Digital-Culture Phenom in Our Midst — Ukrainian President Zelensky

April 2022

Ukrainian refugee family waiting for train in station

Getty Images

I could write a blog post about my usual topics intended to help you maintain a balance between your career and your personal life, or how to create compelling content marketing and use powerful imagery designed to influence your target audience. But, there is a global digital-culture phenom to acknowledge—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

I’m one of Zelensky’s 16.8M (and rising) followers on Instagram. I also consume any-platform news stories about Zelensky’s relentless defense of Ukraine’s independence and country ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a “special military operation” in late February 2022, with cruise missiles swiftly raining down on Ukraine. It’s a war, a brutal effort to obliterate the Ukrainian people and their country.

Fluent in three languages and licensed to practice law, Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine in 2019. He is a studied natural to rally support from the international community due to his diverse media background and industry connections. He co-founded a production company and served as its artistic director, co-directed and appeared in feature films, worked as an actor, comedian, and writer, and became the general producer of a Ukrainian television channel. This clever generalist grabbed international attention when he quipped, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride,” in response to United States officials offering to evacuate him from the Ukrainian combat zone.

President Zelensky outlines the armaments he requires to defend Ukraine against Russia in an Instagram post.

Beyond Russia’s borders—a country where independent media is now banned—Zelensky dominates the information war. Zelensky leverages powerful location visuals in selfie videos, polished film footage and still photography. Russia’s “target No. 1” Zelensky conveys authenticity with emotional pleas that build trust in support of his core values, ending with calls to action that are crystal clear … right down to a visual list of military armaments he requires to battle a superpower with nuclear weapons at their disposal. As professionally produced as these communications are, we should never forget that this war is real, not Hollywood-like, and people of all ages are perishing daily.

Zelensky is masterful at brand messaging. He is providing the words and imagery that help the world’s democracies understand his country’s value (explaining why it is useful to support Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s assault), and values (what leadership believes in—maintaining Ukrainian independence and democracy). The messaging churned out by Ukraine’s skilled creatives hits on the right quantity, quality, and channels, holding the world’s attention. It has the stickiness needed to inspire governments and people to support Ukraine’s cause. Watch and learn because these are the same brand messaging techniques that content marketers should employ at an enterprise level.

What is happening to the people of Ukraine is heartbreaking. I applaud Zelensky and his compatriots for their tenacity to defend democracy and independence and strive for peace. UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, reports 82.4 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced resulting from persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing public order as of 2020. I would implore you to help displaced Ukrainians and refugees across the globe through charities.

Thank you for reading this.

Maureen Joyce