Quote of the Year, "How big is his hole?"

Posted December 18, 2023

Massey University has announced 10 finalists for its annual Quote of the Year Competition. For me, the clear winner is Nicola Willis’s “How big is his hole?” This was directed at then Finance Minister Grant Robertson during Question Time in Parliament back in August. She was referring to a possible “fiscal hole,” where a government is spending more than it’s earning.

Why does this win?

From a media training perspective, the best quotes are the ones that bring maximum attention to something the speaker or interviewee wants to be the focus of the exchange and subsequent news stories.

Sometimes this can be in the form of a question, sometimes an analogy or some other interesting way to make a point that makes it stand out. It also needs to be extremely brief.

That’s why this quote worked. It ticked all of those boxes. Ironically Ms Willis probably meant to say, “How big is his fiscal hole?” If she had said that, it wouldn’t have got anywhere near the attention it got.

What was the result?

The quote was covered by all mainstream news media over the following 24 hours and beyond. But importantly for Ms Willis, it bought attention to the issue of the fiscal hole, and how serious it may have been.

That’s why it was so effective. Anyone can come up with a clever way of saying something, but to generate such attention for something you what the news media to focus on is what stands good quotes out against great ones (even if they weren’t intended).

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