Three fishhooks posted on Instagram today informed New Zealanders of the nationally significant news that the prime minister was pregnant.

Digital news media quickly latched onto the post and spread the word to the masses, and thereafter came an official email confirming the news.

Notably, the televised press conference that would have previously led and informed the news cycle came over an hour after the initial peak of the hype. By that time, the major news providers had already published numerous takes on a moment that brings Mark Richardson's greatest fears to light.

Make no mistake, this was a strategic move by Ardern. She's had months to think about how to announce the news to the public and decided to shuffle the media dominoes and put social media first.


The post itself was a social media masterclass. The minimalist use of the fishhooks alongside the informally expressed excitement of a new mum oozed the type of authenticity social media influencers often harp on about. Viewed next to an awkward walk-run clip or a spaghetti pizza, it looks like an award-winning advertising campaign.

Mastery of the media of the day has always been integral to politicians. John F Kennedy's defeat of Richard Nixon and election as the first Catholic president of the United States is often attributed to his willingness to speak directly to the public via television, which had nudged radio out of the way to become the preeminent media channel of the time.

An anecdote from the presidential debate tells how 70 million Americans tuned in to watch the handsome Democrat JFK square off against a profusely sweating Nixon, who looked sickly under the studio lights. The story goes that those who listened to the radio felt Nixon had won, while those who watched proceedings gave it to JFK. In this case, the public voted with their eyes.

The modern shift in media is perhaps best captured in another American, current president Donald Trump, who captivates his Twitter followers with a continuous stream of ad-lib commentary on his numerous feuds with politicians and media figures.
Like Ardern, Trump is acutely aware that all you need is a good hook to keep the social media crowd interested. But it's also worth remembering that hooks, when irresponsibly used, end up harming the handler.