Auckland candidates could learn from Trump

16 September 2016

Centre-right Auckland mayoral candidates need to learn two important lessons from Donald Trump if they want any chance of beating Phil Goff.

The first one is to narrow the message. My advice now would be to focus on one issue in major detail. That would have to be transport or housing. At this late stage, this is the only way to distinguish themselves. People remember very little from political candidates, so the more you tell them, the less they remember.

This is where Trump did so well. To get the Republican nomination, he focused almost solely on security. By doing that, it was very clear to voters what he stood for and how he was different from the other candidates.

Because Phil Goff is the only candidate with name recognition, the others need to find a way to stand out and offer something different.

The second thing is to talk in sound bites. This is again where Trump excelled. Don’t use boring language to make your points. If you do, the media won’t be interested and no one will remember them. Trump uses conflict to dress up his points in ways that are irresistible to journalists.

Candidates don’t need to use conflict, but there are many other options. Make interesting analogies to make points like John Key does, or use a huge number of other elements that media like to use to bring their stories to life. Absolute language, emotion and the use of stories are great ways to get points across and give journalists interesting material.  

These days the requirements of journalists are different. News is no longer just about reporting facts, it also has to be entertaining. That’s why spokespeople need to make their points by dressing them up into interesting sound bites. Another way to look at this is that the best way to get good publicity is to give the media what they want, and they no longer want mundane facts. Online surfers don’t click on those stories or remember them if they do.

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Filed under Media Training

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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