The battle for media attention

Pete Burdon writes:

Political parties rely on media attention to keep themselves and their policies relevant and in front of potential voters. Since MMP was introduced, major parties of opposition can no longer assume that this position entitles them to a particular amount of media publicity.

There is a precedent to back this up. Remember when David Shearer was Labour Leader? While he may have been a good leader behind the scenes, his media skills were not the best. That’s why Green Party co-leader Russell Norman was often preferred by media as an opposition spokesperson.  This increased the Green Party profile at the expense of Labour.

National is now at risk of a similar fate. It’s not that the leadership is bad on the media stage like Shearer, it’s that David Seymour is so good. He knows what the media want and he gives it to them.

Seymour is very good. And I note the ACT press team are very quick off the mark on breaking issues. To be fair, it is easier to get signoff in a smaller party.

Here are some examples. During the election campaign, most politicians said we needed to create jobs. While that’s true, it’s very abstract and boring. Seymour put it this way. “What we need is for one New Zealander to offer another New Zealander a job thousands of times.” That’s interesting, concrete and gives the media a powerful sound bite to use.

Here’s another example. This was when the government was looking at centralising some of the decisions currently made by local school boards. Rather than merely saying he thought the system was working well and any change should help support struggling students, he dressed up the point into a rhetorical question. He said: “If you want to make our education better, do you do it by undermining and messing with what we are doing well, or do you do it by helping those students who need help?”

This is a key skill – to take what can be abstract concepts such as employment and education and make it relatable.

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