The State of the Union is not just another Beltway political speech

The State of the Union is not just another Beltway political speech
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A joint session of Congress will be assembled next Tuesday for President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE to make his first State of the Union address. This is a major communications opportunity for advocates and communicators to bring their causes and concerns to the forefront of American and global politics.

Those of us whose employers or clients have major federal issues should be seeking the best ways to tie them to the State of the Union address or at least become engaged in the heightened activity that will be occur in the week in the leading up to the speech and ensuing reaction from pundits and politicos inside and outside the beltway.

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The “address” is mandated by the Constitution for the president “to give to the Congress information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” It is perhaps the president’s most meaningful and memorable public remarks, second only to one’s inaugural address. Over the years, it has been used to introduce major policy programs and to reinforce or change the tone of political discourse and the focus of government.

 

The late January appearance offers an attentive audience of millions of viewers through television and the internet, and the commentary and coverage leading up to and after the event are significant opportunities to be mentioned or quoted. Many television stations, online media outlets, and print publications offer special “State of the Union editions” before and after the remarks.

Being in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber is historic and cannot be replicated. If by chance you are able to snag a coveted ticket, or even offered one a year away, take it. If you get an extra ticket, it would certainly be wise to take your best client or senior level representative of your organization.

Those groups that wisely host events on Capitol Hill or nearby the evening of the State of the Union will have a captive audience and better than usual attendance of members of Congress and senior staff. Hosting your own event around the State of the Union will give your client or organization the opportunity to drive your agenda to policymakers while connecting back to the State of the Union and national agenda.

Grassroots advocates can be engaged around the State of the Union to support bringing your issues into the national context. Generating petitions, advertising campaigns, and even live demonstrations can be effective mechanisms to draw public attention. If the president supports your stance, your organization can leverage any mention of your cause or policy solution in email solicitations, calls to action, or press releases following the speech.

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If your organization is not aligned with the president, you can utilize the same tactics to mount opposition for the national agenda to include the president’s stance. If you are in the opposition, you can also look to other political leaders across government to leverage their statements, positions, and overall content that they produce around the State of the Union for future use.

Since the State of the Union is more widely viewed by media and average citizens than a regular speech by the president, you may be able to connect with grassroots advocates that are more passive supporters during this time. We are less than a week away from the 2018 State of the Union address, so there is no time to lose to develop your tactics for being a part of the dialogue and history.

Joshua Habursky is director of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, and adjunct professor at West Virginia University.

Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C. office of the Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the integrated marketing communications program at West Virginia University.