Editor’s note: Billy Warden is a writer, marketing exec and multimedia producer based in the Research Triangle, where he co-founded the p.r. agency GBW Strategies. He writes a column exclusively for WRAL TechWire. His posts appear on Mondays.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Like many editors, WRAL Techwire’s Rick Smith is used to blood, sweat and tears. Day after grueling day, he overcomes bombing raids of complications to deliver the news. That takes a certain kind of gritty leadership.
Not surprisingly, he, like many editors, has a thing for Winston Churchill.
This came to the fore when I mentioned the legendary British bulldog in last week’s column on the comms style of Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Reading the reference, Rick – chomping a cigar (at least in my imagination) – fired off these follow up questions:
Rick: How would Churchill have used Twitter differently or more wisely than most people today?
Me: First, let’s acknowledge that using Twitter ‘more wisely than most’ is not a particularly difficult feat.
And even given that, I’m not sure Churchill would have been a more judicious user than the rest of us rabble rousers. After all, he LOVED a fight – and that kind of bloodlust can be a ticket to endless, increasingly pointless trolling.
But let’s give the irrepressible pugilist this: he was clear and unrelenting about his objectives. And a degree of discipline about why you’re on social media in the first place can keep you from disappearing down rabbit holes.
During the early years of World War II, tweets from Churchill probably would have focused on:
- Keeping the British people’s chin up and resolve strong during the Blitz
- Alternately shaming and sweet talking FDR and the USA into entering the war
Missions accomplished there, he might have turned to:
- Cheerleading Allied advances and stomping the hot mustard and sauerkraut out of the Third Reich
- Accelerating Stalin’s post-WW2 turn from “Uncle Joe” to public enemy #1
- Hawking his many volumes of memoirs
Enough variety to keep his feed from getting monotonous. Enough focus and intentionality to stave off social media schizophrenia (or as I call it, Twitzophrenia).
Rick: Would his tweets have been memorable and if so why?
Me: Churchill was many things: imperialist, egotist and a mack daddy with one liners.
Speaking of his predecessor Neville Chamberlain, who ardently courted peace with Hitler, Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
He described a rival post-WW2 politician as, “A modest man, who has much to be modest about.”
And then there were these random riffs:
- “The Times is speechless, and takes three columns to express its speechlessness.”
- “When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.”
- “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
While Twitter has expanded its original 140 character limit, brevity is still the coin of the realm. Churchill’s way with few words would make him a social media megastar.
Rick: How would Sir Winston have used Facebook or Instagram?
Me: Instagram influencers are some of the most gorgeous, gleaming-toothed and chiseled human specimens of all time. At first glance, our lumpy, glowering Prime Minister would fit in like a prune at a Botox convention.
But look again. Instagram is all about visuals – and Churchill was a master of a certain kind of eye candy. He built a personal brand to rival the Kardashians out of his bowler hats, defiant smiles and smoldering cigars.
I’d follow his Instagram feed just to see a photo of what cocktail he’s nursing each morning, afternoon and evening.
All of these lifestyle signifiers would play well on Facebook, too. Plus, he could indulge in that platform’s penchant for sentimental storytelling by waxing nostalgic about his soldiering exploits in Cuba and India (sidestepping the disastrous Gallipoli campaign).
Deeply suspicious of anything not of the Western world, Churchill would rattle his saber and avoid China-based TikTok – a strategic mistake as it would allow a rival head of state to conquer the world with quirky dances.