Labour's Election Review highlights messaging problem

Posted June 3, 2015

Their failure to present a coherent message has rightly received a share of the blame for Labour’s disastrous Election result last year.

This is often a major cause of failure in election campaigns, just as it is for individual media interviews. In both situations, it’s vital to narrow down what you want to say to no more than three points. By doing that people understand and remember what you said. It also means that you have far more control over the points journalists use in their stories.

A famous quote from Winston Churchill sums this up: “If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack.

Look at the recent Conservative victory in Britain. Their message was: ‘Strong Leadership’, ‘A Clear Economic Plan’ and ‘A Brighter More Secure Future.’ That was their focus throughout the campaign and they kept coming back to it. That should be media training 101 for any political party strategist.

Earlier in last year’s campaign, Leader David Cunliffe said he wanted to focus on Jobs, Housing and Families. That could have been effective, but the focus was not consistent. That meant people didn’t know what the party stood for.

Instead they focused too heavily on negative issues and didn’t seem to be singing from the same song sheet. Trevor Mallard diverted attention from the key messages with his Moa remarks while Labour complained too much. This included concern about Mike Hosking facilitating debates for TVNZ and Cunliffe not having enough time with Prince William. The party also spent too much time attacking the credibility of John Key.

All this did was waste valuable opportunities to present their messages and convince voters that they were a credible government in waiting. Labour will need to learn from this review if they are to have any chance of occupying the ninth floor of the Beehive in 2017.

For more on my media training, contact [email protected] or 029 200 8555.

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