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What should National do about media leaks?

21 August 2014

The drip-feeding of leaked material to the media after the Nicky Hager book was launched is obviously of concern to the National Party. So what should they do?

That depends. If there is a smoking gun somewhere, the National Party person or people involved must be aware of it. I’m certainly not saying there is something more explosive to come out. There may well not be.

But if there is and they know about it, there is only one thing to do. Release it themselves and take control, rather than wait. If National takes a hit on this issue, it will be because it drags on and on. The only way to stop that happening is to release it on their terms. That way they get some credit for doing it themselves. But more importantly it gets it out of the way so they can focus on their core Election messages. The same principle goes if they know what Kim Dotcom has on them that he plans to release a few days before the Election. Also, by approaching media themselves, they will get to put the whole story, rather than a few reactionary defensive sound bites.

If there is a smoking gun somewhere, National need to take control of it. This reminds me of the whole Tiger Woods affair. He stayed quiet, which meant little pieces of information came out in the media for months. He was on the front page of the New York Times for weeks. If he had come out initially and laid everything on the table, the scandal would have ended far earlier than it did.

Some people call this death by a thousand cuts. It’s something we emphasise with our media training and crisis communication clients.

On the positive side for National, if this issue doesn’t put voters off the party, Labour may be the ones who suffer. That’s because it’s also taking the focus off their key election messages.  

I must reiterate that this advice is only applicable if there is a smoking gun that National know about.

For more on my media training or crisis communication training, contact pete@mediatrainingnz.co.nz.

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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