President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech tonight. The president is expected to address how to improve the economy and create more jobs, among other issues on his agenda. (He also plans to announce that half of the United States force of 66,000 troops in Afghanistan will be home by early next year, according to The New York Times.)
Aside from policy are the politics, of course, and how members of the GOP will respond to the speech.
Will Republicans offer the president a few rounds of bipartisan applause in support of some of his proposals? Or will they just offer the president one “harrumph” after another?
Either way, they’re going to be more than a few politicians in the audience who are hostile to the president’s agenda. It’s the kind of theater that PR execs can appreciate, from a standpoint of how they prepare their senior managers for public appearances.
With that in mind, Maria Reitan, senior principal at PR agency Carmichael Lynch Spong, provides PR pros four tips on how to best prepare their top execs for public appearances—be it a speech, an internal event or interview:
1. Prepare in advance to understand what situation you are coaching them for and brace them for the absolute worst. As the PR pro, do your homework on the issue for which you are coaching, review the issue and/or recent media coverage (if it’s already a reportable event), anticipate which reporters will likely be interested and research their reporting style.
2. For a public speaking opportunity, learn as much as you can about who will be in the crowd and anticipate their reaction to the speaker’s comments. Then create your coaching session accordingly.
3. Put leaders through their paces. Just because they hold the keys to your PR budget doesn’t mean you can go easy on them. Treat them as any reporter or audience would treat them—with skepticism and condemnation.
4. Videotape your session so you can catch any visual miscues that might actually conflict with what the person is saying and deliver a far different message to the audience. Watch for contorted faces, fingerpointing and other defensive reactions.
Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1