Could Trump's campaign style work in NZ?

30 November 2016

Lots of people ask me if the confrontational campaign style of Donald Trump would work for other politicians and leaders from other sectors. My answer for 99 percent of spokespeople is a resounding ‘no’.


There is a huge difference between running for US President and most other situations. That’s purely because this race was between two people. Trump had his share of major supporters, but all he had to do was convince voters he was a better choice than Hillary Clinton. Sure there were a few minority candidates, but to make their votes count, Americans knew they had a choice between those two. That meant that people who despise Clinton were likely to vote for Trump, even if they found some of his comments offensive. He just had to be seen as a better option in a two party race. It also didn’t matter how many people voted. He just needed more Electoral College votes.

That’s different in a proportional representation system because there are lots of other viable choices and a vote for another party is not usually wasted. For example, in New Zealand, traditional Labour voters have the choice of the Greens or New Zealand First. So a major party that offends traditional supporters would pay at the ballot box.

However, it’s a different story for a minor party that would never expect to govern alone. Confrontation would help them hit the headlines and probably appeal to a significant number of voters, particularly those who don’t like either of the major parties. Obviously Winston Peters comes to mind here. That’s why the major parties in New Zealand are far more conservative in Election campaigns.

What about business leaders?

Most business leaders wouldn’t last long in their jobs if they followed Trump. That’s because most of them need to please a large percentage of the population. For example, if a Spark CEO offended customers with media comments, the company can’t assume that people like Vodafone less. Customers also have a myriad of other options.

The exception to this are groups that play to a particular audience and aren’t concerned about offending others. Brian Tamaki comes to mind here.

If you want to learn the five steps to pain free media interviews, download my White Paper at this 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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