Craig was the focus, not party messages

25 June 2015

Colin Craig’s problem has always been his inability to draw attention away from himself and onto party messages. It’s ironic that what looks set to derail his political career is again personal and not about party policy.

So what’s been the problem?

Throughout the Election Campaign last year, Craig received his share of publicity, despite not holding a seat in Parliament. But he never managed to turn that publicity to his advantage. A seasoned media savvy politician would have used the opportunities he had to focus on party messages, and why people should vote for him. But he never had the skills to do that.

This is where media training is so vital for politicians. It is important that media spokespeople answer the questions asked of them by journalists. A failure to do this can destroy credibility. But what many spokespeople don’t realise is that they also need points they want to discuss in media interviews.

It’s not about ignoring questions or using spin but having genuine points you want to get across. These must be of interest to media outlet’s audience. They must also be presented in a way that will satisfy the person asking the questions.

But Craig never mastered this like his more experienced counterparts.


For example, let’s look at the Chemtrails issue. He was asked something like: Do you think those chemtrails are a government conspiracy to control people? His answer: I don’t know.

Instead he should have said something like: “No, but I do believe the government has too much power, particularly when referendums show an overwhelming number of people don’t want a policy implemented. That’s why one of our bottom lines in any coalition is binding referendums.”

By doing this, he gets away from the question about chemtrails and onto something he wants to talk about. He also gives the journalist an interesting point to use in the subsequent story. John Key is good at this. David Cunliffe was also effective.

Because Craig couldn’t do this, he became the focus of the party and all his gaffes made the news. Some people still liked him for his honesty, but I would be interested to know how many people actually knew the Conservative Party policies.

This is why it’s fairly clear that the Conservative Party is history. Craig was the brand, and that looks too tarnished now to get anywhere near 5 percent in the next election. That would be the case with or without Craig at the helm.

For more on my media training, contact or 029 200 8555

Filed under Media Skills

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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