Maunakea Observatories


The Maunakea Observatories (MKO) are a collaboration of telescopes atop Maunakea, the single best site for astronomical observation in the world. In recent years, highly visible conflict has erupted on the global stage, rooted in future land development for additional telescopes on the mountain. The telescope in question –– The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) –– experienced swift and decisive opposition from Native Hawaiian activists when it attempted to bring construction equipment atop the mountain to begin work that had been approved through a contentious land permit process. While TMT was the only telescope threatened immediately, the other telescopes who have been observing the skies from years from their perch on the summit realized the protests could threaten the future of all astronomical exploration from Maunakea, and brought Bennet Group on to provide strategic communications and outreach during the tense initial period. Bennet Group currently represents two individual telescopes –– Keck I and Keck II, collectively W.M. Keck Observatory, as well as Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope –– in addition to its representation of Maunakea Observatories, a collective of telescopes on the summit of Maunakea.

Bennet Group has created and executed an integrated reputation management campaign to redefine the public’s sentiment toward the astronomy field in general and MKO in particular. This integrated campaign work included strategic communications across disciplines, including branding, marketing, media relations, fundraising/donor communications, issues management, event-based communications, and public affairs.


  • Provided hands-on strategic communications support throughout the year, including in-depth work in the following campaigns: Maunakea Scholars, EnVision Maunakea, crisis communications and on-going proactive media relations to tell the Maunakea Observatories story.
  • Played a vital role in overseeing the entirety of the integrated communications strategy while keeping all tactical execution focused on the overarching communications objectives for MKO.
  • Successfully pitched and collaborated in development of extensive earned media opportunities on a local, national and international scale.
  • Worked with a cultural advisor to artfully weave Native Hawaiian culture, language and knowledge into every program, initiative and outreach.


  • Success of the MKO reputation management initiatives were measured in terms of volume of media coverage, sentiment, message penetration and the impression garnered from community interactions on the part of the client.
  • Bennet Group has secured or facilitated more than 100 quality earned media placements, prominently featuring our strategic messaging, each year.
  • Following a year of predominantly negative sentiment in coverage related to the Maunakea Observatories in 2015 and gradual improvement in 2016, the balance of sentiment for stories in 2017 and 2018 was 28 percent positive, 72 percent neutral and zero percent negative about the MKO brand, indicating that Bennet Group had created successful public positioning for the observatories as valuable to the Hawai‘i community.
  • In 2018 alone, Bennet Group helped to launch MKO’s website, managed outreach surrounding the launch of A Hua He Inoa, a Hawaiian language celestial naming project, and coordinated media relations around the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s much-deliberated ruling in the contested case hearing surrounding TMT.