Media skills must determine Labour leader

17 October 2014

The next Labour leader must be the contender with the best media skills because it’s television where elections are won and lost.

Much has been said about the likeability of John Key. And remember about 99 percent of potential voters only ever see him on TV.  That’s why media skills are so vital.

It surprises me when we hear all sorts of other reasons about who should make up the Labour leadership. Should it be a white male? Should a woman be deputy? Should a Maori be deputy? I say they need the best team with the best media skills. Labour don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing who the politically correct choice is.

So who should it be? I believe Grant Robertson is the one with the best media skills. This is mainly because his body language and the words he says are in sync. When he makes a point, you can see he means it by the expressions on his face and the tone of his voice. He shows passion. This is a vital skill. If the body language is not in sync with what you are saying, you don’t come across as genuine.

This forms a major part of our media training sessions, as it’s such an important part of any television interview.

David Shearer had problems with body language. His words were good, but they were not backed up by his body or tone of voice. He appeared uncomfortable and as if he would rather be somewhere else. That’s why people didn’t warm to him.

David Cunliffe went the other way. At times he looked like he was making up the body language and exaggerating his voice tone. If he had been more himself, things could have been different. Particularly since he is otherwise a strong media communicator.

Andrew Little also needs to work on his body language. He says the right things, but doesn’t show any passion or expression with his body. It’s almost as if he is reading a script.

One Labour MP who is worth watching out for is Stuart Nash. He has a natural way with the camera in a similar way to Key. He could well be a leader in waiting.

For more on my media training or crisis communication planning, contact or call 029 200 8555.

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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