Opinion

The key lessons to be learnt from the MOF’s influencer campaign

As the dust settles on the backlash generated by the Ministry of Finance's much-maligned Budget campaign using lifestyle influencers, Content.co's Yiwen Chan offers a few tips for the department to bear in mind next time round

Whether you’re a morning-commute Facebook scroller or a curious Googler living in Singapore, it’s likely that you’re no stranger to the Ministry of Finance’s recent influencer campaign.

‘A deeper dive’ – the MOF should have given the influencers more financial education before unleashing them on social media

On paper, MOF had checked the usual boxes: they partnered with 50 influencers, all with strong followings, and each published a post introducing the Budget.

This backfired when it produced a huge backlash among many who felt some of the influencers did not give a serious topic such as the Budget the weight and water it deserved.

On the flipside, however, the MOF deserves credit in taking the risk to reach out to screen-raptured young people who in any other circumstance may not even be aware that the government has a Budget that has a huge impact on their lives.

One thing is for certain: the MOF communications team had a tough job. Matters like the Budget lack mainstream appeal, much less so with a younger audience of Instagram addicts. This year’s proposed Budget also hints at tax hikes, which doesn’t make the campaign any easier.

Here are some things that MOF could have done better:

Good actors act – great ones become their characters

Daniel Day-Lewis in his Oscar-winning role as Abraham Lincoln, prepared for the part by reading his biographies, poring over personal letters and studying his photographs. There is no better way to gain credibility from the audience. In a similar way, an influencer only gains credibility in fashion by taking the right ‘outfit of the day’ snaps over time.

While millennials are ready to take recommendations from their ‘peers’ on where to eat and what to wear, the influencers MOF was working with could have benefitted from taking a deeper dive into the Budget topic.

Some wild suggestions: bring the influencers to relevant events such as policy masterclasses or to parliament to observe budget debates, and get them to join in community centre meet the people sessions.

Leverage the right voice

Another tactic where your influencer partner may have the audience but not necessarily the domain knowledge, is for them to feature and work together with inspiring leaders who have the expertise.

Take for instance a brand that has made a serious topic personable: Acorns, an investment app based in the United States. They got together with several athletes and success coaches for their blog, to create a series of interviews, podcasts and e-guides on these role models’ financial decisions. Profiles such as Kevin Durant and Tony Robbins stand out as profiles that provide a personal story that millennials can identify with.

Marry your channels

So how can MOF create content that appeals to a younger audience, or the masses? It can take a leaf from homegrown financial planning portal MoneySmart.

Content like the latter’s exposé of last year’s Budget explained financial concepts in down to earth, layman terms and provided responses to common questions the public had. It’s articles, peppered with such phrases, “Waaaaaahhhh… 30 per cent! So much” and “But first, just how is water priced in Singapore?”, have helped them grow their audience by educating them on money matters.

Over a longer term, a more sustainable approach for MOF is to try to fully separate its role from its partners’ and own its messaging by creating and publishing their own content.

MOF can come up with the most engaging way to explain a complicated topic, while the influencer should convince their audience to take a look at MOF’s cool blog. Each medium has its purpose and it may be an uphill task  to explain on Instagram, why raising taxes today may decrease your hospital bills in 40 years time.

Yi Wen Chan

Yiwen Chan is the founder and head of content at Content.co

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