Did Team Obama kill the State of the Union?

In 2015 the politics were simple.

Plays games with the GOP, check. 

Engage activists, check. 

Realize a joint session of Congress speech is hardly the best tool to get most Americans, and indeed, much of the hot-shot Washington political establishment, to care, check.

That’s why Team Obama decided to kill the State of the Union.

Of course, they didn't officially kill the State of the Union, but they most certainly changed it forever. 

For most State of the Union addresses in this political age, around 30 million Americans will tune in which for most leaders of the free world will be the biggest single American audience a president is likely to secure all year.

So Team Obama needed to disrupt the communications process and maximize the State of the Union.

The State of the Union has a deep tradition of unveiling inflection points announcements for a year-ahead policy agenda. 

Not anymore.

Team Obama believed they could redefine the State of the Union model, not just for this Obama's term, but for the next couple of presidents.

Most of what was in the 2015 speech, Team Obama already announced as part of two-week lead-up, communications, and political tour. 

Jennifer Palmieri, a former White House communications director who’s done 11 State of the Unions between Presidents Clinton and Obama, at the time, argued that the idea of building everything into one speech, in one hour plus event on one night didn’t really make sense, according to Politico.

Team Obama believed such inflection point speeches could be used as a vehicle to develop more attention and more engagement for your important policy objectives if you space out policy announcements and statements.

At the time Politico reported: “It still has to be interesting. But you don’t have to be making as many pre-announced announcements to drive the coverage,” a White House aide said. “The coverage is already there.”

One day coverage is nice.

14-day coverage is better.

Marc Ross

Based in Washington, DC, I specialize in thought leader communications and global public policy for public affairs professionals working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

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