In the category of “turn down the political volume and maybe you’ll hear something interesting,” this blogger has found it thought-provoking to see how our current spate of leaders in Hawai‘i and Honolulu are revamping their public messaging.
Let us start with a recent development coming out of Honolulu Hale’s third floor – Mayor Blangiardi’s office. It would seem that during the COVID lockdowns and the need to use Zoom, he could also procure enough equipment and material to convert it into broadcasting a podcast.
The first sign of this was on Twitter, on February 9th, 2023, when the Mayor’s Office posted the “inaugural” podcast called “The One O‘ahu Podcast”. In the Twitter blurb that the Mayor’s office put out, the Mayor introduced the program with this statement:
Well, what I think we are doing is trying to message as many people as we can. One of the things I love about Podcasting is such personal communication, so I hope we can build an audience. But the intent here more than anything is to continue the work of our administration what we’ve done but more importantly what we are going to do. Because I want people to hold us accountable. I want people to understand what it is that we spend our days doing and what they can reasonably expect. I know that we have to raise the bar on our expectations with the community. We came into office knowing that the trust had eroded over the years. It’s our intent to build back that trust but we know we can only do it through action and deed.Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s first statement on his Podcast.
Before this Mayor and his podcast, the Mayor’s office typically used the bully pulpit at the Managing Director’s office conference room to relay his thoughts to the public. Mayor Hannemann, Carlisle, and Caldwell all summoned the press when they had something to say and may be used the soundbites in their press releases after the conference was done.
Going the way of the Podcast puts the microphone squarely in the hands of the producer and, if done correctly, can create a controlled narrative that directs constituents to see things in a certain way. It also has the power to combat any counterargument on things before they take root, before the Mayor’s office can come out with its message.
As a former podcaster, who for about two years produced the “SuperflyOz Podcast” I will say that if you have the resources (people & time) to produce good content, the power that message has can be quite high. Needless to say, the Mayor’s office of Honolulu has those resources and seems to be using them well.
Another Honolulu City official that uses targeted messaging on social media, and has an audience is Councilmember Augie Tulba, District 9.
Since before he was a Councilmember, back in the days of his first campaign for office, he garnered a great deal of content and audience on his Instagram account. He converted that audience to this Instagram site of which, almost every day, there is some new content posted.
Instead of his pieces being scripted like the Mayor’s office podcast, Councilmember Tulba does the more “instant” message format in which he puts out short informative pieces on what is going on in the district. For instance, the recent sewer leak in his district brought him out to assess the situation, show it to the people and get City leaders to speak about it, like Roger Babcock, Director of Environmental Services for the City.
This type of on-spot reporting is more akin to a news broadcast, but instead of the stilted press-official interaction, you have a city official talking to another city official, right there at the incident, showing what is happening. While there is no counter as to how many saw the piece, this specific one did get 50 likes – a bit astounding when other officials don’t get that many on a more scripted piece, or have to lean on “bots” to boost the numbers.
It also helps to show that the Councilmember whom the people voted for, is on the job and taking notes. This material can be used for a re-election campaign, if anything, to show that he is aware of issues in the district above that of the criticism of his opponents.
A third, relatively recent outreach by officials, this time by State Legislators, is the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday broadcast of the Legislatures Minority Caucus on Salem Media’s AM 690, during the pau hana drive time. Called “Capitol Conversations” the program is hemmed by House Rep. Lauren Cheape Matsumoto, the Minority Caucus Leader. She brings on other members of the caucus to talk about issues and what legislative actions they are doing in this current session.
While one could say that the audience for this is already defined (most likely a listener of this will also listen to other shows like Dennis Praeger and Sebastian Gorka), the effort of the Republican minority in the Legislature to have a show and to present ideas in a scheduled way shows that there is a step-up effort to get a message out there from their side outside of the finicky nature of the local press to cover it.
In all three examples (and yes, we should include here Governor Green’s whiteboard episodes – his last two episodes of that can be found here and here), one can see that politicians in Hawai‘i, albeit slowly, are warming up to the idea that they can do independent messaging outside of the traditional media realm.
And if the spread of independent voices, at least in the lawmaker realm, expands, will the independent voice that puts out blogs, vlogs, and podcasts get more space to also hear their voice, in Hawai‘i? Only time, and persistence, will tell.
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