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Was the Hawaii Tsunami Warning A Blessing For The Hawaii Tourism Authority?

It was an unprecedented coverage of the Hawaiian Islands during the Tsunami warning of February 27, 2010.  More people tuned into their TV, mobile and social media accounts to focus on Hawaii than ever in the history of modern-day Hawaii.  It was a sunny morning and there was light winds, empty beaches and more boats on the horizon than the eye could see.  A Perfect day for the HTA  right?

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has bore the brunt of the tourism heat for not getting the right kind of spin out to the world about Hawaii as a travel destination.  To boot, they just coughed up $650k to cultural Hawaiian development only after being called out on not being supportive of the movement.  And now, as if 3 is a charm, a tsunami warning that may have put a bit of a shy spin on people coming out here because “it could happen”.

What the world saw was a great response by the people of Hawaii to move it on up the hill.  Tsunami Pa’inas broke out along road side look-outs to see what would happen.  Nobody panicked and everything went off without a hitch – except 9 civil sirens.  The keywords on Twitter (#Hawaii#Waikiki) saw the highest use in the history of Twitter during the tsunami event so that must have had a good branding impact, right?

From my point of view, it was a great global response by people all over the world on all types of media sending well wishes as we awaited and sighs of relief when the tsunami missed us.  there are hundreds of millions of people who have visited Hawaii and left with some of the most memorable times of their lives.  Yes, as I’m so happy that the tsunami passed us, I’m even more elated to see that world knows what Aloha is.  Hawaii dodged a bullet but the HTA got the big save.  But I hope they open their eyes to see that the equity of Aloha is far greater than trying to create it.

Hawaii Radio Floods Real Time Info During Tsunami Warning, Ignites Social Media

Hawaii Tsunami Radio

Hawaii Tsunami Radio


 Saturday, February 27th 2010 was a surreal day for most here in Hawaii.  Warning sirens going off at 6:00am send chicken skin throughout the state and cell phones start to go off.  Most people turn on the TV because its early morning and it’s the first day of a weekend so the week day work force is sleeping in.    

The early morning traffic was at a minimum.  Most radio stations are on auto pilot during the weekend but that soon changed on the day Hawaii was told to get out-of-the-way of a potentially devastating tsunami.  Like TV, radio personalities show up with early morning bed-head to get emergency information out to the masses.  A Tsunami was about to hit with unprecedented global coverage and social media spin.    

As the world watches and waits for impeding disaster, it became clear to me how important radio was to the public during the call to action; low-level lands to evacuate.  Everyone I knew was making sure they had batteries ready and their portable radio.  Everyone who had to evacuate only had their radio’s in their car to get real-time information.  But one of the most compelling reactions to radio was the spinning of information that translated itself into a social media frenzy.     

Here at Salem Radio Hawaii, Jeff Coelho, Ed Kanoi, Jack Waters, Dawn O’Brien, Hutch and Dita Holifield held down the fort with a simulcast during the event.  Supported by their production team Chaz Ontai and Raffi, it was game on and people dialed in.  At the same time the station websites reflected real-time information to support listeners around the world who needed information because they had friends or family living here in Hawaii.  In addition to live streaming radio from the sites, there was a live streaming web cam looking out over Waikiki.     

According to the preliminary stats on the websites, there was an increase of almost 300% over KAIM, KKOL, KHUI, KHCM and unprecedented stick-time on the page with the live streaming video.  Widget placement on the sites also energized the social media support from around the world on Facebook and Twitter.  And finally, though I couldn’t get the stats, I had heard that there we’re many people who were getting radio updates on their mobile apps. 


As the tsunami warning got cancelled, an obvious huge sigh of relief from the people of Hawaii could be heard world-wide as visa versa.  But in a typical day of radio even that sigh of relief would have been one-way communication to the listeners.  But because of the engagement efforts of the on-air talent that also drove people to the website, the social media sites of Salem Hawaii are still reflecting prayers and well wishes from all over the world well after the tsunami was canceled.    

Finally, Hawaii radio stepped beyond traditional and engaged the world in real-time social media.  The game has changed for ever.  Radio still has a long life if they engage.

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