How the director of SXSW Interactive would spice up the State of the Union

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The White House really wants young people to watch President Obama deliver the State of the Union address on Tuesday, but we don't think his "spoiler alert" videos are quite cutting it in the marketing department.

So what could the White House do to get millennials to tune in?

Fusion checked in with a couple of people who get paid to grab attention about what they think it would take to spice up the State of the Union.


Hugh Forrest

Forrest is director of the SXSW Interactive Festival, which highlights tech innovations and groundbreaking startup ideas. Here's what he'd advise the White House to do:

1. Have the president take a selfie with Congress.

Groan-worthy? Maybe, but also pretty much guaranteed to go viral.

2. Do it in the style of a Reddit AMA.

Have people ask questions that are then voted up or down by readers.


3. Outsource the questions ahead of time.

Ask the community what they want to hear about.


4. Create a remix challenge

Young people are geniuses at remixing stuff on YouTube. Encourage the audience to put together a one-minute highlight video of the State of the Union. Who knows what you'd get, but if the White House is picking the winner, the administration can choose to highlight the most favorable videos.

5. Broadcast a comment thread and make the hashtag more obvious.

How can you expect viewers to interact when you don't feature what they're saying?


Baratunde Thurston

Thurston is co-founder of Cultivated Wit, a humor and design consultancy, a former Onion executive, and a regular at live events like SXSW. Here are his ideas:

1. Chop up the speech into a bunch of Vines and release it that way.

Attention spans aren't what they used to be.


2. Add a Q&A segment, like the Prime Minister's Questions in the United Kingdom

Things can get pretty interesting when you open the floor for debate.

3. Add pictures.

Some of us are visual learners.


4. Add prizes!

Every five minutes, one lucky viewer gets to avoid filing taxes next year.


5. Just have Beyoncé do it

Because, let's be honest, she'd do a better job.


And here's what young people themselves had to say:

Anne Hedgepeth,

Hedgepeth, 29, is the government relations manager (read: lobbyist) for the American Association of University Women:

"Anyone, young people included, wants to hear how proposals and initiatives will impact their lives."


"As a young person, is it a failure if young people don't watch the speech but share content on Facebook and Twitter as it comes out? Some of those messages are probably reaching a young audience even if they're not watching on a major network."

Tahir Duckett

Duckett, 31, is a young worker coordinator for the AFL-CIO:

"People think that young people are going to be sucked in because something’s a trending topic on Twitter or it’s a viral video on YouTube, but the young people I talk to are ones who want to hear about policies that matter to them. The reality is that politicians only talk about youth issues when it comes to election time. I think if President Obama wants young people to listen to the State of Union, talk about the $1.3 trillion outstanding in student debt, and skyrocketing tuition costs. I understand that some of these ideas might not go anywhere, but take a stand and give us incentive to go out and vote for you."


"In all honesty, the problem with young people isn’t that you can’t find a way to talk to us, the problem is that what politicians are saying isn’t resonating with us."

Kevin Joyce contributed reporting.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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