Speechwriting, comms, and social media firsts at State of the Union

The White House released the speech early on medium, included several unprecedented words, and...leaked a picture of the president's brown suit?

Image via the White House Facebook page
Image via the White House Facebook page

President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union Address marked several firsts on Tuesday night, both in protocol and word choice.

In an unprecedented move — something increasingly common with the administration’s communications team — the speech (pre-ad-libs) premiered to the public at large, and not just as an embargoed document for members of the media.

Making it available on Medium, the White House encouraged anyone who wanted to "follow along with the speech as you watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, tweet favorite lines, and leave notes" to do so. It linked to WhiteHouse.gov, a livestream of the speech, and related content.

People paid attention, too, even if it wasn’t for the reasons the White House intended.

Obama prompted more buzz on social media by using several words previously unheard of in a State of the Union address. Some, like "transgender," were celebrated online. BuzzFeed has a rundown of terms that were firsts for the annual speech, including "ironic," "fake," and "Tesla."

Not forgetting the nation’s lawmakers, USA Today kept tabs on tweets by members of Congress.

From the White House alone, social media use was rampant: @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama live-tweeted the president’s quotes and the White House’s Instagram account posted several photos throughout the day, teasing the address and later featuring stills and video.

One post – of the president’s infamous tan suit – got people talking and may have been an early indicator of the president’s mood on Tuesday night. It got #YesWeTan trending nationally.

While Obama didn’t ultimately sport the tan suit a second time, he was certainly at ease Tuesday night, going off-script more than once to make a point and to respond to critics.

Many observers pointed to Speaker of the House John Boehner’s team perhaps being a bit too eager to share the Republican response. Vox.com had the full text of Senator Joni Ernst’s speech online before 10 pm.

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