English and Little make positive image changes

9 February 2017

Prime Minister Bill English and opposition leader Andrew Little have both made positive image changes over the last few months that will help potential voters identify with them.

Clearly John Key was the expert at this. How many times did you hear statements like, “He’s the sort of guy you’d be comfortable having a beer with?” That may say something about New Zealand’s drinking culture, but it’s important when it comes to influencing swinging voters.

English and Little don’t have that natural ability to come across as relaxed, passionate and in control all at the same time. But you only need to watch television news over the last few months to see that they are both working on it. Both are also making headway.

Bill English

The new Prime Minister is smiling a lot more than he ever has. Obviously, he didn’t have as many media opportunities before he took over from Key, but his almost constant smile is working. It’s making him appear more likable and less dry.

Television cameras have a way of making normal facial expressions look like frowns, meaning just about anyone in a leadership role needs to employ a slight smile to avoid this. This need was apparent with English before his big promotion, and it’s clearly something he, or his media advisors, have picked up on.

Andrew Little

Since returning from a well earned break, the Labour Leader has retired his glasses. This is also a smart move. People want to see the whites of their leaders’ eyes to judge their sincerity whenever they say anything. This is far more difficult when there is a barrier in front of those eyes.

Obviously, dark glasses are the worst. Who can forget the New Zealand First Tight Five back in the late 1990s. Little never wore dark glasses, but it was still harder for television viewers to see his eyes behind the pair he wore.

What it means

These changes by themselves won’t magically transform the communication skills of either leader, but they are one important piece of the puzzle.

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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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