Bridges makes common speech mistake

30 July 2018

I thought NZ National Party leader Simon Bridges came across pretty well in his address to the party’s annual conference yesterday, but he made one mistake so many leaders make without realising it. He did it twice during the day.

What was it?

He used negative language. At one point he said: “There’s a perception in politics that we on the right don’t care as much as the left do, but it’s not true.”

While that may sound fine, people will automatically think about the left being more caring before they think of anything else. That’s the way our brains work.

To make the point, here’s a quick game I often play in my media training sessions. Don’t think of a giraffe! What are you now thinking about?

So rather than make a negative statement about something you don’t believe is true, say something positive to make the same point without giving your opposition any of the limelight.

In this case he could have said: “National cares about all New Zealanders.” Simple. It’s positive, would be effective if quoted in the media and doesn’t say anything that could be seen as positive about another party.

This is exactly the same as the famous Nixon quote, although nowhere near as bad or serious. He said: “I’m not a crook.” Better to have said what he was, not what he wasn’t.


When else did Bridges do this?

In an interview after the conference, Bridges was asked why the big policy announcement was smaller class sizes when that had been an earlier Labour Party policy.

He said: “I think it’s a long bow to say this is a Labour Party Policy.” This is again negative and brings the labour party back into the discussion.

Having said this, I thought Bridges didn’t do a bad job in his delivery.

If you’d like to learn more about mastering media interviews, download our free report, “5 steps to pain-free media interviews” at the following link.

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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