Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant
There are few things as certain in the political spectrum as that the State of the Union speech will disappoint, and last night’s was no exception.
From a political point of view, the president’s State of the Union speech was a flop; it was bound to be because the public has been conditioned to disbelieve what he says because of his numerous lies. From a public relations aspect, the speech was also a flop. It was bound to be because the president is at his best when he is free lancing at a rally of his supporters, not when confined to a speech. When he tries to be presidential and stick to a prepared script Trump sounds stifled, as he did last night.
People who believe that body language is just as important as verbal communication to gauge people’s true feelings (although poker players disagree), will have a ball analyzing the facial expressions of political leaders during the talk.
Messaging: Let’s face it. When it comes to public speaking, the president is no Ronald Reagan, JFK, Winston Churchill, FDR or Martin Luther King. His speech pattern was stilted, reminding me of a youngster sounding out each word, fearful of mispronouncing it. As such, after a half-hour or so the talk became boring. He spent too much time delving into the past. A better speaker might have pulled it off. Trump couldn’t. He would have been more effective with a shorter speech.
While word detectives will over analyze the content of the president’s speech, and political pundits will have a field day arguing about its meaning and the president’s delivery, I didn’t think it contained a unifying message that will change opinions. Certain elements of the speech could have been delivered by Sen. Bernie Sanders; other proposals by Sen. James Inhofe, considered by many as the most conservative person in the Senate.
President Trump: He looked relaxed and confident when entering the chamber. He didn’t look confident during his speech but seemed relaxed the few times he went off script.
Speaker Pelosi: Her body language reminded me of parents trapped at a graduation ceremony that went on for hours but had no choice but to endure long, boring speeches. Mostly she looked impassive; other times she had a slight smile. In general, she didn’t look as if she agreed with much.
Vice President Pence: As he entered the auditorium his body language reminded me of a person who was about to enter into a serious negotiation – no pats on the back or shaking hands as he walked to his assigned chair. But during the president’s speech, Pence acted as if he was a puppet, jumping up and down, to applaud the statements of puppet master Trump. Knowing his conservative views, I felt as if Pence was play acting.
Of course, unfortunately, too many people derive their opinions from what their favorite pundits say. So an analysis of the speech would not be complete without including the media reaction. As usual, the media reaction to a Trump speech could have been predicted: Mostly negative reviews from those who oppose him; positive reviews from his supporters. And also as usual, the media analysis began hours before Trump entered the “people’s house,” as did the pro-Trump PR hype.
The truth about Trump’s State of the Union speech is that he might as well have not given it in person. He had little to gain and much to lose. He may as well have mailed it in. Only the political media, and especially those pundits on cable TV, think it was meaningful. History shows that the messaging is nothing more than a list of legislative initiatives that the president wants Congress to enact. And Congress usually ignores most requests.
Like the Super Bowl, the State of he Union speech is hyped, except this time the promoters are the political professionals, not the sports cabals. But the lasting results of both events are the same. What happened on Super Bowl Sunday and the State of the
About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the