Copywriting lessons are the subject of todays blog.
You’re going to learn a valuable commodity from a short look at Winston Churchill’s days as a War Correspondent, that I’m going to call–Extracting Copywriting Wisdom from the Battlefield.
What does Churchill’s time in South Africa have to do with copywriting? Take a look.
On November 18th, 1899, Boer soldiers ambushed an armored train bound for Pretoria South Africa. Winston Churchill, en route as a newspaper correspondent for the Morning Post, was among those taken prisoner. The Boers moved him to a war camp called the Staats Model Schools.
Twenty-four days later Churchill escaped.
Wearing his civilian clothes, and with a roll of bills totaling £75 in his pocket, Churchill made his way through the night back to the train tracks, where he jumped a train heading south, jumping back off before sunrise. Later, with the help of an English family, he continued his trek south, eventually reaching the coast—the city of Durban, South Africa.
By now, word of his escape had reached the papers back in London, and he was touted a hero–primarily by the Morning Post. And, why not? They knew an opportunity when they saw it.
It was his first job after resigning his commission in the British Military, but it was by no means his first job as journalist.
Churchill’s Copywriting Curriculum Vitae
At 21, he spent his military leave covering a Cuban rebellion embedded with the Spanish Army. Later that year he went to India and was sent to cover a tribal insurrection on the North-West Frontier.
At 22, he published his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, and while still a Lieutenant, wrote a column for the Daily Telegraph.
At 23, he went to Egypt and took part in the re-conquest of the Sudan including the Battle of Omdurman.
The next year he published his second book, The River War, and resigned his commission.
If you don’t thing journalism is advertising, thing again. His articles and books informed the British public about what was transpiring in far away fields.
He went to South Africa when he was 24.
If you don’t think writing for newspapers is advertising, think again. He was informing the British public about what was transpiring on faraway fields of battle.
After South Africa, Churchill, then 26, published two more books, and riding the wave of his newfound celebrity ran for office, and was elected to the House of Commons.
Making the Most of Our Precious Commodities
Some called him a shameless opportunist but I think there is something we can learn from Sir Winston. Life is what you make it.
Think big, seize opportunities, and then capitalize on the journey.
What is happening in your journey?
F. Scott Fitzgerald is famous for saying, “What people are ashamed of usually makes for a good story.” Nobody is born knowing everything. Life doesn’t work like that. Rather than hiding our struggles in the name of appearing bullet proof, let’s embrace them, learn from them and write about them so that others can capitalize on the learning.
The numbers vary depending upon who you ask, but Edison made no secret of the hundreds if not thousands of failures before getting a light bulb that actually worked. In fact, he maintained that he succeeded in proving just as many ways that the light bulb will not work.
Let’s face the ugly, scruffy, fabulous truth. We’re all standing on the shoulders of other people anyway. None of us got where we are without a whole lot of help.
The word blog is actually a shortening of the original term web log. A log was the journal or register where ship captains meticulously recorded the events that transpired aboard their ships.
What’s in your register? Is it merely a rehash of what other pundits are spouting, half-baked, ersatz—a cheap can of sardines or knock off Rolex? Or is it splashed full of frustration, laughter, pain and joy—vibrating with life—a message from your heart to your reader? I know which post I’d rather read. You do, too.
What’s happening in your journey? Not every day is going to bubble over with inspiration, but take a look around you. Churchill did. That’s one of the reasons we all like him so much.
Final Thoughts on Churchill’s Fieldwork
Here is how one reporter in London’s Sunday Telegraph, dated February 18, 1900, described Churchill:
Our campaign in south Africa has made two men supremely famous–Bades Powell and Winston Churchill. Many of our soldiers have added to their laurels by their heroic deeds, but these two have shown something more than dogged courage. Their resistless high spirits, their fertility in ingenious resource, their readiness in seeking out danger, and their skill in mooting it, have made their names household words.
Energy, engagement, communication and “high spirits” were hallmark to Sir Winston’s early career. Finding danger and mooting it is everything we want our blogs to embody. That intuitive intelligence when sharing correspondence from the “battlefield” is what is going to provide useful insight to our readers and ultimately our clients.
I caution those do who decide to embrace a more journalistic side to their content marketing, not to write anything that might reflect badly upon another person.
It is critical for any business to abide by the rule of keeping confidences. Thought-leaders respect the privacy of others. Reputations are won and lost over such matters. Always take the high road.
If you need the services of a competent blogger, this is something that I do. I’d love to hear from you.
Historians read on:
“As a reporter for the London Morning Post, Churchill crafted a lively mix of second-hand accounts, personal impressions, and commentary. In this article he described the stubborn Boer resistance to the British forces during the siege of Ladysmith: “Fighting is vigorously proceeding, and we shall see who can stand the bucketing best—Briton or Boer.”
Churchill also accused his enemies of using bullets banned by international law even as he paid tribute to their courage and fighting qualities.
“Churchill’s widely publicized exploits made him famous in Britain. In this appreciation by London’s Sunday Telegraph, a feature the writer said: It is now a household tale how he led the fight of the armoured train, how he returned into the hands of the enemy rather than desert his comrades, how he escaped from Pretoria prison. Who has not read the story of his dangerous dash for freedom?
“The article also predicted that his recently published novel, Savrola, would be “a really popular book.”
Thanks to The Library of Congress for this information.
The Winston Churchill Ultimate Guide to Copywriting - part two by Rita Mailheau