Turei shows power of personal stories

Posted July 18, 2017

One of the best ways to make a point stick with audiences is to relate it to a personal story. This brings the point to life, makes it concrete and adds emotion.

This makes it attractive for reporters to use as the focus of their stories and sticks in the minds of those who hear or see it. This is clearly understood by Greens co-leader Metiria Turei, who admitted to withholding information from WINZ as a solo mother because it would have reduced her welfare benefit.

She made the comments when announcing the Green Party’s welfare policy. She was basically trying to say that beneficiaries can’t survive under the current system and they need to be paid more.

This blog is not about the her decision or the wisdom of the policy, but the use of her personal story.

The reason the story was so effective was because it was the perfect way to communicate the plight of some people on welfare. Most politicians would just announce the abstract policy.

Why does that often not work?

Firstly you never know what angle the media will take on the policy. That’s likely to focus on a small area, and you have little control over what they pick. This way you can be pretty confident they will choose the point around your personal story.

Secondly, people will remember. We often forget that communication is not one person talking to others, it’s about the other people hearing the message and remembering it.

Clearly Turei will be hoping people remember the story because it highlights the struggle some people face, rather than the fact that she illegally received money from the taxpayer.

But regardless, it has worked well when it comes to grabbing attention. It saturated the news media in the days after the admission.

She has since said she would pay the money back if WINZ launch an investigation. This is an area where I think she has missed the boat. She should immediately pay the money back regardless. Not only is that something she should morally do (particularly since she can now afford to), but it would limit any negative publicity as we enter the Election campaign.

For more on my media training or crisis communication training, contact [email protected]

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