Today speeches are an important part of any integrated marketing communications program – whether the audience is employees and shareholders or consumers and clients. Events also play an increasingly important role in marketing and if you a have an event you will need a speech. Today speeches are even more powerful because they can be preserved and spread throughout the world on YouTube and through innovative initiatives like TED. On June 4th 1940 Winston Churchill gave one of the defining speeches during the second world war to the House of Commons of the British Parliament. We can learn a a lot from “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches.”
“I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.
At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation.
The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
Why is this a famous and effective speech? According to Joe Marconi in Public Relations: The Complete Guide where a speech is given can be as significant as what is said. Given less than a month after he took over as Prime Minister, this speech was delivered in the House of Commons – making the speech and its orator significant before it was even given. A speech should also include punchy sound bites with a timely hook. “We shall fight on the beaches” became that punchy sound bite relevant during the hard years of the Second World War. Churchill also knew his audience. The British government and its citizens needed to hear resolve and strength after the withdrawal of its troops at Dunkirk. The American government and citizens needed to hear Churchill’s call for their help.
Marsh, Guth and Short in Strategic Writing also give some practical speech writing advice that applies to Churchill’s example. Effective speeches are short, well organized and focused on the audience’s self-interest. In a mere 307 words, this speech introduces the main point of Churchill saying he has full confidence in the British ability to fight a one, for as long as it takes. He then elaborates on that main point by explaining how they will fight off the tyranny of Nazi rule. And then he concludes by returning to main point that no matter what they shall never surrender but puts a new spin on it by calling for the New World (America) to rescue the old in a powerful appeal to emotions. Churchill does an amazing job of bolstering confidence admit defeat and calling for help without admitting weakness. He also uses a theme and repetition of “We shall fight” to make the speech powerful and memorable. Churchill was a well-educated man and the only British Prime Minister to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, yet he made his speech plain. He explained big ideas in small words.
Like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill has the ability to speak plainly and concisely while emotionally moving people to action. They are not considered great orators for their cleverness or pretentiousness or creative use of PowerPoint. They simply were effective.