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Apology media statement and that X Factor contestant

26 February 2015

Media statements that show empathy to victims are extremely sensitive, and are usually heavily vetted by lawyers before they are released. The statement issued by Media Works over the last 24 hours appears to be no different.

It was released after a mother’s distress at seeing the man convicted of her son’s manslaughter (Shae Brider) tell his ‘selective version’ of the tragic incident. This was when he appeared on X Factor earlier this week.

Firstly, good on Media Works for responding. This is the main part of the statement.

"The X Factor NZ acknowledges the impact Shae's past actions have had on his victims, and apologises for any distress that has been caused by last night's episode. That was not our intention. However it is important to note the NZ justice system judges Shae has paid his debt to society, and now has a second chance to make a positive contribution."

While this may appear fine, I’m pretty sure the mother would not have been happy. Here’s why.

Firstly, the first sentence looks like it’s came out of a legal textbook. It appears to have been written by a robot, not a human being. When dealing with intense emotion, it’s important to show warmth.

It would have been better to say something like: “Our hearts go out to this mother. Most of us here at Media Works are parents ourselves and understand how difficult it must be to lose a child.” That’s what a human would say.

Secondly, by following that statement with the word ‘however’, it implies the first part has been dismissed. For example, it’s like saying: I’m sorry for punching you. However, you punched me first’.

Thirdly and finally, the statement that the contestant deserved a second chance was never disputed. The mother only wanted to be informed that he was appearing and that the whole story of her son’s death was told.

My comments may seem pedantic to some, but to those concerned, I’m sure they’re very real. Where intense emotion is concerned, any media consultant needs to be extremely sensitive.

For information on my media training workshops, contact pete@mediatrainingnz.co.nz or phone 029 200 8555.

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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