Brownlee deserves media training bouquet

Posted March 31, 2012

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has shown his media training skills again this week. His handling of the Finland incident was first-class. After responding to remarks by Labour Leader David Shearer that Finland was a country we should be following, Brownlee said Finland was not perfect, having higher inflation, unemployment and murder rates than New Zealand. This led to major criticism from a Finish comedian who poked fun at Brownlee's weight and implied that all New Zealand had going for it was its sheep. Brownlee could have taken this personally, but from a media training perspective, he handled it perfectly. He apologised for offending Fins and said he carried a piece of their country around with him all the time. This was his Nokia cellphone. This was a great way to avoid the issue lingering, and his touch of humour ended any chance of further attacks from either Finland or the Labour-led opposition. Brownlee has been impressive from a media training standpoint for some time now. A few months ago, he gave a group of earthquake-affected Christchurch residents the wrong information about the insurance they would recieve for their damaged homes. He immediately admitted his mistake, apologised and moved on. People forgive politicians when they make mistakes, but only when they admit to them. Once he admitted it, he was left alone. Politicians are human too, and people respect them when they take responsibility for a mistake. Brownlee's colleagues should take some media training advice from him and follow his lead here. It will grow their popularity, not shrink it as many believe. Another media training skill Brownlee's colleagues should follow is his willingness to accept interview invitations from media outlets. No matter how controversial an issue, Brownless is always willing to front in the media to put his case. This is a major reason the Christchurch community were happy with the Government's response to the Earthquakes. Brownlee was always keeping them informed through the media and addressing their concerns. If he had been unavailable, the communication flow would have dried up and media outlets he refused to front up in would have had no choice but to invite his detractors onto their shows to fill his place. A good politician would never give them that opportunity. Brownlee never did, but many often do.
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