Labour falling into Colin Craig message trap

5 November 2015

Labour have a great opportunity this weekend to launch a fresh party message and policies to back that up. But instead it appears they are going to fall into what I call ‘the Colin Craig trap.’

Let me explain. When media are either interviewing you or covering your conference, they will produce interesting stories. That’s their job. They’d get fired if they didn’t. So when Colin Craig responds to the question, “do you think chemtrails are a government conspiracy,” with, “I don’t know,” guess what the subsequent story will be about.

But what if he instead answered with something like this, “I don’t think so, but I do think the government has too much power over our lives, that’s why we need binding referendums.”

Chances are the journalist is no longer thinking about chemtrails and the story would have focused on a Conservative Party policy. Craig either didn’t have a message to share, or he didn’t have the skills to get it through.

 So why is this weekend’s Labour Party Conference the same?

The same principle applies. Reporters will produce interesting stories. The only question is what they will be. If Labour doesn’t offer up some interesting new policies, the media will hunt for something else of interest. The obvious headline would read something like, ‘Labour still has no focus,” or “Conference lacks any new ideas.” Reporters will also sniff around all the closed sessions and write stories based on speculation around current unpopular policies.

But if they used the Conference to launch a fresh approach, that would be the focus and they would hog all the headlines with positive stories.

It appears they wont do this for fear good policies will be poached by National, and it’s too early in the Election cycle. I disagree. Looking at polling from the last Election cycle, National were well ahead throughout the three years. It’s too late to try and change people’s minds in the last six months before an election. People won’t digest an entire policy manifesto in this time. Even if they did, they won’t suddenly warm to a party that has only just woken up.

The best approach is to start now. They don’t need to announce everything, but communicate a clear message and a few interesting policies to highlight it. In other words, be proactive rather than reactive.

We’ll soon find out which approach they’ve chosen.

For more on my media training, 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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