Post-election update: The election outcome certainly caught everyone by surprise, and the endless campaign trail already seems like a long time ago. But what media training lessons can the rest of us learn from the way politicians handled the endless debates and interviews?
1.Body language and style matter as much as what you say. Commentators pointed out how Ed Miliband confounded the critics by looking more relaxed and prime ministerial than had been expected, greatly improving his poll ratings – not, however, by enough. His perceived awkwardness continued to be a major election factor.
2.Looking straight into camera in the debates to appeal directly to the audience at home may be right for a politician wanting votes, but not for anybody else. Don’t try it.
3.It will not resonate if the message is right for you, but wrong for the audience. One newspaper commentator, following candidates round the constituencies, found voters were more interested in Japanese Knotweed than what the candidate was saying about Ed Miliband.
4.Credibility will be lost if what you are saying sounds too good to be true. David Cameron and George Osborne made clear early on their belief that we need to go much further with the austerity programme to eliminate the deficit. At the same time they announced a string of massive, apparently unfunded giveaways; voters appeared unconvinced. Later in the campaign there talk of further cuts was greatly de-emphasised.
5.Have some pre-prepared sound-bites, but make sure they sound genuine and unforced. Many of the party leaders’ key sound-bites, such as Ed Miliband’s ‘Hell yes I’m tough enough’ sounded a bit obviously pre-cooked. Make sure yours sounds like something you really would say in normal conversation!