Overview of this campaign
The main objectives of the campaign were to rally up readers' involvement in pushing forward official investigations into an alleged embezzlement of 2,000,000 EUR from European Funds by State officials regarding the organization of a boxing gala (the Bute Gala) in 2011. As the number one sports newspaper in Romania, Gazeta Sporturilor also wanted to consolidate its position as a leading source of investigative journalism.
A secondary objective was to reach out to younger readers (age 20-35), usually the most challenging to get on board. Another one was to increase Facebook following of our editor-in-chief (also the lead investigator in this case). Why we needed marketing and PR tactics to do this? Because success depended on visibility and public engagement and most other media outlets were reluctant to cover this investigation.
Therefore, at the end of October 2013, after several episodes of the investigation in the newspaper, we organized a street adventure game, i.e. a scavenger hunt in Bucharest, where the main Government buildings are and where the boxing match took place, to look for the unaccounted money from the Gala.
Furthermore, on the 1st of December, Romania's National Day, the second flight of the campaign encouraged Romanians to tell us what they would have done for their country with the money spent on this Gala. In a country where newspaper readership is low and citizens' involvement in public affairs even lower, where media outlets are mainly seen as political instruments in the hands of moguls and public debate is polarized to the point of being a constant smearing of the Government or the opposition, our mission to get our readers involved was challenging. It was both more necessary and more difficult since we could only rely on our own means: newspaper, the digital edition, the website, social media and a small amount of support from a few independent and smaller media outlets to spread the word due to other media censorship of such a sensitive topic.
Results for this campaign
The biggest achievements of our 'in house' campaign were the unprecedented official consequences affecting the Romanian society as a whole:
- The Head of Anti-Corruption Prosecutors reopened the case
- The prosecutor in charge of the case since 2011 left the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (NAD) after public embarrassment
The Minister of the Economy and other high rank officials were formally prosecuted Results directed at the company: The campaign 'Where's the Money from the Bute Gala?' became one of the success stories of Romanian journalism and demonstrated that when citizens and journalists come together they become a force the Government can't ignore.
- 18 teams registered to take part in the scavenger hunt, even from outside Bucharest.
- 23 people raced to find clues that lead them in front of the NAD where they discovered the amount of money unaccounted for and presumed embezzled by the Gala's organizers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvl-e5I54O8
- Traffic on our editor-in-chief's blog and lead journalist investigator more than doubled in October 2013 compared to the previous month, in terms of unique visitors (70,258 vs. 141,937).
- The average comments per article on the blog increased by 46% from September to December 2013, with more than 900-moderated comments on the posts about the journalistic investigation.
- The Average Engagement per Post on our editor-in-chief's facebook page grew by 53% during the campaign, while Lifetime Total Likes increased by 40%. -National media, in spite of initial censorship on the subject, began to rally behind our journalistic investigation, after the scavenger hunt and increased public awareness.
- 160 messages received in 48 hours on our facebook application as well as on the blog, in reply to the question: what would you have done for Romania with 2,000,000 EUR?
- 15,000 Romanians received and engaged with the special edition of the newspaper on the 1st of December in 5 cities and the capital, during the National Day festivities, also attended by Government representatives.