My Capital Gains Tax Media Advice

19 February 2019

With the Tax Working Group’s recommendations coming out on Thursday, its vital that players on both sides of the CGT debate know how to get their points across.

Whenever a debate like this dominates the news cycle, the winner is always the side that focuses on a few key points and uses the most basic language possible. That’s why political parties always have a few key areas of focus in Election campaigns. It doesn’t mean you totally ignore other points, but you have a heavy focus on a few.


Firstly, people only ever remember a few things and if you overload them, they remember nothing. Think about the last presentation you sat through. I bet it was someone scrolling through hundreds of PowerPoint slides with an unlimited number of points and little to back them up or make them interesting and memorable.

The ones that are remembered, whether presentations or any other form of communication, are those that focus on a few points, backed up with stories and examples.

This takes work because its harder to nail down a few points than to go through a huge list. But that’s the only way to get points into the minds of audiences.

This reminds me of a famous Mark Twain quote taken from when he wrote to a friend. “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write you a short one.”

Secondly, this is even more important for media spokespeople. Media stories only have room for a point or two, so if you real off a whole heap, you leave it up to the reporter or editor to decide which ones to highlight. You’re basically handing control over to someone else. Media spokespeople need to narrow down their points and then dress them up in language that reporters want to use and that people will remember. This applies in all interview formats including live broadcasts.

This reminds me of another famous quote. This one from George Bernard Shaw. “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” In other words, if its not understood and remembered by the recipient, its not communication.

My prediction

Politicians may narrow down their points, but when we bring in industry groups, lobby groups and financial advisors, Joe and Jane Public will hear about 30 different reasons for the tax and 30 reasons against it. Lots of these will also be too technical for them to understand. They will then get totally confused and either rely on their pre-existing views, or agree with whatever political party they favour at the time.

If you want to know more about getting your points across in the media, visit or email

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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