Media training tip for Bishop Victoria Matthews

Posted March 10, 2012

Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews made a fundamental media training error this week when she failed to acknowledge the emotion many Cantabrians feel towards the Cathedral. After the decision was made by the Anglican Church to demolish the Christchurch icon, her response to calls to release the plans that led to that decision was "I don't answer to the public." Whether she meant to or not, her comments appeared to dismiss public sentiment by saying she answered to God and the Anglican Diocise. In other words, she didn't answer to the public of Christchurch. An important media training lesson to learn here is the importance of accepting the emotions and feelings of affected people, even if you can't change your decision. For example, if a school principal expelled a student for a serious offence and the mother of the child complained to the media, the stance of the principal would probably be something like: "We have high standards and we must maintain them." But media training experts would say this sounds cold and heartless. But if he said: "We understand this is a difficult time for the family but...We have high standards and we must maintain them," people would accept the decision. This means the decision will not change, but the principal has acknowledged the emotion of the family. Bishop Matthews should have followed this advice. If she had said something like: "We understand Cantabrians have an emotional attachment to the Cathedral, but we have to take the advice of the experts and move on," people would have understood. But by failing to acknowledge this feeling, she only fuelled the fire of many people who are still hurting from the quakes that placed the building in such a weak position in the first place. I'm sure Bishop Matthews didn't intend to come across like that. But the result shows how important media training is to anyone who may enter the media spotlight at any time.
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