Churchill wins the jaw-jaw war as first PM to understand the power of spin

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The Independent Online

Sir Winston Churchill has been named "communicator of the century" for his inspirational wartime speeches, use of the mass media and invention of the soundbite.

Sir Winston Churchill has been named "communicator of the century" for his inspirational wartime speeches, use of the mass media and invention of the soundbite.

The Second World War leader emerged top of a poll conducted by the public relations industry magazine PR Week to find a figure from the 20th century who "most captured the imagination by using the media to communicate".

Leading figures from public relations, the self-appointed "communications industry", chose Sir Winston by a "significant" margin over other personalities from sports, the arts, business and politics.

According to the magazine, the former prime minister was "lauded for his powerful oratory, influential books and, crucially, for his recognition of radio as the medium that, in the 1930s and 1940s, could bring the leader of the nation into the intimacy of British living rooms. He was perhaps the first British Prime Minister who truly understood how to use the media of his day to influence public opinion using soundbites."

Readers said the runner-up, Tony Blair, had proved his presentation and oratory skills during wartime and perfected the soundbite with such pithy gems as: "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", "education, education, education" and "people's princess". One reader noted: "Like all good PRs, Blair mixes blatant opportunism with carefully planned messaging and mass-marketed public appeal."

Diana, Princess of Wales, who the magazine said became the "hottest story of the century" after her engagement in 1981, came third "for her ability to communicate not just by words but by actions and force of personality". One reader said: "Her Panorama interview with Martin Bashir was an amazing lesson in using the media to the greatest advantage."

John Lennon was the only artist listed. He was admired for anti-Vietnam publicity stunts with his wife Yoko Ono, including press conferences from their bed and inside a paper bag, as much as for promoting peace through such songs as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine".

Tim Berners-Lee, the "father of the internet", came ninth. One reader said: "He had the foresight to see that a critical mass of people, with the ability to network their thoughts, would have the power to bring down governments."

THE TOP TEN

1 Sir Winston Churchill

2 Tony Blair

3 Sir Richard Branson

4 Diana, Princess of Wales

5 Sir David Attenborough

6 Baroness Thatcher

7 John Lennon

8 Sir David Frost

9 Tim Berners-Lee

10 Dr David Starkey

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