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January 25, 2007

News & Opinion: Speaking of the State of the Union...

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 7:24 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

I found this interesting and fitting, seeing as Tuesday was the State of the Union address; it explains the beginning of pulse testing (a way to gauge the public opinion on specific parts of political speeches).
Tuesday, I ran across a review in the WSJ [paid subscription required] of Dr. Frank Luntz's Words that Work. The reviewer, Clark Judge was part of the speechwriting staff under President Reagan.
Reagan's State of the Union address was the first to be polled by pulse testing (a.k.a. dial testing). Here's what happened:
Forty or 50 randomly selected voters had been assembled to watch the State of the Union address. Each was given an electronic response device. Twisting the dial to zero meant that the listener hated what was being said and 10 that he couldn't get enough of it, with the numbers in between registering gradations of response. Results were averaged and appeared as a temperature chart line over a linear printout of the text.

That's now a regular practice. When a part of any speech receives a "twist" of 10, that piece is used over and over again in a number of marketing campaigns. Author Frank Luntz deemed these parts as "words that work." He's the man renowned for giving the Republican party a number of key terms (from "estate tax" to his "death tax"). You may also know him in his role as an adviser to Ross Perot during the 1992 election and Newt Gingrich's success in House in the 1994 elections.
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If you're curious for more, check out an excerpt.