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Media training advice for Simon Bridges

10 October 2013
Energy Minister Simon Bridges needs to accept media interview requests to put the Government’s case for opening parts of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone to deep sea oil exploration. With the necessary media training skills, this should be quite simple, despite the sensitivity of the issue. Simon BridgesHis failure to appear on Campbell Live on Tuesday was a classic example. Because he didn’t appear, most of the programme was devoted to a few people in Kaikoura concerned about the impact of a potential oil spill. In other words, it was only one side of the story. From a media training perspective, Campbell Live was quite entitled to run the story this way, because the minister refused an opportunity to balance it up. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, Mr Bridges could have countered the arguments put up. We always tell our media training clients to have a concise three-part message to get across in media interviews. My advice to Mr Bridges would have been the following. Point One: Recognise the concern of residents. Point Two: Explain the economic benefits the discovery of oil would have for the region and the country. Point Three: Reassure viewers that safety would be paramount and the Government would do all it could to mitigate risk. Lots of people refuse to be interviewed for stories like this because they fear the programme already has an agenda and will portray them in a bad light and be heavily biased against their view. This does clearly happen. But there are ways to avoid this. Firstly, we tell our media training clients to agree to such interviews live only. That way, editors can’t take little snippets of the interview and slot them into the story where they wish. Secondly, there are strategies to significantly improve the chances of your points making it into the story when editors do have the opportunity to cut and paste selected chunks of your interview. But the worst thing anyone can do in most situations is not front and give all the airtime to the other side of the argument.

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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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