Media training advice for Gareth Morgan

Posted January 24, 2013

Gareth Morgan is a good media communicator, but there is one piece of media training advice he needs to take. This week he has been in the media spotlight for two reasons. These are his aim to eradicate domestic cats from New Zealand and his criticism of Phoenix football fans for demanding quick results from the team's change to a more attractive style of football. Regarding the cats, his message has been very clear. He wants to eradicate cats because of the damage they cause wildlife. But his failure has been his inability to accept the emotional attachment many New Zealanders have with their pet cat. From a media training perspective, rather than open debate, he has alienated a large group of society. In such situations, we tell our media training clients to at least accept this emotion. If he had said something like: "I understand how attached people are to their cats, but I believe we need to do this to protect our wildlife," people would at least listen. But by saying things like: "Your moggie is a sadist and a serial killer," people will automatically put up their defenses and attack Morgan's idea. The same goes for his criticism of Phoenix football fans. When explaining that it would take time for the club's results to improve with the new brand of football he said: "All some people do is look at the league tables and that's all there is to the game for them. Well, they're pathetic really." Once again, this will just alienate these fans. From a media training standpoint, he should have said something like: "I understand that passionate Phoenix fans always want their team to win, but we need to be patient so we can reap the rewards in the long-term." This approach would have respected fans and lots of them would probably accept his argument. But by attacking them like this, some will put up their defenses, and possibly lose interest in the team. This is a common media training error and one that is easy to make.
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