Öznur Yüksek has just completed a thesis on speechwriting. She travelled the world to find out more about the secretive profession.
When did you first become interested in speechwriting?
From 2012-2014, I worked as a press advisor to the previous president of The Council of Higher Education in Turkey. It started when the president asked me to write a speech for a graduation ceremony. Since then, I’ve done research into speechwriting. It’s one of the most interesting jobs in the world. You can hear speechwriters everywhere but you can’t see them. That’s just fantastic.
What was your first degree?
My first degree was Public Relations and Advertising.
How many languages do you speak?
Turkish and English.
What was the subject of your thesis?
The title of my thesis is: Executive Writing in Public Relations: An Applied Study on Speechwriting. It looks at the process of speechwriting in all its parts. I interviewed 20 speechwriters from 10 different countries (UK, USA, The Netherlands, Turkey, Nigeria, Tanzania, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Scotland) and tried to reveal the differences and find common ground.
Is speechwriting an established profession in Turkey?
Definitely not. The most difficult part of my study has been finding speechwriters in Turkey. I reached out to leading political parties and some national/international companies in Turkey. Most of them told me that they don’t have speechwriters.
In the private sector, a member of the corporate communication department mostly writes speeches. In the political field, advisors do the job. And those people write speeches as well as other texts. So they do not describe themselves as a speechwriters. I’ve also noticed prejudices against the profession. For that reason speechwriters hesitate to publicise their occupation. Despite this, five speechwriters from Turkey contributed to my thesis and one of them (Mustafa Şahin) established the speechwriting department in the office of the Turkish Prime Minister.
Where did your thesis take you?
I have to accept that speechwriting is an art that goes beyond the rules. A speechwriter is an artist with a broad knowledge of the world around him/her, combining history, culture, and politics, supported by imagination and intelligence, to design ideas in a context combining emotion and information.
Did the speechwriters you meet have anything in common?
They all have a great interest in language. Not just that, but also an interest in the world of thought. I asked speechwriters if they have to write any other texts besides speeches. None of them replied ‘just speeches’. For instance, five of the contributors are authors of books and ten of them write newspaper articles and magazine features. Some of them write poetry, stories, book reviews and others write scripts, blogs and forewords. Thus the intellectual and spiritual depths of speechwriters combine with their language skills to offer a range of abilities.
Who is the most famous speechwriter in Turkey?
Mustafa Şahin. He established the speechwriting profession in politics in Turkey and he has been writing speeches for top political leaders for more than a decade.
Did any of the speechwriters recommend any good techniques?
Many. The most common techniques are the rule of three, metaphor, repetition, storytelling and rhetorical questions.
Did you identify any training programmes for speechwriters?
I can say both European Speechwriter Network and The Professional Speechwriter Association are excellent ways to bring the speechwriters together from all around the world and encourage them to share their experiences. The best kind of training.
Do you think speechwriting has a great future?
Yes. The flow of information is getting more intensive. If a leader wants to influence the public, his/ her message has to be designed carefully. Otherwise it can become invisible among all other messages. It creates an opportunity for all speechwriters, but they have to do something to further understanding and raise public awareness of the profession.
The spring conference of the European Speechwriter Network takes place from 29-31 March 2017 at Magdalen College, Oxford. Please click here to register.