Test yet to come for Andrew Little

3 December 2014

He has done a great job in his first few weeks as Labour Leader, but the success of Andrew Little will depend on how he performs in the media well after his honeymoon is over.

A leader couldn’t ask for a more perfect time to take the top job. His party is so unpopular that it can only go up in opinion polls. He has also been handed issues on a plate that any leader could only dream of early in his reign. The SIS report and the Cameron Slater email saga are at the top of the list.

But publicity around this will end shortly. Then he will be dealing with issues that potential voters really care about. To his credit, he does seem to have started focusing on these. The jury may still be out on the Future of Work Commission, but at least employment is something many consider when deciding who to vote for.

To win in 2017, he must be able to communicate these policies in a matter of seconds. That’s because TV requires that and people have very short attention spans. This is something we focus on heavily in our media training sessions. Phil Goff couldn’t explain things in such a short time, while David Shearer’s body language let him down.

Little needs to work on both of these things. He needs to talk in sound bites and appear confident and likeable. This is where Key has been unmatched since Helen Clark occupied the ninth floor of the Beehive.

Little’s body language has been OK so far and he has been given good airtime. That’s partly because of the issues and partly because he is new.

But with less sexy issues and less time to communicate them, his media skills will be tested. If he fails, the Greens may become more prominent on TV, as they did when Shearer was Labour Leader.

Time will tell, but he has made a great start.

For more on my media training or crisis communication planning workshops, contact or 029 200 8555.

Written by

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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