Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement, fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission because victory for Louisiana requires you.
On this week's episode, my conversation is with Hyma Moore, who has a wide range of experience in campaign communications from press secretary to advance man for presidential candidates. We discuss what campaigns, whether electoral or issue-based, should do to prepare for a strong communication strategy. And as his political origin story unfolds, Hyma's experience underscores how involving and investing in young people who show interest in politics can really pay off for our party.
Hyma Moore, thank you for joining me on Louisiana Lefty today.
Hey Lynda, thank you for having me. I'm looking forward to a very exciting conversation.
Well, I always love speaking with you, Hyma. And I start every episode with how I met my guest. As we were thinking about this, the best we could figure was maybe during the 2010 municipal elections, and we thought there was a strong probability that we were introduced by the great Felicia Khan.
Right. I think so. I hope so. Because that's a really nice story, and it makes our connection seem even stronger, so I'm excited that that's--
Yeah, she was certainly a mentor of mine and a champion of mine like so many other Democrats in Louisiana.
No, totally. And I remember you hearken back to 2010, but that was such an awesome year for New Orleans, I think, when Mayor Landrieu became mayor and Senator Landrieu was doing big things in DC, and I was a young, very young at the time, and I think I met Felicia, and she was introducing me to a bunch of folk, and I'm happy to have met you.
Well, likewise, likewise, and wherever we met, we've certainly worked on a few campaigns together since then, but tell me how you got bit by the political bug. What's your origin story there?
No, yeah. We have worked on a bunch of campaigns, some good and some bad, but we'll get into that in just a little bit. So, my dad fancied himself like a grassroots kind of guy. And so, when I was young, we were always kind of out and about for some sort of issue. It wasn't always campaigns. It was sometimes advocacy. I don't remember this, but I remember the stories. You know that when David Duke was running for Governor of Louisiana, and Cleo Fields in Baton Rouge was mobilizing a bunch of Black young people to get out to vote, so we can balance out what David Duke was assuming was going to be a runaway election. And so, very young, I was out there with my parents and my dad seeing people like Cleo Fields in Baton Rouge and Kip Holden, who was the first Black mayor, and seeing those individuals and just wanting to be a part of that. And I remember when I was in maybe fourth or fifth grade, I wrote this report on the city constable, and everybody was like, "What is that?" I was like, "I don't know, it's a cool job. It's a lot of power. It's a lot of responsibility." And so, I've always been very interested in politics as a child. And then I think I officially have my first quote-on-quote political job when I was 16 working under a city councilman in Baton Rouge: Charles R. Kelly. And you're doing all the community stuff and taking notes and following behind them and all the things you do when you're 16, and you just want to be a part of politics. And so, my dad has been a guiding kind of hand in that whole thing and just kind of helped me meet the right people and be in the right rooms. I remember when I was a kid, they were starting the Black Chamber of Commerce in Baton Rouge and so just being in those spaces for a long time and standing on the shoulders of those individuals, you know, strong Black men in Baton Rouge who have kind of showed me that I can be a part of politics.
That's amazing. And then sort of as a mini-bio, what have you done since then, thinking highlights of the campaigns you've worked on and the issues you've worked on?
Yeah. Well, like you said, I got bitten by the bug. And unfortunately, I got super infected with the love of politics. And so, I went to college in Atlanta at a time where the energy around politics, national politics was so incredible. As you remember, the great Hillary Clinton, senator at the time, had decided to run for president. And the great senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, had decided to run as well with a host of other Democrats and all the others who were super energizing as well. And so that was a huge time for young people in college to be involved in politics. And so, I went to Morehouse, and it was super activated by the Georgia Democratic Party. And so, I got involved volunteering with the Hillary Clinton campaign. A lot of my friends were involved in the Barack Obama campaign, and we were just going head-to-head. Steve Martin was running at the time for senate against Saxby Chambliss. Kasim Reed had just become Mayor of Atlanta and Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor now, she had her first election ever. It was just an incredible time, so we got involved there. And you know, Morehouse is super supportive of our political work. And so, we had a bunch of candidates always on campus, and we were just always involved. And so, from college, you get exposed to all those opportunities. And so, I met a lot of folk in terms of Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee in 2008 when Barack and Hillary were running and then when Barack Obama became the nominee. And so, once you become an adult, you're like, how do you piece all that together? What do you do after that? How do you find a real career in politics and campaigns? And so, I was fortunate to come back home to Louisiana and get involved. You remember in 2010 with Mitch Landrieu and the Landrieu kind of whole clan, the whole Landrieu crew, Landrieu land. And I was fortunate very early on to attach me and my career and myself to the resurgence of New Orleans. And so, I spent those years helping Mayor Landrieu and the Landrieu communications team shape some really strong strategic communications messaging and campaigns that were reinforcing what we were trying to do at the time, and that was rebuilding the city. As you remember, before the mayor came in, we were stalled. And Ray Nagin was the mayor immediately following Katrina, and things were chaos. And so, it was just a really incredible time for a young person to dive into politics. You know, Mayor Landrieu and Mary Landrieu and Moon Landrieu and that entire family, they have a really well-established political network here in Louisiana. And so, I was very fortunate to be a part of that and to be trained by that team. And so, using that and went on to 2015 and got attached to the Hillary Clinton campaign. And you never think about working in national politics when you spend a lot of time doing local campaigns: city council, mayor, etc., etc. But I met the right people at the right time and got attached to that campaign very early before she had announced in May of 2015 and spent the entire 24 months of the campaign running around, advancing. I think we'll talk about that a little bit later. But advancing for that campaign and meeting local and national press all over and then working for Jon Ossoff and doing some things with Bernie Sanders and then coming back around and most recently working for the Joe, President Biden and Kamala Harris campaign and helping win Georgia, things like that. And now, I think once we have this conversation, I will be back on my way to the DNC, which I'm very excited about as well. And so, I've been around the Democratic kind of political playground for a bit now.
You fit a lot into a few years, really, so far.
A lot into a few years. I just didn't get a lot of sleep, and I just kind of took every opportunity that came in front of me. And I kind of tried to use it to my advantage.
Of all the things you've just mentioned whether it was Morehouse or Landrieu camp, what prepared you most for your role in politics?
Honestly, I think, and I mentioned this earlier, I think it started a lot with my dad and with me being, when I expressed interest in politics as a young kid, my dad immediately went, it's like when you're interested in the NBA or the NFL, and your parents put you in all of the different things that support that activity. So, my dad kind of went over and beyond, and so I was involved in all the summer leadership programs at LSU and doing the internships at the state capitol and for the mayor. Just doing all the things I was interested in, and when you're a child, when you're young, you're in high school or whatever, people let you into rooms that you don't, they don't expect you to take advantage of. And so, I was into those rooms very early. And so, I was exposed to a lot of high-level politics very early. And so that prepared me, once I got to Morehouse, and I was able to meet Julian Bond and Ambassador Andrew Young, and so you have a set of decorum that is already there for you to be able to have a conversation with the people, to take advice and opportunity. It's not just your starstruck. You have an opportunity to really connect with these individuals. And so, I would say between my childhood and Atlanta and Morehouse and that experience, I think that is what prepared me and then my internship at the DNC back in 2008, those three things prepared me for the sort of politics I think I do now.
That is excellent information. And it's very exciting to me that you're going back to the DNC. I'm sorry that you'll be moving away from here for at least a little while, but I think that's exciting and congratulations on getting that new role.
Yeah, I'm excited. I'm excited about it. And what we realize is with the House and the Senate and the White House, we have an opportunity to create these far-reaching Democratic policies to really affect kind of those new New Deal style changes that the president would like to do, but we need Democrats up and down the ballot. And so, we can't just put everybody over in DC and expect for us to--we have school board elections, and we have three gubernatorial elections this year. One is going to be the result of a recall, and the other two are solid states, but we've got to make sure that we're there. And then of course, in a year, we'll be making sure that we're trying to defend our majorities. And so, there's a lot to do. And so, I think the DNC has a big job ahead of itself to protect the majority and to protect Democratic values.
And a lot of people don't really understand the role of the Democratic National Committee. And I can understand that because if you're not deeply involved in all of this stuff, what's the difference between the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or the Democratic Governors Association or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee? There is all this alphabet soup of Democratic groups. So, what's your envisionment of what the DNC really is there to do?
So, you hit a huge, you know, everyone says, some in jest and some in sincere care, but the Democratic Party is kind of the big tent party. And there's a lot of, even you'd say Emily's List and NAACP and the Urban League, and there are a lot of other organizations that are part of that Democratic alphabet soup. But I think what the DNC is trying to and what it's done, even back to when Howard Dean, the great chair of the 50-state strategy, and so the DNC itself is kind of the tip of the umbrella for the Democratic Party and kind of setting the agenda and the messaging and kind of the infrastructure. You're someone who understands this more than most people in politics. Infrastructure is so important, the data, who holds the data, who understands the universe, and who's monitoring the electorate as it grows because new people are becoming voters when they turn 18. And also, new individuals decide that they want to vote in certain elections. Who's monitoring that? And who's making sure that individuals have the resources they need to decide they want to support Democratic values and the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. And so, a little bit under that, and this is where you and I have encountered a lot of our time over the years, but the state parties are super important. So, under the DNC, you have the Democratic Party of Louisiana, of Georgia, of Texas, of Mississippi, of whatever. And so, those party chairs and exec directors, communications directors, central party committees are effectively the bridge between the national party and the state and the precinct and individuals who vote on the ground. And so, the DNC, I think, right now is trying to reestablish those bridges to make sure that there's a contraflow between the state parties and the national party in DC and all the territories. And so, when we have candidates that come to ask for your vote, you already understand what those candidates have to offer because they're Democrats, and they have Democratic values, progressive values they're espousing.
Well, we look forward to hearing more from you as you start your job with the DNC. So hopefully, you'll stay engaged with us locally and let us know how we can assist the DNC with that work that you're doing.
Hopefully, we'll be turning in Louisiana fully blue one day soon.
Well, fingers crossed on that. Obviously, it takes a lot of work. We discussed the other day that your focus has really been on communications, but you're one of the few people I know who's actually done advance work for campaigns. And can you talk a little bit about what advance work is like really what it entails? And just sort of what that gig is like?
Advance is kind of like the ghost of political politics. A lot of people don't, they experience advance, but they don't even realize that they're experiencing advance. And so, what Lynda is referring to, and so 2015, I was able to join the advance team for Hillary Clinton. And so, the advance team essentially is a team of individuals who take care of all of the schedule and preparation for a candidate and our high level political--president, vice president, etc., secretary--take care of all of their schedule and logistics before they arrive at a place. And then once they've arrived there handle their time while they're there. And so essentially, my role was around press. And so, I was in charge of handling: does the press know where Hillary Clinton's going? Once they know where she's going, where do they go? What do they do? What are they seeing? How do they get there? And so essentially, my role was to make sure they had all the resources to report on Hillary Clinton's movements. And on the other side, we have a part of my team was called site advance. And so this person was in charge of when you see Hillary Clinton or John Kerry or Barack Obama or President Joe Biden on camera, the tree that's behind me and the picture behind me, making sure that that tree and picture align perfectly, so the camera can see both Hillary Clinton's head and the visual that we're trying to portray behind her, be it a poster that says: fighting for us or breaking down barriers or stronger together. Whatever it is, how do you portray that message visually because you only see maybe a couple thousand people at an event? Most 20,000, 30,000, but you have to reach millions of people, and so you have to make sure that your event, your time on the ground translates to millions of people, not just the folk you're visiting in Iowa or Ohio or whomever in between. And so, the advance team is in charge of making sure that the moment that Hillary Clinton gets off the plane to the moment that she gets back on the plane every single detail is thought about, it's planned, and it's executed. From the motorcade to the hotel room, to the seat at a table, who's sitting around the table, making sure that the people who are in the room have the same values that we're trying to portray for the campaign. So, you're doing some background checks and vetting, making sure the Secret Service understands how to approach security, and then making sure that the press has what it needs to portray. We would say, if no one knows that you were there, you weren't there. And the only way people know that you're there is if you have the press with you. And so, the press went everywhere with us at every moment. And so, people don't realize that Hillary Clinton and candidates running for president, Bernie Sanders, all these folks, they have about 25 reporters that follow them everywhere they go even to the hotel, and they sleep a floor or so down. And when they wake up, they come and get in the motorcade, and they travel with us. So, it's a whole thing that has to be concerned about, and the advance team takes care of all of that. And so, it's super exciting. You go to everywhere. I went to maybe 47 states in 2015, 2016. And so, you go there, you put on a show, you pack up, you go, and you put on a show again, you pack up, you go. And so, it's very intense, but it's super exciting because you see yourself, it's your work on the front pages of the paper and CNN and every day. You see a little stop at a coffee shop. That seems super chill and easy, but a lot goes into taking someone like President Barack Obama to a coffee shop. A lot goes into it. And the advance team handles that.
And my couple of experiences with that were really pretty different. In 2008, when Barack Obama came to Tulane University here, it seemed like a pretty young advance team, which it probably was. But I know like my job there was to make sure he had, to your point of making sure the visuals behind him were right there, they were really wanting to make sure there was a diverse group of supporters behind him. There wasn't a sign behind, there was probably a sign on the podium. Like a little one, perhaps. But it was really important that they wanted to make sure that we had a group behind him that reflected his supporters, his base of supporters. And then cut to I guess eight years later when Hillary Clinton or any of her surrogates came to Louisiana, that was just an intense amount of information they wanted. Because Hillary Clinton is a very different-- just wanted to know everything about anything that might be happening in the state. So, it was just a lot of writing and a lot of research and reports and letting her know who anybody she might come across in the state was going to be. So, it was a lot. It was very different.
And the cool thing about Hillary Clinton, she'd been secretary of state and senator and first lady and so Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton, they sort of created this new culture of advance back in the 90s. So, Hillary Clinton's been a part of this world for a very long time. And when they come to a place, she reads the entire thing front to back, and so when she gets off the plane, she knows who Lynda is all the way through to the five cops she's going to see before she gets back on the plane and everything in between. And it's kind of a part of being prepared. You know, when you do this, one of the things that we created back in 2015, and I was part of that, was whenever the, it sounds super silly, but whenever the press would get to a place, we had on their table or their workspace, you are in Baltimore, Maryland. You are seeing Secretary Hillary Clinton at Chesterfield High School at 5 pm. Blah, blah, blah. And these four people are going to speak. And we did that at every single stop because you end up going to five or six cities a day and sometimes during the general election, Hillary Clinton will be in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania in the same day. So, it's like, you can't even remember who the state assemblyman is in Virginia versus Arizona. How are you going to make sure that you know that these individuals--you're going to see them in the same day. And the only way you do this is if your advance team is professional. They ask the right questions. They're super prepared and are very, very detailed.
Is there a local equivalent to that, like a local campaign equivalent to advance?
Or is it? Is that something that's unique to national campaigns or is--
No, actually a lot of the big mayors--so Mitch Landrieu understood advance very well as well. And so, I kind of did that when I worked for him. And there was a bunch of us who were staff assistants. We had a team of staff assistants that would advance the mayor before he--people who know Mayor Landrieu know that he is one of the most prepared individuals that is in politics. And that's partly because before he arrives somewhere, he already has infrastructure on the ground, an advance team that's letting him know that this pastor is there versus this state senator. Senator Landrieu is not coming because she's stuck in Washington D.C., and this is what she's working on. Here are a couple things you can say when you mentioned her. And so just kind of, you have to have spatial awareness, you got to have a lot of concern for detail, you have to know who people are, you got to know before the mayor would come in. Two or three more state reps would come in, and nothing makes someone more upset than if you forget to mention their name in remarks. And nothing makes Mayor Landrieu more upset or Hillary Clinton more upset than if they forget to mention someone's name because you forgot to put it on the paper. And Mayor Cantrell, she does that too a bit. Not to the full extent. She goes out a little more organically, but she has a team that goes out too before her big events to make sure that things are kind of set and ready because you never want the principal to get there and have to wait 25 minutes before you start. You want the principal to come in, do the program, do the press conference, do the talk, and maximize the time with the camera or with the people not with the logistics.
Well, that's good info. Okay, let's get back to more pure communications, which is what you've done more so than the advance work? What roles have you held in communications?
This is a good question. So most recently and one of my favorite roles for the Joe Biden campaign, I was the Regional Communications Director for the South. And so, I handled and kind of managed the communications teams that were in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and then directly managed the comms in South Carolina, Maryland, DC, and Louisiana. And so that was a lot of strategic communication, but more importantly, understanding the landscape. What we realized early on, Georgia and Florida, while they were both battleground states, are totally different. And while Charlotte and Atlanta may have similarities, North Carolina and Georgia were also totally different. And so, we had to run, even though it was a national campaign, we had to run these mini-state communications campaigns. And so, a lot of what I did was work with communications directors for each state to build strategies that were North Carolina specific, Georgia specific, Florida specific to make sure that if we were in Florida, we understood which Hispanic and Latina media outlets we had to talk to when we were talking to Puerto Rican Americans versus Cuban Americans. Whereas, when we were in North Carolina, we had the Lumbee Tribe that we had to influence. And that's this whole set of different priorities. And so, making sure that the media and communication strategies were reflective of those priorities. And of course, in all three of those states, we were trying to push the vote up on the African American side and so making sure we were booking surrogates and so running the surrogate comms booking, making sure for folk like Elizabeth Warren, once she had endorsed Joe Biden, making sure she was spending the appropriate time in North Carolina. Or Rapper Common. He spent two days in Florida, and he spent two days in North Carolina. But making sure that he's not talking to the wrong media outlets. He's not talking to the wrong audiences and making sure that people know that is happening. So that was a big role. And it was really exciting. So, I started off in my first kind of baby comms role with Mitch Landrieu, and I was working for his economic development. He was trying to rebuild the city of New Orleans, and he had put a lot of emphasis and economic development and business engagement. And so, I thought it was a small job. And I realized that I'd never done comms before except like volunteering for campaigns. And so, I was thrown in the deep end, and I remember my first mistake. Ryan Bernie, one of my mentors and someone I look up to in politics and someone who helped create the entire communications culture and strategy and engagement for Mitch Landrieu and for Mary Landrieu, honestly, in some instances, and so, he called me, and he said, "You guys were not supposed to go on so and so radio station, and you guys said these four things. Can you make sure you run these things by me before you do it?" And I was like, "Yes, of course." We were willy nilly about it. And so, very quickly got folded into kind of a communication structure. So, I went to a PR firm for a while as well. Anyone who does communications, you have to go get trained in an agency, and the PR firms are really good at it. So, Deveney Communication, John Deveney, here in New Orleans, he's the leading crisis communicator in the South. And so, I was able to learn from him and be a part of this crisis communication team and Carrie DeVries and that whole team. I was very excited to just really learn just true PR. How many times you put a press release out. You and I both know that you can never put out enough press releases. If you have a thing you want to say, put out a press release, make a headline, and just put it out, and people know you're doing something, and people know you have something to say. And so, and then I went back to Mayor Landrieu's team and worked more intimately on his comms team and then kind of helped really shape a strategy for him and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. And that was kind of more of a national thing working with Mayor Garcetti and Bill DeBlasio and things like that. And so, I've been senior advisor. I've been a press assistant. I've been an account executive, communications director, press secretary, vice president of external affairs. And so, a lot of what's happened in 10 years, it just means that you're leading the comms strategy, and you're executing a media strategy that engages the press and making sure that earned media is at the forefront of what you're trying to accomplish, and the press knows what you're trying to do every day.
Well, and one of the campaigns that we worked on together was an issue-based campaign. We worked on the Louisiana team when the Republicans were trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. And you were doing press or communications for that effort while I was doing more organizing work. That was an interesting effort to be a part of because it really seemed very David and Goliath at that point. The Republicans held all branches of government. And it was fairly amazing that these efforts and there were nationwide efforts. There were community groups and all these Democratic allied groups who were working on this nationwide. There were also all these just local grassroots people bubbling up and working on that and that really assisted our efforts a lot.
We both worked for national campaigns, but we've done the work locally. And so, you can have all the national effort you want, but if you don't have people on the ground actually executing on that, it's going to be hard to persuade people, to get voters, to move people, etc., etc. So, in this instance, you and I working together, and of course, anyone knows, if you want to move people in Louisiana or in the South, you got to call Lynda because she's going to help you do that. And so, on the press side, I remember Walt Leger, at the time, was a state representative. And we put together a press conference. And we were standing up and saying, save our care, protect our care, protect our care. And we had one camera that showed up. And in some instances, you're like, oh, no, that's such a failure. But what we did is we took a lot of pictures. Got a lot of audio. Got a lot of video. We packaged it up. We sent it around to people. And so, we were actually able to touch more people through our direct mail list and through the work you were doing and making sure people knew that we were doing it than we would have if we had gotten just one segment on local news. And so, you learn in these issue campaigns that you don't always get a lot of media attention, and it's not always five or six cameras and the radio and the Advocate and the Times-Pic showing up. It's more about doing the activity and then packaging it and making sure people know you did it and making sure people see it, and they can touch it. And so, we did a lot of that. We had a lot going on in Louisiana. We had a senator who was writing the bill. It was cool. But also, in the backdrop of that is, we were just hungover from the 2016 campaign. We were devastated that Donald Trump had become the 45th president. We were devastated that the Republican Party had decided to chip away at every piece of the Affordable Care Act. And so, we were riled-up, and a lot of grassroots individuals in the South were riled-up more than we had been before. And fortunately for us, we had a Democratic governor. And so, we had some cover. And so, we were up in the trenches making sure that people knew. We were sending out press releases two or three times a day, getting out the facts. And so, a lot of, you can say this too, Lynda, is getting out the data and making sure that people knew that if we repeal the ACA, I can't remember what the number was, but it was over 10 to 14 million people in Louisiana, we're going to lose health care. And the fact that our governor had expanded Medicaid just a year and a half prior was going to take all of that away. And people in Louisiana were like, oh, I don't want to be political. I am a Republican, but I need my health care. And so, Bill Cassidy, Senator Bill Cassidy had to take a stand once he had written the bill and sort of had to pull back and understand that it was not a win-win for the Republican Party to repeal the ACA. And so that was a really fun issue campaign. It was gut-wrenching because we almost--they were chipping away. And the courts were at a point, thank God we had the great RBG still around and taking handle of that as well from the court perspective. But we had a lot of work to do. And it wasn't a lot of resources to push that agenda for our state and other states as well.
Well, and to your point, Bill Cassidy actually was one of the senators that the national groups were targeting. So, we became ultra-important in those conversations when we'd get on the calls with those other groups that were communicating, the coalitions that were speaking. And you did, I know you got press out to a lot of these events. And some of my job, at that point, was less about getting people to go out to Senator Cassidy's office because so many people wanted to go protest. Sometimes it was just about finding out when they were going to be there and making sure that we could get press there. And if we couldn't get press there, although I will say you got press there many, many times, but when we couldn't, some of it was, like you were talking about, making sure we were getting footage. And for me, I'm very grassroots. I don't have a professional camera or whatever. I was out there with my iPhone.
But one of the things that was super effective, and we've talked about this, I would just start, Twitter was afire with this issue at the time, I don't remember if it was #saveACA or #protectourcare, whatever we were using.
It was great.
But people were all over the hashtags that were focused on that. Nationwide, people were up in arms about it. So, I could go do a man on the street interview, live stream on Twitter, and it would get so much notice. So many people would be watching it. So, a couple of things would come from that though. We'd find somebody who was having an issue that if they lost their health care, they could die, someone in their family could die, it would just radically impact their lives. We could ask them about it, broadcast it live. First of all, now you're giving people who are watching it talking points.
They now are getting information, they're getting information on how to advocate themselves. But secondly, you could tag those senators and representatives that were voting on the issue, and now they're seeing real live people who are being impacted by their actions. And that all is really powerful for when you can't get the press somewhere or even when you can, but particularly when you can't get the press somewhere that you're almost acting as your own press to some degree.
You're speaking like a true comms person now, Lynda. And you call that an amplification is what we call it. And we did a lot in this past campaign with Joe Biden. Obviously, not every single zoom we would do would get press. And honestly, North Carolina, I remember, we had a great comms director, Maya Humes, there, who was just wonderful. And I remember, she called me one day, and she said, "Hyma, I don't know what to do to get the press engaged in what we're trying to do." And you and I have done this a lot. And we've thought about this particularly when it comes to issue campaigns. And Joe Biden was trying to run an issue campaign based on COVID and healthcare at the time. And it's only so many reporters that are going to report on the things you want them to report on. And so, what you got to do is you got to sort of manufacture, we were doing these things called What They Said. And so, we would go on and look on Twitter and say, oh, Lynda Woolard said--she pulled her tweet about healthcare. Hyma Moore said this about the ACA and about if Republicans win the presidency. You put all that on one page, and you send that to the press. And the press will report on that. They really will. And it's kind of like you manufacture the story. You're not lying about it, obviously, because you shouldn't do that. But you just got to package it in the way that the press can see and use it in an easy way.
Yeah, and I think that's part of it nowadays particularly with the way newsrooms have gone. The easier you can make it for the press to report on a story, the more bite-sized chunks and digestible ways you can feed that story to them so to speak, the more likely they're going to report on it.
Yeah. I tell individuals that I, younger comms people I talk to, that sometimes a lot of my job is to be a producer, a TV producer, or radio producer, to think like a reporter, like an editor. For instance, in my current role at GNO inc., we came up with an agreement WWL Radio, Newell Normand, to do a weekly show. And most of the time, what I will do is I will email the producer, Helen, who's wonderful, and Newell and say, here's kind of what I'm thinking for the show. Kind of line it up. At 10:10, we'll talk about this. We'll go to commercial. We'll come back and talk about this. We'll take callers here. You kind of lay it out like that. So, good comms people create that entire structure. They don't just pick up the phone and pitch a story. They sort of create the entire story for the reporter, for the broadcast journalist, for the radio station to be able to use. And that's what a good comms person, that's what Ryan Bernie taught me. That's what Bernicia taught me. That's what the folk who taught me in Landrieu world, honestly.
So, we've talked about sending out press releases. You want to send out a press release announcing when you have an event inviting the press to the event.
You want to send out, in case they don't come or on the off chance they don't come, you want to send out your press releases with the data or the information and the quotes and the images that you want them to have in case they can write the story but can't be present.
Right, exactly. And I'll back up to say even before inviting, you know that's kind of a media advisory. So, when you advise the media, you're inviting them to join your event. And that's not necessarily asking them to report on it. That's written in the comment to report later. But a press release, and what I normally do is, you like to do both when you have an event, a press release explaining why you're doing the event, giving the data giving the facts, creating the story and the experience for people to kind of have before they come to your event. And then the media advisory is giving the details, logistics of how to cover it, what they're going to see, where to go, etc., etc. And that's what you do: one and two.
And then you would follow-up after the event with another--
Press release with pictures, video, any sort of material you just mentioned, Lynda. Even if you were not able to come to my event, it's okay. I still care about you, and I still want the story. So, here's what happened at the event. You give as much detail as possible. You say, Jamie Harrison, the chair of the Democratic Party, was in New Orleans, Louisiana and spoke with Senator Richmond at this place. Here are photos too. This is what they talked about. And you give that, and you will nine times out of ten, the media will report on it. And they won't even respond to your press release. They will just take that, and they'll create their package,
What would make the press more likely to show up at your event? Is there something people can do to make it more attractive for press?
So that's a hard thing, honestly. And that's one of the anxieties that, I've been doing this now for 11 years. And I still get so much anxiety about press coming to my events. And one of the things that we did in the mayor's office was we would call all the news stations 20 minutes or 30 minutes before the event. So, you do the press release. You do all whatever, whatever. You have to call, and you remind them again and just try to get on the docket for the day. And so, you kind of create an opportunity for them to ask you questions and kind of get more information. That's one. And then two: having a big kind of name person there. If Governor Edwards is at your event, the likelihood of press showing up is very high. If you have an expert in town, some PhD person, Phil Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood, if she's here, you will always get press. And so, it's very hard to know and to push one particular lever to get press. You have to understand the news cycle very well when you're a press person. So, you got to understand that if you're in the middle of the legislative session in Louisiana, there are a couple things that are going to animate the press, particularly the political press. And so, it's more likely for you to get press if you go to Baton Rouge than if you are in New Orleans. And so, you have to know all of those things. And so, you can't just pick some random day and say, I'm going to do a press conference on Wednesday at 1:10 pm. You also have to understand that you're more likely to get on the noon news if you have a press conference before 11 am. And once you're on noon, you're probably going to be on five and four and six and ten. You have to know that on Friday, you do a news dump. The likelihood of it being covered on the weekend is pretty low. And the attention span is very low. So even if you have it on Friday, you can't expect for the news to cover it on Monday. And so, there are a lot of things. It's kind of like a science and an art. And so, you got to know those things. You got to kind of ride the wave of the news cycle. You kind of got to hit--it's kind of like the stock market. You got to hit at the right moment.
And how would someone go about, without discussing the whole nuts and bolts of it, but a good press list for them for their press releases and advisories?
Yes, you can always buy them, obviously. But a lot of us don't have money to do that. And so, it's super easy. You get an Excel sheet. You literally go on all the websites, all the papers, all the radio stations, and you just find the people that are writing on your beat, and most individuals will have a either Twitter handle or an email online. You can Google it. And it takes maybe a couple of hours to do it, but it's worth the investment. And a lot of individuals don't want to do that because it seems laborious, but it's really effective when you have your own cultivated media lists.
Which you do have to keep up with because people do switch jobs every now and then.
People switch jobs very, very often. And so, I would say that at least once a quarter, you want to update it. But for the most part, the editors and the assignment editors, producers don't change very often. And so, at the very least, you'll have someone that you communicate with regularly at these places.
And when we were preparing for this episode, we talked a little bit about advice we would give to new or young or inexperienced candidates about getting more earned media or how to get their message out more. That seems to be a bit of a hurdle that some of them don't really know how to get over. And my advice has always been, and I understand it's harder in the middle of a pandemic, but my advice has always been to have town halls and to do press conferences.
I love town halls. I love press conferences, honestly. And I don't understand people's hesitation in engaging in that way. But here's the issue you got to contend with, Lynda. You got to make sure that your things are professional. And so, when you invite the press to a press conference, you have to make sure that your little press kit, it doesn't have to be a lot of words and a lot of pages, but your media advisory and your press release have a headline that's going to kind of pique imagination about what you're going to say, something that's pithy and cool. But also, you got to make sure that the place is there, the location, all the things that the press needs and make it easy for them, and then they'll start coming. You do it every day. If you're running for office, your job is to get people, voters to pay attention to you. And so, one of the things that you should be able to do is a press conference or some sort of something, town hall every day. And press won't always come, but you just repackage it like we've talked about, and you get it back out to the press, and then they will cumulatively cover you at some point. It's kind of like a machine. You got to kind of get it going. And once it's going, it will be self-fulfilling.
And while rallies have their point, press conferences and town halls are, in many ways, easier to pull off than a rally.
Yeah, yeah. You also have to design it in a way that people are going to want, and so, if you're talking about, let's say we're talking about abortion, we got to make sure that, you're giving your opinion on where you stand and what you will vote on if you have an opportunity to vote for this issue, but you have to make sure you have an expert behind you that can give like real facts and then a woman who's experienced what it feels like to not have that right and then a young lady who doesn't know but has no idea and doesn't want to have that feeling. And then you package those four people, and you present to the media, and you have a whole story. And they can write a whole package about it. They can write a human-interest story about the young lady who doesn't want to experience this, about the middle-aged lady who's had this happen to her before. And they can talk about why those two women are voting for the candidate and why the candidate's values align with theirs and goes back to the issue. And so, you got to package all of that. It can't just be you standing up talking about an issue. You got to give the press something to cover and some meat on it.
And then you would potentially for that particular press conference have that outside of a Planned Parenthood or some other healthcare center.
Oh, yeah, location, location, location. A lot of what the advance team would do too is we would make sure that the location matched the messaging. You never want your candidate to say something different than what's behind them. You don't want a polluted plant behind them while they're talking about prosperity and about environmental justice unless they are using that as the backdrop for that. So, you don't want to miscommunicate. And so, for instance, whenever Walt Leger did that press conference for us, we did it in the middle of the median on South Galvez Street in New Orleans with the VA and the UMC hospitals right behind us because those hospitals were super affected by federal funding. And if we lost federal funding, those hospitals would not be able to serve our communities as well. And so that messaging was able to resonate, and Walt Leger was able to turn around and use it as a visual as well. And so you want that. You want that visual to help your message amplify.
So, for me to connect the organizer role with the comms role. One of the things, for instance, your organizers can do is to be collecting stories of people who will be affected by the issues that you care about so that when you go to have a press conference, you have a group of people that you know you can call on to come be there and sort of give testimony for you in that moment. But by the same token, town halls wherein you're actually going to want voters to show up, so they can hear from you. The organizer role there is actually getting people to your event. And that would be working with the communications team as well so that you're understanding the kind of people that you want to reach out to, who you're targeting, and who you want to show up at your event so that you're having a good town hall and have the right kind of interactions that press might see or that you can report back later to the press about.
Look, I love communications and political comms, but I really believe this, I don't think there's a more important function of a campaign than organizers. It's a joke in kind of campaigns, no comms people, communications folk, we'll call, and we'll say, "Hey, Lynda, I need a 72-year-old African American man who has emphysema and who has been afforded healthcare through the ACA and who's used it for this many months and blah, blah, blah." And we give very specific criteria, so we can try to create these stories. But to Lynda's point, if we don't have a fill team that understands the electorate, understands the constituency, you can't tell those stories, and if you do, they're inauthentic. And so, in addition to press conferences and town halls, Lynda, a lot of what we do is encourage individuals who support us to write op-eds. You can't write an op-ed for someone if they don't have the experience that you're trying to amplify. And so, a lot of what we did when they were trying to repeal the ACA was making sure--I remember, Lynda, one of the things you pulled together was the Catholics and the nuns who were in support of the ACA. And in Louisiana--and Sister Mary Prejean is a very important component of how we communicate values and the fact that we had Catholics and nuns supporting the ACA and making sure the press knew that, we couldn't have done that without a fill team that understands what moves our constituency. And so, you don't ever want to be tone-deaf. And so, you need the fill team to tell you who the people that you're trying to communicate to, first and foremost. And then who are the individuals that can help you communicate to those individuals?
And I love that you mentioned the op-eds because that's another great spreadsheet to have is all of the local papers where you can send up op-eds into and being able to tell somebody who's willing to write an op-ed for you all the steps they need to do is it just going to a website?
Right. How many words, word count. So, you want to make it easy for the press, but you also want to make it easy for the individuals you are bringing to your campaign. If you're asking someone to talk on the record to the media, you have to make sure they have everything they need to feel comfortable because they're doing you a favor. And so, make sure they know the correct number, the reporter's name, what they're going to be asked. Just give them some comfort in doing you a favor and supporting your campaign just as you would do for the press itself.
Or letters to the editor. Just--
Yeah. I love, I love letters to the editor. So, I love letters to the editor, and they really move people. You have real people saying I support this candidate for this reason. And I want your viewers to know these five things about the candidate. That's powerful coming from a regular person.
And it's amazing how many people still get those local papers delivered to their homes.
Yeah, yeah. We like to say, "If it's not in print, is not real." You still got to get either above the fold, that's kind of what you call kind of the front page of the paper, and whenever someone posts a paper, what do they see? What are those four or five stories that are going to capture their eyes? And that's still the golden ticket for communications people. How do I make sure that my candidate's event or town hall or whatever they've done or said gets above the fold?
Communications people who are worth their salt for elected officials are combing those letters to the editor pages and pulling those letters out, so they can deliver them to their boss.
So, if you're an effective leader, a politician, you're going to receive media clips twice a day in the morning and in the evening. And one of the things that Mitch Landrieu did, we monitored the media all day. We knew what was happening, what was said by every individual at any particular time and not because we were trying to control the narrative, because we wanted to make sure that we were speaking directly to the needs of the individuals. And so, if there were 10 people talking about potholes on the news for five days, we've got to address that in a way that's more direct. Whatever the issue is, just be prepared. I love the media. I think it's there for an effective purpose. But reporters are tough. As much as you want to think that papers are not biased and stations aren't biased, there are inherent biases that you experience, and you have to be prepared for that. And particularly now when you have things like Info Wars and these sort of, I'm not gonna even call them a media outlet, but they're asking to be press, and so you have to engage and monitor and know what everyone's saying at any particular time, so you can prepare your candidate to speak. When they go out in public, you want them to be prepared to speak on whatever issue is the issue of the day.
Is there anything else you can think of that we haven't talked about that campaigns or advocacy groups should know about communicating with press, communicating with the public? Is there anything we've missed?
Oh, the only thing I would say, Lynda, and this is what I tell candidates that I advise early on is do a lot of this work upfront and invest the four or five hours upfront to make a media list. Just as if you are trying to understand the district that you're running in, you got to understand the media market that you're encompassing as well. And so, just spend some time right there because look, you don't have the luxury of having seven, eight, ten people working for you when you're running for these offices. And so, just spend the four hours combing through the media, understanding what they're saying, understanding who's writing about what. Look, the reporters that write about sports are not the same reporters that write about education or politics or crime, etc. But you may want to do something that's cool around sports. Let's say you're doing a commercial at the Saints game Sunday. You might want the sports reporter to write about it and connect to that audience, but you got to understand how to pitch it to them versus pitching it to the politics reporter. Or if you have a policy on education, you may want to have someone on education write about it. So, you have to just know that and just spend time just gathering it. If you do it upfront, you will be rewarded. I promise you. You will have a machine that operates a lot more effectively.
So, speaking of media, I heard you on your cousin's podcast recently: Poll Talk out of Baton Rouge. Can you tell me about that a little bit, about your cousin?
I think I'm beginning to just be like a podcast roundabout. My two cousins have, well, actually one cousin and friend, but I have another cousin that is working on it. But I have a cousin and a friend who are the hosts, two young Black men just bringing the current issues and giving an opinion from a Black man perspective. And it's super cool and exciting to see these young guys use their voice to express what's happening in the world and their feelings and emotions around things like the Congressional District 2 race and things like all the states that are trying to pull back on voting rights. More importantly, Lynda, how do you engage when you feel enraged and when you feel like you want to be a part of the resistance, and they're representing that to people in a really authentic way.
I love that they're speaking to younger voters and encouraging voters, young people, to vote. And I very much enjoyed it. Your episode was titled "Hypeman Hyma." Is that something they call you?
I don't know where that came from. I don't know if I like should be insulted by it or super excited by it. But that's kind of like my like as a comms and press advance person, I'm just in charge of hyping up the candidate and the press.
Okay, I like it. I like it. How can people connect to your work moving forward?
So, Twitter is always the best way. It's @hymamoore. And that is the best way to stay connected with me. I love tweeting. I'm going to be tweeting even more talking about Ted Cruz and the irresponsibility of the Republican Party and all these things. So, I'm super excited about that, but Twitter is a good way to stay in touch with me.
I can't wait to see the tweets. Well, I always ask three questions at the end of the podcast. What do you see as the biggest obstacle for progressives in Louisiana?
I am concerned about how we're going to approach this next opportunity at the gubernatorial race. We have a couple years before John Bel is out and term-limited. And so, I don't think we have a bench of strong enough progressives to mount a full-on progressive campaign. And I think that's going to be a huge barrier for us to contend with for a couple more elections, unfortunately.
And what do you see as the biggest opportunity for progressives in Louisiana?
The biggest opportunity for progressives at this point is they are not at the forefront. And so, I think we have an opportunity to create a space for strong progressives. You look at Ted James. He's in Baton Rouge and individuals like that. We have a chance to create a platform for them to espouse political values that are progressive but also Louisiana values, which are actually very much so aligned.
Yeah, I think the majority of the voters, really if you start talking about issues, believe in a lot of the same things that we talk about as progressives.
Hyma, who is your favorite superhero?
Oh, my favorite superhero. That's a very interesting question because I've been, I just watched all of the Marvels, and I have surmised that I am a huge fan of the Hulk. And that's just where I am. He has my heart. I would say my favorite superhero is the Hulk.
I love that. I too just watched all the Marvel films in chronological order.
Yeah, yeah, likewise.
And I like it when they get to smart Hulk, the smart Hulk when he finally merges his two personalities together. I love that.
I'm on an effort to merge my dualities, so I understand.
Well, Hyma, thank you so much for joining me today. It's always a pleasure to speak with you. I always look forward to working with you. I cannot wait to see what you're going to do with the DNC. It's very exciting.
I will be calling you a lot so please keep your phone handy.
I will be happy to do that, Hyma. Thanks again.
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