Mar 29, 2021 - News

Minneapolis considered hiring DJ, soccer coach in Chauvin trial "influencer" plan

Illustration of hundred dollar bills on cell phones spread out.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Emails released to Axios shed new light on Minneapolis' canned plan to hire "social media influencers" to share city-approved messages during the Derek Chauvin trial.

  • The backdrop: The city had planned to pay six "trusted messengers” up to $2,000 apiece to share city updates, such as road closures and other changes, and dispel misinformation during the trial.

Details: City officials discussed hiring a DJ at the Spanish-language radio station El Ray 94.9, the Snapchat account SomaliSnaps, and a soccer coach who is "connected to the young people [in the South Asian community] as well as a respectful young leader among the elders," according to hundreds of pages of internal correspondence Axios obtained via a public records request. Some additional potential partner names were redacted from our records request.

  • They also received recommendations to engage Hmong and Somali broadcast stations and a WhatsApp chat group with "nearly 100 Spanish speaking business owners on East Lake Street."
  • A city spokeswoman told Torey the WhatsApp group developed organically and would not have been included in the paid program. The DJ's involvement would have been independent of his work at the station, she added.

What happened: The plan was scrapped after news coverage and backlash online.

  • "City staff believed in the strategy and intentionally walked it back due to the harm it caused with the confusion," the spokeswoman said.

What they said: The goal was to tap people with credibility — and influential followings — to reach Black, Native American, East African, Hmong and Latino communities.

  • A staffer offered to" look into who's popping [on] the book, the 'gram and the chat" for "local and culturally relevant" influencer partners.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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