Speeches have been one of the most powerful amalgamations of written word and oratory that has, literally, formed history.
While we PR professionals don’t write speeches every day, we understand the importance of the writing, the message, the performance and the effect communication can have.
One of the best speakers during the second World War was Prime Minister Winston Churchill. From famous speeches like his “Blood, toil, tears and sweat,” and “We shall never surrender,” Churchill used language to inspire hope and drive the defeat of the Nazis.1
Winston Churchill was a master of the English language and used his writing skill to help his spoken craft. He even won the Nobel prize in literature. 2
There’s no doubt that the power of speeches have an effect on the masses. Though Churchill wrote all his own speeches3, the case isn’t as true anymore.
The last US president to write his own speeches was Woodrow Wilson4 and ever since there has been a person or team employed to write the speeches of the staff.
This isn’t crazy, mind-blowing, news. The President is arguably the busiest American in the country and is constantly on the move. I’m sure they want to sit down and write their own speeches… but it isn’t the case.
It’s also what I find fascinating about this subject. Just who are behind some of the best Presidential speeches of the last few decades?
Probably one of the most famous speeches was given by John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do you for you – ask what you can do for your country.” JFK without a doubt, sold the speech but it wasn’t written by him. That speech was penned by Ted Sorenson.2 Sorenson even helped Kennedy with a Pulitzer for his book Profiles in Courage.
More recently former President Obama was known for his great speeches that were part Obama’s nearly perfectly delivery and part Jon Favreau’s written word.5 Favreau was the lead speech writer for Obama’s 2008 campaign which, obviously, turned into a success and Presidency for the next 8 years. Favreau continues to be part of the media through a slew of top-rated political podcast like The Ringer and Keepin’ It 1600 and adding to the political conversation and affecting the public opinion.
Currently President Donald Trump employs Stephen Miller, a Duke University graduate to author his speeches.
Now let’s swing this back to public relations.
It goes to show you the power of the guys behind the face of the powerful. Not to say there isn’t a skill in speech delivery but the words, phrases, communications and, for lack of a better word, heart comes from the writer behind the scene literally putting pages into history books. These people with degrees in journalism, writing, public relations are changing public opinion from behind these figureheads.
We write news stories for companies that position our clients as thought leaders while generating goodwill. When people read these news stories they say/think, “Hey, I like that company.” They then become 15% more likely to do business with that company when they are exposed to their advertising. PR professionals are like the silent speech writers behind the scenes, changing the way the world views things.
1 D. Matthews “Churchill’s Greatest Speeches” historyextra.com December 2, 2015, Web July 26, 2017
2. T. Vitale “Winston Churchill’s Way With Words” npr.com July 14 2012, Web, July 26, 2017
3. T. Dawning “The Untold Story of Churchill’s WW2 Speeches” historytoday.com October 10 2013, Web, July 26, 2017
4. NYU Press “Woodwrow Wilson” book. 2006, July 26 2017
5. D. Hochman “John Favreau on Speech writing, Life After DC. & Melania Trump” nytimes.com July 21 2016, Web, July 27, 2017