Key still creating great sound bites

14 April 2016

John Key is still a great media communicator. Not only is this because of his effective body language, but also the words he uses to communicate what he wants to get across.

Media training specialists all tell their clients to focus on key messages when they are talking to the news media. But the expert spokespeople take this a step further.


They dress these points into more interesting language. This means reporters are far more likely to use them as sound bites in their news stories. It also means people are more likely to remember them.

John Key has always been an expert at this. I’ve mentioned on this blog before that he often uses analogies to make his points. He still does this to great effect. Here’s a recent example.

The point he was making was that New Zealanders would celebrate if Helen Clark became UN Secretary General. But he didn’t say it that way. Instead he used an interesting analogy that almost guaranteed his point would make it past media gatekeepers. He said it this way.

“If Helen Clark became the next Secretary General of the United Nations, New Zealand would celebrate in the same way they celebrate Lorde for her singing and Lydia Ko in golf.”

He is also using absolute language more regularly. Journalists love this because such language is direct with no qualifications. This week he was making the point that he paid his fair share of tax in light of recent publicity. He said it this way.

“I am totally 100 percent confident that my tax affairs are both absolutely above board and totally clean.”

So many spokespeople are disappointed when their key points don’t make it into news stories. Some don’t even prepare such points. But if you want a strong say in what the reporter selects as sound bites, help the reporter by create your own. Just make sure they are relevant and interesting.

For more on my media training or crisis communication, 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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