“Can you only imagine? Imagine at 4 a.m., each of you, you start hearing bomb explosions, severe explosions. Justin, can you imagine hearing? You, your children hear all these severe explosions, bombing of airport, bombing of Ottawa Airport. Tens of other cities of your wonderful country. Can you imagine that?”
The words of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, echoing through the Parliament in Ottawa. With only a few simple words he had made it personal to his audience. He has put them in his shoes, if only just for a moment.
The events in Ukraine over the past few weeks have shocked the world. Maybe ‘shocked’ isn’t the right word, given the troop build-up for the weeks before told their own tale, as did the intelligence!
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has seen Nations stand together, sanctions on a level not seen before and slowly the vast majority of the world coming together and firmly standing (even if from a distance of safety) on the side of Ukraine. Even China has been muted, not supporting one side or another outright – surely a worry for Putin.
Watching the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, over the past few weeks he has been impressive in how he has been communicating. He has communicated in such a manner, that he has ensured that the plight of Ukraine and Ukrainians has stayed front and centre of the news since the beginning of the invasion.
He has been invited to speak to parliaments, something not seen before in the UK as example, and Prime Ministers and in doing so has spoken to all of us. He has used different channels, from new broadcasters to social media channels to deliver his different messages. He has used different formats and different tones, content suitable for broadcast and content for social media channels. Zelenskyy has been thankful for assistance yet forceful in his demands for more support.
He has captivated his multiple and vastly different audiences and engaged with every single one. He has brought into our offices and living rooms the reality of war, he has made us feel the hurt and anger of what we are witnessing, aided by the work of brave journalists and civilians on the ground.
He has made it personal, addressing people by their name, using phrases and sayings that his audience would be familiar with and recognise. Zelenskyy is inviting the audience into his world, trying to give them a sense of what it is like in his shoes.
Zelenskyy has ensured that he has been able to speak to the world, all whilst his country is under attack and he is under constant pressure to make decisions.
At home, Zelenskyy has had to show strength and resolve, he has to continue to inspire the citizens of Ukraine to stand up to the Russian aggression and fight. He will also have to ensure communications are reaching citizens about when and how to evacuate, what the Government is doing to ensure food, water and electricity – all in the most difficult circumstances and in some circumstances where it won’t be possible to reach people at all.
There is a lot we can learn from Zelenskyy, being a former actor he knows how to capture his audience and keep their attention. He has seamlessly engaged his different audiences, adapted his style and tone to ensure they can relate to what he is saying. He has been forceful when he has needed to be but not in a way that disrupts the audience. All of this this has proven valuable to the Ukrainian people in their time of greatest need, and it will be crucial.
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