Friday, January 31, 2014

The State of the Union -- between words and images

On January 28, 2014 President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union speech. Setting aside partisanship relating to the President and his advocated policies, this speech is still likely to go down in the history of professional communications as a new milestone in professional communicators’ responsiveness to new consumer media-consumption realities.

If you watched the January 28th State of the Union speech on network television (or some other version of “old media”), you missed the real news.   For those of you who missed it, whitehouse.gov provided an “enhanced live-stream” of the speech – comprised of the live streaming of the speech, on the left side of the split screen, and periodically, on the right side of the split screen, infographics and photos that exemplify best practices of presentation method effectiveness. 


And – by the way – if you chose to watch the whitehouse.gov “enhanced live-stream” not in the full-screen mode, then you also got a series of the Obama machine’s live tweets to read underneath the split screen.  The tweet-stream also included highly-charged emotional images and simplified graphics.

If the Obama machine won the 2012 election because of a mastery of Big Data, they also won the 2014 State of the Union because of the mastery of the implications of state-of-the-art Infographics.

The bar has been set higher for multimedia / integrated communications for executive speech-making from today on.  Here are the standards for the future for a “best practice” speech:

1) The speech is live-streamed (the talking head part)

2) The setting for the live-streaming has been stage-designed to include all those supportive people and tableaus (the entrepreneurs, the military veterans, the beneficiaries of government programs, etc.)

3) The split-screen format provides graphics, images, etc. which illustrate and provide visual cues and emphasis beyond what the video recording of the live event can provide.

4) The smart use of presentation graphics must exemplify the most current and tested methods for PowerPoint-category software and other presentation methodologies.  When the most important points are being made by the speaker, there are no graphics: focus only on the face and voice of the speaker (making the emotional connection). The graphics never repeat exactly (but complement) the speaker.  And the speaker never, never, never reads the “slides.”

5) If your audience processes information better in “bits” and “tweets” – you can provide it with a live-stream of tweets echoing the live/videoed event.  

A successful speech (live communication) must now be well written and delivered; stage-managed; supported with best-practice graphics; layered with live-streamed social media posts.


The production and presentation of the 2014 State of the Union speech did not present any breakthroughs. But the whitehouse.gov production and presentation of the speech did incorporate all the best practices that all of us in PR, advertising, and social media pros already know about. The level of execution and preparation sets the new standard.


This post also appeared
at CommPRO.biz
on January 29, 2014