Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Media Training'

On Shane Taurima, Linda Clark and Conflicts of Interest Left, Right and Centre

Linda Clark

Shane Taurima 2

 

 

 

 

 

There was nothing terribly complex about Shane Taurima’s situation with regard to his job as Head of TVNZ’s  Maori and Pacifica Department once he had, albeit unsuccessfully,  sought the Labour Party nomination for the Rawhiti Ikaroa seat following the death of Parekura Horomia. Taurima had very publicly nailed his political colours to the mast. In doing so he had effectively disbarred himself from any further involvement in News or Current Affairs broadcasting with the state broadcaster. The potential conflict of interest could not have been more clear.

Television New Zealand apparently did not see it that way. Perhaps they thought that Taurima’s failure to actually win the nomination made all the difference. He had been a would-be Labour candidate, not an actual Labour candidate.  (And, as it turned out, would be again.) That rationalisation is so facile as to be laughable. Taurima was politically tainted. He should not have been re-employed in his previous role. But he was.

When he took things even further and  turned his TVNZ office into a Maori/Pacifica Labour Party branch, Taurima did his employer a favour.  Without actually hanging portraits of Savage, Fraser and Kirk on the walls, the conflict of interest in which he and others in his department now found themselves could not have been more patent. To his credit, Taurima had the grace and good sense to resign.   Read the rest of this entry »

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On David Shearer, Ian Fraser and the Bespoke Art of Media Training

 

 The news that David Shearer is to ‘get media training’ from Ian Fraser in order to make him more visible to the electorate has tended to reinforce the notion that ‘getting media training’ is rather like getting a new suit from Hallenstein’s.  All you have to do is put the new suit on and you’ll immediately not merely look better but be a whole new person. Unfortunately media training doesn’t fit this prêt-à-porter model. It’s a bespoke art. Everyone’s  needs are different,  no two people’s measurements are exactly the same, and there are some people who will never look good in anything.  

I’ll abandon this analogy before I invite derision,  but it serves to make the point that you can’t just ‘get media training’ in the same way that you might  ‘get trained’ to drive a car, a skill in which most people are capable of being competent at least and which even indifferent drivers can teach you. Here, by the way, the Maggie Barry Principle applies – if you’ve never been a professional interviewer and haven’t had wide experience of all branches of the media, you’ve not really qualified to talk about media-training, let alone engage in it.

It’s rare for the diagnosis of what is ailing an interviewee to be obvious. With the exception of ‘umming and erring’, saying ‘you know’, ‘like’ , ‘I guess’, ‘absolutely’, ‘going forward’, ‘OK, so’ at least once in every paragraph, what prevents someone from coming across well on radio or television is often extremely subtle and quite difficult to pin down.  Read the rest of this entry »

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On David Shearer And Wisdom Before And After The Event

The Listener.co.nz

Yesterday Chris Trotter’s Bowalley Road blog, headed The Unfortunate Experiment, came to the conclusion that David Shearer had to go as leader of the Labour Party. Trotter’s caption, beneath a photograph of Shearer, read: David Shearer is an immensely likeable bloke, and his work at the UN was truly inspirational, but he ain’t anybody’s kind of leader.

Trotter then advanced his reasons for believing that Shearer had to go. And I think those reasons are sound. Other bloggers from both Right and Left appear to agree.

But this is all just wisdom after the event. Shearer won the leadership of the Labour Party over David Cunliffe on December 13 last year. Six days earlier I had written a post on this site, titled Shearer or Cunliffe? Why I’ve changed my mind.  

If you revisit that post you’ll find that it’s remarkably similar in content to Chris Trotter’s blog, dated 27 April 2012, four-and-a-half  months after Shearer assumed the leadership? And it’s precisely what other bloggers are also now saying?

And yes, I’m blowing my own trumpet. And I’m entitled. Wisdom before the event is a helluva lot more impressive and useful than wisdom after the event.

This morning my co-commentator on The Nation and fellow media trainer Bill Ralston joked about Shearer, ‘He should have had some media training.’ But it was a joke. Media training would have made not an iota of difference to Shearer’s fortunes. He would have proved untrainable.

That sounds harsh, but it is not intended to be. Shearer is simply miscast as the leader of a political party in opposition. To change his image, he would have to change his personality and that, in human terms, could only be a change for the worse. Shearer is genetically challenged as a Leader of the Opposition. The killer instinct and the showbiz gene are both missing. He can be reasonable but he can’t project.

Media training is a waste of time for such politicians. Worse, it’s transparent, an ineffective cover-up job that listeners and viewers can recognise and see through. And that is damaging.

Bill Rowling, whom I mentioned in the earlier blog, was a strong personality who looked weak on television. Attempts to make him more forceful made him look like a weak man trying to appear forceful.

A similar fate was met by the rather wooden Geoffrey Palmer, who was Prime Minister for a year and who, I’m told, received media advice from some Australian gurus in the art. The advice was apparently to be physically more animated and smile more. The effect, however, was to make him look remarkably like the American Eagle on The Muppets.

Media trainers need first and foremost to be skilled diagnosticians. A wrong  diagnosis, followed by inappropriate treatment can be fatal to the patient’s prospects of survival. Sometimes, as in the case of David Shearer, it is kindest to admit that there is no cure and wish them a happy life – perhaps doing something else.

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Sean Plunket writes a disparaging column about Judy and me in the Dom Post and I reply.

Stuff.co.nz

In a fit of pique over criticisms made on this site of his interviewing style, Sean Plunket has made a rather unpleasant and, more importantly, uninformed, inaccurate and not entirely truthful attack on the media training which Judy and I have been providing to people in New Zealand public life for more than two decades. In a column titled “Frivolous spending, overzealous fines” in yesterdays Dominion Post, he presents himself as a civic-minded Wellingtonian concerned about unreasonable parking fines and the irresponsible spending of ratepayers’ money by Mayor Celia Wade-Brown on a trip to Auckland for media training by Callingham and Edwards.

Mr Plunket would have preferred the Mayor not to have “burned precious fossil fuel flying to another city for the training when any number of media trainers here could have done the job as well if not better.” While his concern for the environment is admirable, he may well have been thinking about himself as one of that number, since media training has been, and may well still be, a decent little earner for him. He has been, and may well still be, one of our competitors.   Read the rest of this entry »

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If all you need to do is tell the truth, why do people need media training?

Hard Talk's Stephen Sackur

The debate over Mark Hotchin’s interview with Mark Sainsbury on Close Up  has produced the usual shibboleths about Public Relations and Media Training. The practitioners of these dark arts are seen  either as miracle workers who can make sinners look like saints – referred to in the advertising world as ‘polishing a turd’ –  or as shysters making a killing from teaching people how to successfully lie in interviews and thus pull the wool over the eyes of the general public.  If either of these outcomes were possible, Judy and I would not be blogging about the Hotchins, we’d be with them in Hawaii, only in a much nicer spot in a much nicer house.

The “miracle-worker” version is rooted in the idea that readers, listeners and viewers are idiots who can be easily taken in by the practised sleight of hand of the PR/media trained interviewee.  But it simply isn’t so. And especially not on television.

This is what the great doyen of British interviewers, Sir Robin Day, had to say about the televised political interview:

“When a TV interviewer questions a politician, this is one of the rare occasions, perhaps the only occasion outside Parliament, when a politician’s performance cannot be completely manipulated or packaged or artificially hyped. Some TV answers can, of course, be prepared by scriptwriters and committed to memory, but not all. The answers cannot be on autocue as for an address to camera.

 “The image-maker can advise on how to sit, or what hairstyle to have, or on voice quality. But once the interview has started, the politician is on his or her own… Provided there is time for probing  cross-examination, the politician cannot be wholly shielded against the unexpected. The politician’s own brain is seen to operate. His or her real personality tends to burst out. Truth is liable to raise its lovely head.

 “In a newspaper interview, the politician may flannel or fudge, but in a TV interview the flannelling and fudging can be seen and judged by the viewing public, just as the jury in a court can form their opinion of the candour and the credibility of a witness.”

Our advice to clients has not changed in a quarter of a century. It is: Be straightforward; Tell the truth; Admit your mistakes. Why? Because that’s the only thing that works. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Art of the Makeover – New and Improved Advice for Mayoral Hopefuls

Photo: kiwiblog.co.nz

Photo: kiwiblog.co.nz

Photo: NZ Herald/Richard Robinson
Photo: NZ Herald/Richard Robinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I see that John Banks has taken his media trainers’ advice and begun to appear wearing an open necked shirt. According to a recent story in the Sunday Star Times, the candidate for the ‘Super Mayoralty’ was also counselled to be ‘more chatty’ when he talks and to ‘speak up’ about  his difficult childhood.

Political makeovers are tricky at the best of times. To be effective they need to be both gradual and subtle, their effect on the electorate’s consciousness almost subliminal. Obvious makeovers  make the public suspicious and resentful. They suspect that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes and are offended by the idea that they can be swayed by mere cosmetic change.  Read the rest of this entry »

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