Before Winston Churchill was a politician he was a journalist.
Journalism taught him two truths.
If you want to get people’s attention you need two things.
Keep it simple.
And keep it motivating.
As a journalist, Churchill understood that people are involved in their own lives.
They aren’t interested in what you’ve got to say.
Unless you can make them interested.
How you do that is, keep it simple.
If you can’t keep it simple, you’ve lost their attention.
However fascinating the full details are for you.
However complicated the problem is
However many ins-and-outs there are, they aren’t interested.
And you’ve lost them.
Churchill understood as a journalist he was competing with every other story and piece of news in the newspaper.
So he learned to keep it simple.
And put it in terms that applied to the reader.
Not just in terms that applied to the writer.
That’s what made Churchill a superb politician.
Understanding that, if you want power, you need to carry the people with you.
Because it’s the people who give you power.
So you need to keep it simple, to get their attention.
And put it in their terms, to get their understanding.
Another brilliant politician who understood this was Franklin Roosevelt.
The only person ever elected President of the USA four times running.
At the beginning of World War Two, Britain was being beaten by Germany.
They were a bigger country with much greater industrial muscle.
They could turn out more, and better, weapons faster than we could.
Eventually we would obviously lose.
Churchill needed to get weapons from somewhere else.
America was the obvious place.
But the Americans were cynical.
Just over 20 years earlier they’d had to step in to help stop World War One.
Now Europe was fighting again.
The feeling in middle America was, “To hell with them. They want to keep fighting each other, let them get on with it.”
But Roosevelt was sympathetic to Churchill.
He thought it was in America’s interest to support Britain.
So he and Churchill had to present a case to the American government.
Churchill didn’t make a complicated plea with lots of Power Point slides.
He didn’t show the effect on the global economy of a German victory.
He simply said we can beat them, but we need weapons.
In one of his most famous lines he said,
“GIVE US THE TOOLS, AND WE WILL FINISH THE JOB.”
Roosevelt was a man who also understood powerful communication.
He didn’t make a speech about American interests abroad.
He simply said,
“WHEN YOUR NEIGHBOUR’S HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOU DON’T REFUSE TO LEND HIM YOUR HOSE.”
Simple, short, motivating points.
Everyone understood them.
The situation is put in such a way that you can hardly refuse.
And they didn’t refuse.
The massive industrial might of America began turning out weapons to send to Britain.
And it turned the course of the war.
Of course, political commentators don’t like such language.
They find it crass and crude.
Experts in any field don’t like to simplify things.
For them, it seems trivial and patronising.
But that language isn’t meant for ‘experts’.
It’s meant for ordinary people.
We have a lot of experts in advertising.
People who like to keep things complicated.
There may even be several thousand.
But there are millions upon millions of ordinary people.
So that’s where the real power is.
An ability to talk to ordinary people.
And complicated doesn’t work with ordinary people.
What works is short.