Nicola Willis is my Media Communicator of the Year

Posted December 21, 2022

Communicating economic policy to laypeople can be a difficult job and many finance spokespeople fail because they wrongly assume that Joe Public understands far more than he actually does.

How many times have you heard politicians use terms like ‘Fiscal Drag” or “Current Account Deficits?” Not many people know what these terms mean, so unless the audience is a group of economists or accountants, media spokespeople are best to stare clear of such language. It’s far better to use a basic definition of the term rather than the term itself. Even “Bracket Creep,” a better way than saying “Fiscal Drag,” is better explained.

Nicola Willis has shown that she understands this since becoming the Finance Spokesperson for the National Party. She speaks in basic language and often uses examples to explain her points rather than abstract finance speak.

One demonstration of this was when she outlined her party’s Social Investment Policy earlier in the year. Rather than explain it with all sorts of long-winded technical terms and numbers that would lose most viewers in the first five seconds, she used an example of how it could work with the Otago Longitudinal Study. People understand examples and media love using them in their stories because they are a concrete and relatable way to make a point. Abstract points and technical terms are not.

So many politicians fail to take into account the knowledge of their audiences, meaning that even if they feel that an interview was a success, chances are the audience left none the wiser. The best way to sum this up is through a quote from George Bernard Shaw. “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” In other words, it’s only communication if it registers with the intended recipient.

Politicians and other media spokespeople could learn a thing or two about this from Nicola Willis.

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