PR pros, lobbyists turn up heat for State of the Union

WASHINGTON, DC: Few PR pros regard the State of the Union speech as much more than a quick primer of the year’s policy agenda. But according to Deputy White House press secretary Jim Kennedy, when President Clinton steps to the podium on Thursday, he will go a long way towards identifying the coming PR battles in the nation’s capital.

WASHINGTON, DC: Few PR pros regard the State of the Union speech as much more than a quick primer of the year’s policy agenda. But according to Deputy White House press secretary Jim Kennedy, when President Clinton steps to the podium on Thursday, he will go a long way towards identifying the coming PR battles in the nation’s capital.

WASHINGTON, DC: Few PR pros regard the State of the Union speech as

much more than a quick primer of the year’s policy agenda. But according

to Deputy White House press secretary Jim Kennedy, when President

Clinton steps to the podium on Thursday, he will go a long way towards

identifying the coming PR battles in the nation’s capital.



’It’s really a defining moment for the year,’ Kennedy said. What makes

it interesting from a PR perspective, he added, is the behind-the-scenes

wrangling by lobbyists and PR pros.



In the days leading up to this year’s address, lobbying by interest

groups has predictably intensified.



Usually, noted former Clinton White House speechwriter David Kusnet, the

lobbying is ’presented under the guise of ’friendly advice.’’ But

Washington Center for Politics and Journalism executive director Terry

Michael said interest groups that get their ideas mentioned in the State

of the Union speech will score a PR victory that pays incredible

dividends in terms of developing a perception of clout, not to mention

attracting members and contributions.



Kusnet, now affiliated with the Economic Policy Institute, said that the

Clinton White House has effectively used the first few weeks of January

to drop trial balloons of what will be in the speech. With the news

cycle yet to heat up and with Congress still away, he said this strategy

’gives the administration a clear shot at national news coverage.’



Don’t think that interest groups and foundations haven’t attempted to

take advantage of the lull. The Heritage Foundation, for example, has

issued a paper with suggestions about what the President should

discuss.



Scott Treibitz, president of labor and education specialists Tricom

Associates, also believes that his clients’ ’pre-statements’ give them

an edge. ’Reporters will call to see if our expectations were met,

rather than merely ask us to respond to the President’s proposals.’



’(The State of the Union) really is the p resident’s day,’ said House

Budget Committee director Terry Holt. However, he cautioned groups not

to discount the post-speech Republican response, noting its importance

in providing an opportunity for framing an effective

counter-message.



- See Big Pitch, p12.



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