Turnbull praises Key for good reason

17 September 2015

Malcolm Turnbull made a good point when he praised John Key for his ability to explain complex issues and make a case for them.

This has always been a tough job for political leaders. It’s becoming even more difficult as the average length of a sound bite is now around 7 seconds, down from 15 a few years ago. Even live broadcast interviews give leaders little time to get their points across.

So how does Key do this?

When he knows he only has a few seconds to make his point, he makes the most of it. He uses interesting language. He uses analogies well. One example I often use in my media training sessions was when he was asked how much the NZ taxpayer was spending on ‘wining and dining’ the UN delegates recently. We wanted their votes to get the seat on the Security Council. The point Key wanted to make was something like: “Answering that would let our competitors for the seat know what we are spending.” That’s what most leaders would say.

But Key took this a step further. He said: “Me telling you that would be like Steve Hansen telling the England Rugby Team what the All Blacks game plan is for next Saturday’s Test.”

By doing that, he not only got his point across and gave the reporters a great sound bite, but his point would stick in the minds of his audience. With so many messages thrown at us daily, we only remember the interesting ones. That would have been one of them.

During live interviews where he has more time, Key uses the most basic and interesting language possible to get his points across. Economic theory is fairly boring, but he explains it so the layman can understand it. He also appears genuine, and in no way patronising.

That’s why Turnbull is right in his comments. He will need to emulate Key if he wants to retain his new role after next years’ Election.

For more on my media training, contact or 029 200 8555.

Filed under Media Training

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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