Bill Brennan, spokesman for Mayor Mufi Hannemann, visited
HPU’s interpersonal communication class on Nov. 17. Brennan
talked about his career in public relations, including the
challenges he encountered as a government press secretary.
Brennan graduated in journalism from Ohio State University
and was an anchorman and executive producer at KHON-TV 2, before
becoming press secretary for the mayor.
Brennan said that he has never been busier in his life since
the mayor’s election, 20 months ago. Brennan defines
his job as “non-stop rock-n-roll.”
Reporters calling on weekends, the mayor calling at 11 at night,
the earthquake on Sunday morning, I’m back working,” said
Brennan. “I’m not complaining. It’s a lot
of energy, a lot of fun.”
I’m called basically to do a lot of things but the main
emphasis is to field questions from reporters and get them
answered,” Brennan said. “Their needs were my needs
not so long ago, so I know what reporters want.”
The mayor is a great guy, a great boss,” added Brennan. “He
works harder than I do, so he’s really demanding of his
staff, but no more demanding of us than he is of himself, which
makes it easy to give him a lot.
At the end of the presentation, students asked questions regarding
the high points and low points of his job.
Brennan faces difficult challenges. “One was the decision
to close Ala Moana Beach Park at night, which displaced a lot
of homeless people. We referred to that kind of activity as
illegal camping, because no one is allowed to sleep in the
park, whether you have an address or not,” Brennan said.
The city doesn’t have a housing department. We don’t
have a social service agency, but the state does. So we tried
to get people to realize that the state government was better
equipped to handle the homeless situation. We were trying to
clean and maintain our city’s parks,” he added.
The initiative for keeping Honolulu’s parks safer and
cleaner was appreciated by the public, said Brennan. “But
there were also people who said, ‘Oh, the mayor kicked
those people out; he is a heartless man.’”
Brennan said that the mayor is actually very compassionate,
and he did visit a lot of those homeless people and families
before they were moved out.
When something negative happens, Brennan explained, the city
puts out a press release almost immediately to all the media.
You don’t want to pretend nothing has happened. You want
to be pro-active, and if reporters have questions, you are
there to answer.”
His advice for aspiring reporters is to have “Good writing and personality,” said
Brennan. “I think there is nothing sexier than a great smile. Whether you
are a man or a woman, if you smile, you look great on TV.”
But of course, you don’t want to be smiling when reporting on a murder
story,” Brennan cautioned.“Take your work seriously, but don’t
take yourself seriously.”