Media training advice for David Shearer

21 November 2012
There is one overriding media training tip that David Shearer must take if he is to remain as Leader of the Labour Party. This has nothing to do with what he says, but everything to do with how he says it. It's about his body language. In other words, when he is quoted in the newspaper he has nothing to worry about. But from a media training perspective, his problem is when he is in front of the camera. He needs his body language and tone of voice to be in sync with what he is saying. At the moment it’s not. That makes him look weak and unappealing. Even when fronting the media after demoting David Cunliffe, this was apparent. He said: “I want to get this behind us. I want to move onto the issues New Zealanders are most interested in.” That was a great message and will look good in the newspaper. But in front of the camera, he showed no conviction, no passion and no energy. He looked as if he couldn’t care less, even though I’m sure he did. That’s not very inviting for potential Labour voters. One basic media training skill he needs to work on is moving his hands. When we don’t move our hands when we talk, our whole body stiffens up. This makes us look unnatural and also affects the voice box, making the voice sound monotone. By beginning to move his hands, as he does in other situations, he will naturally begin to show more energy, look more believable and sound more interesting. He must also ramp up his intensity level. The only way for him to master this is to practice. We tell our media training clients that learning this stuff is like both riding a bike and being an athlete. You can only learn by practicing, and once you know it, you must keep practicing to remain in shape. Perception is everything in politics. That’s why David Shearer must start showing his passion and energy. The Cunliffe issue would have been a great place to start. I’m not saying he doesn’t have the passion to be the next Prime Minister, but if he doesn’t show that passion, it means nothing.

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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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