Why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dress at the Met Gala made the news
September 16, 2021

We start most of our media training courses with an exploration of what makes a story for the media and why journalists might pick up on one event and cover it rather than other happenings around the world.

This morning one of our media coaching course participants mentioned the controversy around representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s visit to the Met Gala in New York. When we start this exercise which helps to build confidence among our course participants because they understand the nature of the beast that they’re dealing with as well as giving them a head start with preparation for the forthcoming role play media interviews, we never know what stories people are going to pick out and why.

But the controversy prompted by the US politician’s attendance at New York’s most glamorous event gave us a great opportunity to explore what it is that makes a media story. Given that our participants on this course worked for a major fashion house, it was hardly surprising that they were drawn to this item. We provide media training for a number of fashion companies and luxury designers, so we suspected that this story might crop up in the session.

After all, one of the key factors in any good media story is whether it’s relevant to the audience. In this case, with our group, it most certainly was. They all had strong views not only on the “Tax the Rich” message on the AOC’s little off the shoulder number but the style and cut of the dress itself.

Journalists are always looking for contention and debate. We love one side is pitted against the other. The fact that many commentators have welcomed Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s appearance and, in particular, her political message while a group of opposition politicians have condemned her for attending the Met Gala provides the kind of one-side-against-the-other rumpus that is great for the media.

The other aspect that makes this story so interesting is the dress itself. We live in an increasingly visual culture, and one of the first questions that any editor will ask when considering a story is how it can be illustrated. In this case, the picture is key to the story. The human brain processes images around 60,000 times faster than it does words, according to research from 3M Corporation, and so you can see why any event with a strong visual aspect immediately appeals to the media.

We advise people doing media interviews to tell stories and to paint word pictures. When you think about it, so much of the language that we use around understanding is visual – do you see what I mean? Is that clear? Do you get the picture?

AOC tweeted: “And before haters get wild flying off the handle, New York elected officials are routinely invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing and supporting the city’s cultural institutions for the public. I was one of several in attendance in this evening.”. Journalists love a punchy quote and being a politician, AOC knows how to provide one. Publishing it through Twitter increases the opportunities for a social media row and one of the things that we frequently discuss during our media training workshops for fashion companies and other groups are the interrelationship between social and conventional media.

Whatever her fashion sense and however valid her political argument might be, AOC certainly knows how to make news – and that’s something that we’re always happy to talk about during our media training courses.

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