Key handles Ponytail Gate fallout well

24 April 2015

Responding to an issue like Ponytail Gate can be full of fish hooks for a public figure, but John Key has dealt with it well.

He had already apologised to the girl in question before this. Then when the media storm erupted, he admitted he was wrong and had misread the situation.

His first response to journalists could have perhaps been a bit more passionate from a body language perspective, but his more recent one was better. His words were: "I'm pretty casual and laid-back ... playing along a little bit, and that's very, very silly on my part… I should have read the situation more accurately. I'll learn from the experience."  

Now he should stick to that script. I normally encourage my media training clients to accept interview requests when it comes to difficult issues. That’s because it gets their point across and takes some limelight away from detractors.

But in this situation, I would advise against it. That’s because there is nothing more to say and there should be nothing left to answer. He’s apologised and admitted he was wrong. That’s all he should say.

If he gets dragged into a more detailed interview about it, he will be asked about all sorts of other things like the political motives involved. It will also turn into a “he said, she said” argument. He should not go there. That’s for others to discuss. That would open up a whole new can of worms and he would be accused of trying to limit his responsibility.

The PM will now hope the media turn their attention to ANZAC Day commemorations.

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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