aussiepay and the company’s opinion about the impact of the leglislation.
Specific tactics over the five month period were:
- Using Aussiepay’s database of more than 400 businesses, Taurus and Aussiepay estimated the average yearly cost of complying with WorkChoices to an Australian business with 20 employees which was then provided to the enterprise and small business media to promote Dean Morelli as a spokesperson
- Similar research from the Aussiepay database uncovered the cost to Australian businesses of cashing out accrued personal leave could reach $29 billion which Taurus pitched to the Australian, Dynamic Business and Human Resources.
- For monthly magazines including My Business and Dynamic Small Business Taurus wrote informative contributed articles that provided businesses with a ‘how-to’ guide for WorkChoices compliance.
- a media release announcing ePayroll is fully WorkChoices compatible (the first payroll software to be so) and promoting Aussiepay’s WorkChoices Health check was distributed to the information technology and small business media
- Taurus created a list of WorkChoices blind spots that were most likely to catch businesses unaware, which was used to pitch Dean Morelli as a spokesperson to the Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald and for a contributed article for CEO Online
- Taurus engaged political and industrial relations journalists at the Australian Financial Review and offered Dean Morelli as a spokesperson on the impact of WorkChoices on Australian small business and the general lack of awareness around the obligations
- Creation of Aussiepay customer case studies to reference the effectiveness and capabilities of the ePayroll product and its WorkChoices compliance
Simultaneous to the media relations campaign Taurus provided Aussiepay with strategic consultancy around leveraging their media profile with an integrated marketing campaign that was implemented internally. Specifically, Aussiepay conducted WorkChoices information seminars and also created an online WorkChoices Health Check where businesses could check their compliance levels. The company also undertook an advertising campaigh using backs of buses and a banner on the My Business website homepage. Taurus also helped write materials and feedback on advertising graphic design options.
The media coverage outcomes of this campaign were far greater than expected, a total of 19 articles over the five months, 15 of which mentioned both Aussiepay and WorkChoices. Within these, Dean Morelli was quoted in seven separate articles, and the total circulation reached by the below media coverage was 973,091 according to 2006 audit information.
Coverage achieved was as follows:
· Contributed article "WorkChoices payroll obligations for employers" -coverage achieved on and in Country Biz
· Customer case study "Langdon Ingredients" -marketing collateral produced and media coverage achieved in Computerworld and Human Resources.
· Customer case study "Aesthetics Group" -marketing collateral produced and coverage achieved in Retail Technology
· Contributed article "WorkChoices compliance deadline looms" -coverage achieved in My Business
· Aussiepay WorkChoices compliance checklist -coverage achieved in Dynamic Business
· Proactive media pitch "WorkChoices blind spots catch unawares" -coverage achieved in Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review x 4 individual pieces
· Media release ePayrollis Australia's first WorkChoices enabled system" -coverage achieved in Retail Biz
· Proactive media pitch "The cost of cashing out sick leave" -coverage achieved in Human Resources, My Business e-news, Retail Biz, The Australian Financial Review and The Australian (See Appendix A for all coverage)
The broad aims of this campaign (to strengthen awareness of Aussiepay and ePayroll and position the company as a trusted source of payroll advice and information for SMEs) were achieved through the generation of significant media coverage.
In terms of the more specific objectives of the WorkChoices campaign, Aussiepay successfully increased the SME community's knowledge around WorkChoices through not only its commentary in the tier one daily newspapers but also its contributed articles to targeted SME publications like My Business, CEO Online and Country Biz as well as the provision of a WorkChoices checklist for Dynamic Business. ePayroll was also named as Australia's first WorkChoices compliant payroll software in Retail Biz, which alongside the other media coverage helped boost awareness of the product's compliance status.
Dean Morelli also became the media's SME expert on WorkChoices over the five month period. This culminated in November when the Enterprise Editor of The Australian Financial Review called Dean directly to get quick comments on topics outside the impact of the legislation, such as how to get the most out of your outsourcing relationships. Dean comments, "There was a huge amount of publicity for me as a payroll expert as I was invited to comment on the impact of the WorkChoices legislation. At one stage I had four interviews with the Australian Financial Review in an eight day period. The level of coverage was very impressive."
The campaign also successfully maintained Aussiepay's neutrality in the WorkChoices debate with no overtly negative or positive opinions about the value or worth of the legislation appearing in the media in association with Aussiepay's publicity.