Like any PR effort, a message must be marketed with a purpose, structured to effectively reach a target audience and evoke an understanding, feeling and response. How do you effectively communicate a message through a speech?
Right wing or left wing aside, President Obama’s State of the Union address last week had me flashing back to my college course books about the fundamentals of an effective speech. I’m reminded again how refreshing it is to see a great speaker in the White House.
As public relations and marketing professionals, positioning a speech for a client can make a great impact on an audience if written and delivered effectively to the right audience. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
Grab the audience’s attention. We’re fortunate in that our target audience will most likely never be the entire nation. Whoever the audience may be, it’s important to get them interested, establish empathy and set up what the speech is going to be about right away. The tragedy in Tucson presented a unique situation. It was appropriate for the President to first welcome/congratulate the Congress and then immediately recognize the empty seat where Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was supposed to be sitting.
Creatively following, the President’s speech exposed the obvious debates recently among the two parties and used the Tucson tragedy as a reminder of the parties commonalities as Americans and a united union. This was a perfect setup to frame the theme of his address: bipartisanship.
Present the evidence to make the point. The key points should be covered and backed up to add value and credibility. Whatever the message is, the audience needs to be sold on it. President Obama, like other politicians, will reference specific citizens, like a small business owner in Michigan, to help drive the push for creating jobs. He’ll even go one step further and put them in the audience to evoke more emotion with a visual.
Some other tips to consider about style:
- The speaker should talk to the audience, not at them.
- Make it personal. The president will always use personal pronouns so we feel like he’s talking to us.
- Make it simple. Avoid the industry jargon and acronyms people may not know. Personally, I think the President could do without so much of the “feel good fluff.”
- Humor helps. Yes, the TSA drama was over the top, and we could all agree and laugh with the President when he referenced the lack of pat-downs with the construction of high speed railways.
- Create patterns for emphasis.
- Show why your message is unique. Never has a President mentioned something like Facebook during the State of the Union address.
Summarize what was discussed to support the message. Point out what it means to the audience; connect it to them. Provide a call to action. Leave the audience with something that will resonate. After an hour of Joe Biden and John Boehner shown sitting behind President Obama, he brought them back in with a little humor and related them personally to the “anything’s possible in America” message.
Do you think the President’s State of the Union address was effective? What speech writing and speech delivery suggestions would you add?