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Power before media

The reason why Todd Muller got in such trouble in his first days as leader of the National Party was that he was too desperate to impress the media.

The secret to media success is that they should need you; you should not (appear to) need them. Journalists can smell desperation and emptiness and are justly ruthless when they find it.

After the win Muller immediately went on an interview tour, though he had little to say and he faced tough and hostile questions.

Even if he was prepared for those encounters, he was not entering them from a position of strength.

A premise of our work is that you only engage with the media when you have a power that they need, such as facts, insight, a role in a topical matter, or commercial or social success.

Our advice to Muller would have been to stay away from media for a while – to engage with the real economy and communities he claimed National MPs knew well. He could then return to political media engagement having built a profile among his voting audience, and not rely on the whims of a dozen journalists. He can still do this.

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