Avatars, Spotify playlists and happy employees – IOTA held its first Forum on Communication

Ms. Dorottya Vannai's picture
Published by:

The first IOTA Forum on Communication was hosted by the IOTA Secretariat and took place on 10-12 December, 2019 in Budapest. The Forum brought together senior officials working in the field of communication in IOTA member tax administrations from both EU and non-EU countries. 51 participants from 26 countries gathered to achieve a greater practical understanding and awareness, exchange practices and discuss the latest trends in communication. 

The main aim of the IOTA Forum on Communication was to share knowledge and experience between IOTA member tax administrations in order to identify and exchange best practices, practical solutions, trends, strategies and tools in their communication. 

Throughout the 2,5 days of the Forum participants discussed 

  • How tax administrations communicate;
  • Complex communication campaigns (planning, target group segmentation, implementation …etc.);
  • How to successfully deal with the press;
  • Successful traditional media campaigns (planning, media mix, implementation … etc.);
  • Trends of the recent years: social media campaigns and
  • Internal communication.

The event also gave a good opportunity to the members of IOTA to create a network of communication experts which will intensify the exchange of communication best practices among tax administrations.

Frantisek Imrecze, Executive Secretary of IOTA

In his opening speech, Frantisek Imrecze, the Executive Secretary of IOTA talked about the digital transformation of the tax authorities that also influences the content and the way of communication. In the era of digital communication tax administrations pay increased efforts to use communication to strengthen the trust of taxpayers, to provide better services and – as a result – increase tax compliance. Communicating about and promoting the new digital services is a new challenge that many IOTA members have. He hoped that the IOTA Forum on Communication will support participants in becoming even better communicators towards the tax payers.

The event facilitated presentations, plenary discussions and 4 sessions of group discussions. It was a great occasion for IOTA member experts to meet and share new ideas, discuss success stories and challenges.

On the first day the plenary presentations in the morning were about how tax administrations communicate, how can every tax official become an ambassador, how to communicate with and engage different stakeholder groups and how to enhance tax compliance. The first three presenters already mentioned using social media tools for better results: Francis Adyns, Advisor General-Spokesperson from Belgium talked about social brand videos and guidelines for employees, what to post and what cannot be shared. Then Teresa Bernácer Sales, PR expert and Gema Jiménez Martín, Tax management specialist from Spain talked about a pilot project of using WhatsApp as a communication tool with tax payers and Anu Mujunen, Communications manager from Finland talked about using WeChat and Weibo for reaching out to Chinese clients.
In the afternoon, the speakers gave best practice presentations on launching successful complex communication campaigns and their lessons learnt. Participants learnt about successful communication campaigns for tourists and educational programs to enhance tax compliance from Greek best practices presented by Apostolia Kissa, Head of Compliance on Filling of Tax Returns Department. They also learnt about dedicated TV programmes and weekly columns for tax issues presented by Farrukh Karimov, Tax Inspector from Media and Communication Department from Azerbaijan. Then Rūta Asadauskaitė, Head of Communication from Lithuania presented them a complex campaign on tax amnesty, native ads and the importance of the holistic approach.

Rap family in the Norwegian campaign

Avatar character in the
Slovakian campaign

More successful campaigns used animated characters. Bente Karmann Tranberg, Senior communication advisor from Norway showed the participants characters of a family and their adventures and Richard Dírer, Director of Communications and Customer Service from Slovakia presented Taxana and her adventures in different situations. They both said that the reason for creating and using avatars is that people are more able to identify with human characters.



The Finnish face of the campaign

On the second day of the event the best practice presentations on complex communication campaigns continued with one more item in the Agenda. Following that the participants listened to successful media and social media campaigns.

Nilla Hietamäki, Communications manager from Finland presented the “Tax whisperer”, a real-life character this time, not an avatar. The media mix of their communication campaign also included a Spotify playlist, other social media and traditional media channels, cooperation with an influencer and an internal communication campaign on the social intranet of the authority. The aim of the latter was to create positive attitude in their office.


An influencer from the
Belgium campaign

The best practice examples of media and social media campaigns brought up many good ideas. Barbara Škrinjar from the Slovenian Financial Administration talked about how to encourage taxpayers of fulfilling tax obligations using a mobile application. Fabrice De Gregorio, Team leader from Belgium mentioned the importance of influencers and showed a successful way of using the radio channel in a media mix by using radio testimonials. Sergio Mazzei, Head of Communication and Press Office from Italy brought a perfect example of a good crisis communication campaign. From the Romanian tax authority Mihaela Dragulin, Head of Call-centre and Sabina Zeres, Chief of Communication and PR Department talked about successful social media campaigns and Nina Zakrajšek from Slovenia showed the participants some revolutionary ideas on how to use Twitter and other social media channels in a tax authority.


Group discussions

The Forum also provided an opportunity for the communication experts to discuss communication topics and exchange ideas during break-out sessions. Group discussions were held about all the 4 important areas of the Forum: how tax administrations communicate, communication campaigns, media and social media campaigns and internal communication. 

On the third day the key presentation was given by Yves Vankrunkelsven, Senior Manager at Ernst&Young Consulting from Belgium. He talked about the internal communication audit that EY implemented at the Federal Public Service Finances of Belgium and its lessons learnt. Although he was the only external presenter not coming from a tax authority, participants were equally interested in his presentation and asked many questions from him about internal communication. Questions evolved around what can be outsourced in the field of internal communication, points of contacts in the different departments, change management, how to fulfil the needs of employees regarding internal information, how to involve employees in initiating business process change and capitalize their ideas and more.

Later in the third morning delegates broke into groups and discussed topic suggestions, ideas and needs for the future as this was the first meeting of the IOTA Forum on Communication. The Forum meets once a year during its two-year Mandate, providing delegates with an opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics, problems and issues relating to communication. 

Dorottya Vannai, Communication specialist of IOTA

In the following panel debate lead by Dorottya Vannai, the Communication specialist of IOTA, participants were enthusiastic to continue the discussions. They discussed creating a communication network and after establishing different working groups, start working in them throughout the year.


More information on the Communication Forum, including all presentations, is available here for registered users of the IOTA website.
The next IOTA Forum on Communication will be held on the 24-26 November, 2020.
Throughout the year, Subgroups will be launched on relevant communication topics. Any officials working in the field of communication in the member tax administrations can join these working groups.