Clark would win hands down if it came down to communication skills

5 April 2016

Clark’s communication skills would see her win hands down

If the campaign to become UN Secretary General was like any other, Helen Clark’s communication skills would get her across the line comfortably. We saw these skills for nine years, while others have now seen them in her current UN role.

So what are they?

Clark has a unique ability to get her points across briefly, clearly and in an interesting way. We all witnessed this on television when she was Prime Minister. She was a formidable opponent in Election debates, and there was never a grey area when she had 10 seconds to make her points in news stories.

This ability to be brief, clear and interesting has also made her a great negotiator. Its difficult to convince anyone of anything in the new digital age without using these three elements together. Anyone who can keep Winston Peters happy in a coalition Government for an entire term must have pretty good negotiation skills.

This will be vital in the coming campaign, as she tries to convince the Security Council members that she’s the right person for the job.

Why be brief, clear and interesting?

Times have changed. People have so many messages thrown at them these days, so little time to hear them and there’s only so much space available in our brains to remember That’s why its vital to break messages down to their core and communicate them in a unique way. Many leaders, or wannabe leaders fail this test. It’s no longer just media interviews where you need to do this. It’s every conversation a leader has and a skill Helen Clark clearly possesses.

She even used this today when announcing her bid. One of the points she made was that she is used to bringing different groups together. But instead of just saying she was good at it, she said, “It’s in my DNA.” That’s just one minor example, but you can see how that statement is more memorable and straight to the point.

This reminds me of a classic quote from George Bernard Shaw. “The biggest illusion with communication is the assumption that it has taken place.” In other words, just because you tell someone something doesn’t mean it will register and be remembered by your intended receiver.

Helen Clark knows how to make this happen. However, politics, rather than an ability to convince Security Council members that she is the best person for the job, may see her overlooked for the role. Time will tell.

For more on my Media Training workshops, contact or 029 200 8555.

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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