Due to the immediacy of public input an commentary, it is now simpler to assess the extent to which any set piece event is able to capture attention and also whether you got the message across. The US President State of the Union (hashtag #SOTU) is one such event and key to this is firstly capturing attention and secondly getting the message across.
Mashable produced some great analysis of what the social web was talking about when discussing the the SOTU. It certainly captured an active audience, 400,000 tweets is a significant number, and of those the majority talked about issues relating to education and the economy, they also note clear spikes in issue attention suggesting Obama is leading the online commentary. This, however, is an engaged audience who not only listen to SOTU but wish to add commentary and debate the issues. Sadly there is no sentiment rating to assess the extent of whether they were largely supportive or not.
A more representative sample was used to test out whether Obama's messages got through to the audience. An article in New York magazine shows two word clouds, one for Obama's speech and one from recall among 4,000 of the audience. Obama's cloud is dense and full of the sort of language one would expect. There are a lot of issues raised but also those buzzwords 'new', 'people' and references to nation and national identity with America/American/Americans. The 4,000 viewers picked out a less dense package of words. Aside from education, the key terms were descriptive as opposed to the terms Obama may have liked to have had resonate. Words such as 'Inspiring', 'hopeful', 'optimistic' describe a mood as opposed to issues - this tells us something about what audiences pick out however. But then there is the major key word they heard 'Salmon' - not a major policy area!
What do we learn from this, well we can get instance responses from an audience. Usually this would be the most engaged group however. This may look pretty positive but this may lead to a false sense of security about how you led an agenda and how politically aware the majority of people are. Asking a mass audience shows that what you think people heard may not always be what they actually left with in their minds.