Clean Water for Reefs Puako Messaging

Clean Water for Reefs: Puako - Strategic Messaging

When international non-profit Coral Reef Alliance took on the project of saving Hawaii's famed Puako Bay reef from bleaching, it entered into a complex and nuanced political fight beyond the localized normal resistance to change. 

A small, increasingly wealthy community on the west side of the Big Island, Puako is as famous on the island for its incredible and isolated coral reef bay as it is for rapid rate of new multi-million dollar homes. The new homes, often owned by wealthy non-local owners, are rapidly changing both the environment and community - both by increasing traffic and visitors, as well as loosening the localized community ties Puako has traditionally relied upon to make actualize neighborhood needs.

Specifically, the increase in homes and visitors means increased waste water and nitrogen entering the bay - upsetting a delicate marine ecosystem and causing irreparable harm to the coral. Led by the incredible work from the staff at Coral Reef Alliance, Puako sought options that would protect the bay and treat waste water responsibly. However, the ideal solution, a localized wastewater treatment plant, required buy-in from all home owners -- no easy feat. 

The decentralization of the community (most new home owners live on the continent and visit) and increased diversity of engagement and perspectives (some owners wanted to invest in treatment, others didn't) meant outreach to a dispersed and wildly different cohort. To help with the effort, we worked with Coral Reef Alliance to streamline their outreach efforts - from building a narrative website and web presence, to traditional media outreach, to creating clear and transparent literature around costs, to creating one-on-one talking points to drive engagement.

By using strategic messaging and creating clear and consistent information across the community, we helped Coral Reef Alliances's 'Clean Water for Reefs: Puako' project fight skepticism and reluctance to change, driving the project forward and creating sense of local ownership that spanned from the neighbors to local officials. Today, the Puako project has approved funding from the Hawaii State Legislature and is well underway to saving a natural landmark.


Messaging matrix to understand and address perspectives 

On-boarding ramp from messaging to drive action