"Kudos to Mayor Isko Moreno's comms team."


Manila, the Noble and Ever-Loyal City, was once called the ‘Paris of the East’ and the ‘Pearl of the Orient.’ It was said to be beautiful, a jewel on the sea, a city whose architecture and environs were much admired.

Today the city is, as newly-installed Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso called it, ‘dugyot’—filthy. To remedy this, he has ordered and supervised the cleanup of major thoroughfares in Divisoria and other parts of Manila, the surroundings of Quiapo Church, the Bonifacio Shrine in Lawton, the Kartilya ng Katipunan park, Lagusnilad Underpass, and yesterday the Vitas Slaughterhouse, among many other areas.

He’s been praised by most and criticized by some, who say that his abrupt ejection of street vendors, stall holders, and the homeless from city streets and sidewalks snatched away the meager livelihoods from the urban poor without giving them alternatives.

The mayor’s defenders say he is bringing law, order, and cleanliness to a city sunk in mire, both physical and of the soul. Corruption of government officials is said to be rampant and extortion by large criminal syndicates running protection rackets was confirmed by Moreno himself, who said he was offered bribes of five million pesos a day to leave the vendors alone.

But wait—how do we know so much about Moreno and his accomplishments since he took the reins of office a mere 18 days ago, compared to other mayors?

It’s because he himself tells us.

Moreno hit the ground running with various plans and projects for Manila, and from the moment he did so, a well-oiled communication machine has been churning out Isko news 24/7.

His Facebook page ‘Isko Moreno Domagoso’ has 1.115 million likes as of yesterday, his Twitter account @IskoMoreno 117.7 thousand. Also tweeting his moves is the official Manila City Hall Twitter account, @ManilaPIO.

His Twitter account gets heavy engagement particularly from millennials and Generation Zs who ask if classes are suspended, joke with him—“Natutulog pa ba si Mayor?”—praise him—“Good job, Mayor!”—or gush over his good looks—“Grr cute mo mayor why huhuhu.’ A resident from another city tweeted, “Sir hinay-hinay lang… Nagmumukha po kasing tamad ang mayor namin…”

Moreno often punctuates his tweets with a hearty ‘hehe’ and he has singlehandedly done more than anyone to bring back the backward slang of the ‘70s and ‘80s—‘etneb’ for ‘bente,’ ‘yorme’ for ‘mayor,’ and so on. ‘Uwu,’ a word you’ll read in his posts, means ‘happy anime face.’ Communicating in this way, he connects with the young adults and teenagers among his constituency, and who are or will soon be voters.  

In terms of political communication, this is all brilliant execution. Kudos to Mayor Isko Moreno’s comms team and their effective comms plan and implementation. The delivery is slick and efficient, the messaging consistent and on-brand. Isko-munication, as I’ve dubbed it, should be a case study in communication and marketing classrooms.

 As a communication scholar, I’ve advocated time and again for government to give greater importance to their communications. Some national agencies don’t even have a public information officer. It’s important for people to know what’s going on in government, otherwise they’ll think you are, a. not doing anything worth noting, or b. hiding something.

Moreno’s communication is influenced partly by political savvy, and partly by his avowed desire for transparency in his governance. One of the first things he said as mayor was that he would have the bidding processes for city contracts live-streamed. What other mayor or government official has offered to do the same? Who else has offered transparency on this level?

On the flipside, is his communication campaign is being run with some other agenda in mind? Is he gearing up for another senatorial run, or has he set his sights on the presidency in 2022? At this point, we don’t know, and he has denied such speculations.

In any case, the effectiveness of Moreno’s communication campaign can serve as a model for other politicians on how to reach out to constituents. The presence or lack of such can be an indicator of whether or not they are performing as they promised during the election campaign.

After decades of enduring the depredations of mediocre and outright malignant local and national government officials, and bearing the jadedness and frustrations that come with it, we think Moreno seems too good to be true. We rub our eyes and expect him to vanish from sight, like a fairy or a dream.

But looking around Manila, we see that change is actually happening, positive change that can be seen and felt. Moreno’s tweets and posts let us know what he does and how he does it. We can only hope that Yorme will sustain this level of performance and inspire other administrators to reach it. 

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“Manila is like a small New York. Nothing works, and everyone’s out to get the better of you,” Brigitte Nielsen once said. Is Moreno going to prove her wrong? Let’s wait and see. //FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Isko Moreno , Manila , Communication , Quiapo Church
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