Judith Collins shows media skills over Oravida visit

6 March 2014
SIDESWIPE COLUMN: If you have arrived here after reading the NZ Herald Sideswipe column, please bear two things in mind. Firstly, this post was written at the first hint of an issue with Oravida, before most of the allegations against Judith Collins were made (2 months ago). I stand by what I said at the time, but obviously things changed dramatically very quickly. If you look at the blog I wrote immediately after this one with new information that came out, you'll see how my views changed. Also, Judith Collins is not a client of mine or ever has been. Judith Collins has shown this week exactly how to react when thrust into the media spotlight. Judith CollinsThe Justice Minister has been attacked by opposition MPs for visiting a New Zealand milk business during a ministerial trip to China. This is because her husband is a director, raising the possibility of a conflict of interest. Regardless of the validity of her visit, her approach with the media on the issue has been faultless. We always tell our media training clients to front up on these issues, otherwise you leave all the limelight to those attacking you. She was clearly always available to the media and got her message across to audiences across New Zealand. Mrs Collins almost made a negative story into a positive one. She was always relaxed on TV, smiling and emphasising that she supports all New Zealand businesses overseas. This body language is vital in these situations. That’s because people judge you more by how you come across than what you say. When asked if there was a conflict of interest, she responded with something like: “Every New Zealand voter should expect every MP to promote all New Zealand businesses overseas.” If she had fallen into the trap of using the language of denial, the story would have been negative and she would have seemed defensive. This would have happened if she had said something like: “I have not breached the Cabinet Manual with this visit.” That answer would have given the reporters a great negative quote to use, and focus the story totally on her denial. But by answering that question with the positive statement quoted above, she came across as a pro-active Minister who was only concerned about promoting her country. So many public figures and others thrust into the media spotlight use the language of denial. This always prevents them from turning a negative story into a positive one. They could learn from Judith Collins this week. For more on our media training and crisis communications training, contact

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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