What makes Jacinda Ardern popular?

26 August 2015

After a poll ranked Jacinda Ardern as fourth most preferred Prime Minister, the focus of the news appears to be a comment Graham Lowe made about her looks on the Paul Henry Show. But what’s the reason for her popularity?

When answering this question, media skills must be at the top of the list. That’s because TV is the only place the vast majority of people ever see her. I believe it’s her ability to express emotion. Whenever she is making a point in a media interview, her body is in total synchronicity with her words. You can tell by looking at her that she means what she says and is passionate about it. You can tell by her facial expressions, body movement and use of her hands to express herself.

In my media training sessions, I always play back one of the mock interviews I have just completed with a participant without sound. This is important because people judge politicians and others as much by their body language as what they say.  If someone looks stiff and expressionless, viewers won’t warm to them. They are also unlikely to believe the message. This exercise is the best way to analyse this and improve it.

Jacinda Adern would pass this test with flying colours. She is very similar to Paula Bennett. This need for body language to be in sync with the spoken message is vital in politics. It’s also why John Key is so popular.

David Shearer would have failed this test. He couldn’t back up his words with the right body language or tone of voice to make them believable. I’m sure he did believe them, he just couldn’t express that. Andrew Little has improved in this area, but still comes across a bit dry.

This is a major skill of Jacinda Ardern. Time will tell whether it elevates her to the Labour leadership, or further.

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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